I am hoping that it does not come as too much of a disappointment that the bartender with whom we’ll be having a conversation this week just happens to be me. I tried very hard to line up someone else for today’s post, but wow, bartenders are definitely a busy bunch. I’ll keep working on it for next week, and if my luck doesn’t change, then the Monday Masters posts may happen monthly rather than weekly, with another series filling the spaces in between. In all honesty, I’m rather happy to be the one doing the talking today. The cocktail that I’m sharing is one that I made last March just before I started my job behind the bar at Cooper River Distillers. Its name was The Negative Space and it was inspired by a book that I had just read called Tell the Wolves I’m Home by Carol Rifka Brunt. The book is all about love, loss, and regret, and there is a brief conversation in it in which the term negative space is defined as the area around the main object in any artistic composition. We tend to overlook it, and assign it less importance, but if often contributes greatly to the overall meaning of the painting or photograph. When I wrote the Friday Musings post about the negative space last year, I talked about the idea of living mindfully and being sure to always be aware of every aspect of our lives, and not just the one on which we were focused at any given point in time. By doing so, we could minimize the possibility that we’d have deep regrets about something or someone that we’d overlooked or taken for granted.
The Negative Space cocktail found its way onto the bar menu at Cooper River Distillers in the fall, along with a few others that I’d created, and it actually became a fairly popular drink. We had to change up the ingredients slightly because of our limitations as a distillery, but the original essence of the cocktail was kept intact. I can’t even begin to describe what a thrill it was for me to actually be making a drink for the public that I’d created right here on this blog. There are few things that I love more than to be able to make a cocktail for someone; in fact, the desire to do exactly that is probably the thing that inspires me most as a bartender. Putting the time, the care, and the effort into making a drink as perfectly as I can is the main focus for me. But if there’s a main focus, then there has to also be a negative space, right? A cocktail is, after all, an artistic composition. What occupies that negative space for me are things like high quality ingredients, fresh juices, interesting bitters, and absolute precision in measuring. Without these elements in place, I don’t think it’s possible to make a great drink. This extends to the way in which a cocktail is presented as well: in a beautiful glass, with a napkin, and a straw or a stirrer, over some really nice ice and with a perfect garnish.
I was happy to have the chance to talk about what inspires me today because I’ll soon be without the opportunity to really share it in quite the same way anymore. Cooper River Distillers is closing on May 5th. It’s been such a phenomenal experience for me, and one that I know I’ll truly miss. I always tried to keep my eye on the negative space while behind that bar, and every time a person loved a cocktail that I made I was rewarded for that mindfulness. It was a fun ride, James Yoakum, and one for which I will always be grateful. Cheers everyone. Happy Monday!
The Negative Space
Add all the ingredients except the club soda to the bottom half of a cocktail shaker. Add ice and shake for 20 seconds or until very cold. Strain into a Collins type glass over crushed ice and top with the club soda. Garnish with a lemon peel. Live in the moment, see the negative spaces in your life, appreciate what really matters. Enjoy!