When Bruce Springsteen’s Born to Run was released, I was just beginning my freshman year of high school. I can remember listening to “Thunder Road” for the very first time and thinking “Who IS this guy??” I went on to fall in love with the entire album, and with Bruce himself, claiming him as my own along with all my friends, even though we were from South Jersey and not North, but it’s because that’s exactly what Bruce does. He unifies people in a way that few other artists can, and continues to tap into all the hope that we hold in our hearts for more, for what’s next, and for what’s beyond this place in which we currently find ourselves. From the moment the song starts with the first few piano notes and a harmonica filled with yearning, we’re hooked, and we’re completely ready to accept his invitation to “show a little faith,” dancing right across that porch with Mary and into the front seat of the car. This is song about feeling ready to escape a place where you feel you have no future, with someone by your side who has the same dream. This is big time romance, and it builds for us as we listen to the lyrics and the music ramps up in intensity. There is no chorus, so we’re swept along in narrative fashion, like we’re listening to a heartfelt conversation and allowing it to tap into all the emotions we’ve always longed to feel. This song still makes me catch my breath somewhere in the middle, and I feel like I’m holding it until the very last notes of Clarence Clemons’ saxophone play at the end.
At the time it was released, this song was an invitation in so many ways. It marked the beginning of Bruce Springsteen’s commercial success, even though he’d had a following long before that moment. It also established him as the singer songwriter that he was, elevating him above the simple classification that he was the next great thing in the tradition of Bob Dylan, and firmly placing him in a category all his own. It’s considered to be one of Springsteen’s best songs, and has, in fact, often been recognized as one of the greatest songs of all time. His career has gone on to span decades, and his music runs the gamut from working class anthems to emotionally devastating love songs, but the unifying characteristic in all that he does is his ability to make us feel as though he’s singing directly to us. Somehow he knows what we feel, and he manages to capture those raw emotions for us, giving them back to us in a way that lets us know that we are completely understood.
For today’s cocktail, I wanted to capture the working class spirit of “Thunder Road” by going with a traditional rum and coke that’s revving its engine just a little bit, and looking to get to whatever’s next on the horizon. I recently received a bottle of Havana Club Especial, a golden rum that’s still made in Cuba, from my dear friend Marlene who visited there a few weeks ago. I used the rum as my base, and added a chai-spiced cola made by Natural Brew along with a splash of lemon juice. I finished things off with dashes of DRAM Black and Citrus Medica bitters, to highlight both the spice and citrus flavors respectively. It turned to be the perfect cocktail to sip along with the song, remembering the first moment I listened to it and dreamed of more. Cheers everyone. Happy Wednesday!
One Last Chance to Make It Real
You want a 2:1 ratio of cola to rum in this cocktail, so adjust accordingly depending on the size of your glass. You can build the drink by adding all the ingredients to the glass and stirring, or if you need more room, you can stir in a mixing tin and transfer into a Collins glass over fresh ice. Express a lemon peel over the drink and the garnish with it. Enjoy!