People often ask me how I come up with ideas for cocktails, especially those that I create for my job at Recklesstown. I tell them honestly that I really don’t know the answer, and that I’ve allowed it to become a matter of intuition. Because I make that statement quite frequently, I’ve come to wonder exactly what it is that I’m talking about. Let me give you an example. The other night, my son Zachary texted me to ask if there was a way to make an elevated version of a Jack and Coke. I suggested that he use a better whiskey and then learned that I’d misunderstood the question. He wanted to know if we could make a fancier riff on a Jack and Coke that we could serve for his son Jack’s birthday dinner, which happens to be tonight. Ahhhh. Well sure. Let me think on it. And so I considered the idea of taking the cocktail apart and reassembling it in a new way by adding a few ingredients to a syrup I’d recently created for work, along with a citrus cordial and the Jack Daniels. The cocktail materialized in my mind in a relatively short period of time, yet I’m inclined to say that the steps I’ve just described were not a product of intuition. I think, to the contrary, that they are more related to the accelerated logical thinking that comes from doing something over and over again until it becomes a refined process. Still, it seems as though intuition has to be involved in some way, right? Otherwise, without tediously tasting the addition of every new ingredient, I’d never have been able to say with certainty that I thought the drink would work. And yet I knew, without a doubt, that it would. Is this because I’ve developed a certain level of confidence in what I do? Of course. It has become a matter of trust. The question is whether or not that’s the same as it being a matter of intuition.
On the 18th of February, I wrote a post called Interwoven for my wonderful friend and work colleague Matt Kelley who was grieving the sudden loss of his dad. I offered up some thoughts from the eulogy I’d written for my mom thinking that they might give him a different perspective and a certain measure of comfort. I will admit to you that I poured my heart into that post. I wanted so much to be helpful, and I do think that I was, even if only in a small way. In what feels like a very cruel twist of circumstances, I learned last Friday that Matt had died in the same sudden way as his dad. The post that I’d written for him now became a post that could just as easily have been written about him, and I found myself in need of the same comfort that I tried to provide on that February morning. It seems unbelievable. It seems inexplicable. It seems wildly unfair. I use these words to describe my experience of losing him as my friend, and I know that I am echoing the sentiments of everyone who stood on either side of the bar with him at Recklesstown. What I cannot imagine are the words that describe what his wife and family are experiencing. If those words exist, I do not claim to know what they are. One of the main things that Matt and I had talked about and that I tried to capture in Interwoven, was the idea that death, in one single instant, takes all the deeply loved details of a person’s physical presence away from us. Yes, their spirit remains, but there is an undeniable hole left behind, and we struggle to find a place for all the love we still actively feel. In the case of losing a friend, this same difficulty still applies, but there are also questions for which we seek answers. Because we’re not held together by family ties, is the bond we formed broken, or does the friendship still remain? In what places do we look for it and, when we find it, how do we hold it close to us and continue to honor the memory of the friend we’ve lost?