This is a guest post by lovely friend and incredibly talented bartender, Felix Cohen. The man manages to be simultaneously a wizard with alcohol, and a wizard with words. I am absolutely honoured. Felix!
A dear friend tells me; you write too much about tech and booze and politics. You have to say more about yourself. You have things to say, stop couching them in the things you know about.
Which is crazy, because what else do I have to couch them in?
So I’m going to talk about being a bit low. Not in a depressive-crash fashion, but in the general sense of anomie and a malaise that’s unshiftable. A autumn where I wanted the sun to go away so I could wallow in the cold and not feel the obligation to be doing things and enjoying the world. Sometimes, when you’re low, you know in yourself that it’s only small things that can help; I couldn’t face another project, or a new relationship, or even my usual tinkering answer; build a new bike or get a new camera.
So I focussed on a single drink. It’s a drink for autumn. A drink for sitting in the gloaming and savouring. It’s called the Tamayo. We’ll come to the reasons for that later.
It starts with a delivery of Acid Phosphate. I’d been messing around with acids in drinks since the ‘Big in Japan’, a mix of Nikka whisky, Umeshu (japanese plum wine), matcha tea and citric acid. I love the clarity of using acids in drinks instead of citrus, and while it sounds uber-mixologist, citric acid is for sale in your local shop. It’s just called lemon salt. Get some. You’ll love it.
Acid Phosphate is not for sale in your local shop. You’ll need to hunt online then wait for some bona-fide mixologists to start selling it. I had some store credit burning a hole in my pocket, so when it was announced, I grabbed some. And it was amazing; sharp and dry and more-ish and alchemical. Like bitters, a few drops transformed a drink.
I spent the summer drinking Southsides; a refreshingly vegetal gin drink which I took to making with egg white. This led to Aviations as the nights drew in, and then whisky as my mood soured.
The Tamayo was a drink I could refine. A drink that shouldn’t work. A rum Aviation. For weeks I tweaked and cajoled the basic flavours; rum, citrus, violet and cherry, but it never worked. The cherry and rum never came together, the violet overpowered everything. The citrus turned my stomach. So when the acid phosphate arrived I though I had to try it. And this was perfect. A drink that made me grin; greater than the sum of its parts but also with every ingredient just there.
50ml Havana 3 rum
10ml Cherry Heering
5ml Miclo Violet liqueur
3ml Acid Phosphate (or 2g citric acid, 1g salt)
Stir with ice for a touch longer than you think you should. Serve up, in glassware that makes it feel like an occasion. Garnish with a cherry.
Sit and ponder a drink that shouldn’t work but does. Ponder the analogies to your life, and start moving on. Realise that things are alright, and things are hard, but most importantly, things will change.
(It’s called the Tamayo, by the way, because it eventually got entered into a competition for Havana rum, and I needed a name that evoked Cuban History. Tamayo was the surname of the first Cuban cosmonaut, and indeed, the first Cuban, the first Caribbean, and the first Latin American to go into orbit)
You probably want something you can more easily make at home. So here’s a simple drink that’s more than the sum of its parts, and lends itself to drinking at the window, watching the rain fall and introspecting. It doesn’t have a name; it’s a negroni, or a boulevardier, or a little italy, or a red hook, or a brooklyn. It’s a bit like an Old Pal, so let’s, in honour of the friend I opened with, call it a Dear Friend. You’ll need just three ingredients; something strong, something bitter and something sweet.
35ml Bourbon (or Rye)
15ml Campari (or Aperol)
15ml Sweet Vermouth (Martini Rosso, probably)
Slosh them together in a comfortable glass with plenty of ice. Make it bigger if you need. It’s a drink that opens up as the ice melts, but start drinking it quickly and get a bracing mouthful of booze. Stare at the rain and catalogue your thoughts.