Live Stream on Arnemancy Replay!

This was a LOT of fun and we covered some of my favorite cocktails, and some great esoteric stuff too! (Skip the first three minutes to get into the convo) Check it out!

Time for an Old Fashioned Reset

I made myself an “Old Fashioned” tonight. That might not sound strange to someone reading a blog called “Cryptic Cocktails”, but not a lot of my readers (either of this blog or my monthly cocktail column) know that I don’t have a home bar. I haven’t actually written about a cocktail on this blog in a long time. So if not a cocktail blog, what the heck is Cryptic Cocktails? On the day of my livestream with Reverend Erik on Halloween cocktails, I figured I was going to get that question. Maybe it’s time to sit over a whiskey and figure out a good answer, an “elevator pitch” if you will.

The Book

Currently I am editing six years worth of writing into “cocktail book”, but actually it’s more of a collection of essays; rants from this dusty desert curmudgeon, some history, lots of recipes mixed in. Probably some local folklore and esoteric stuff will end up in the mix. Maybe some illustrations from a local artist. Something you can throw in a backpack, not a fancy coffee table brick. I’m pivoting my life in a direction to get away from the late nights and hard living of full-time bartending, but I’d like to have something to show for the all the time. So, here I am, sipping the last few drops of rye, bitters, sugar, and water and damn, it’s pretty good.

The Blog

So, less bartending, but a few more cocktails. The original idea for this project was to find the common ground with cocktails and the esoteric; alchemy, herbs, haunted bars, stuff like that.

As for the writing, I am an essayist at heart. Some of my voice and humor gets lost in my *cough* “serious” esoteric writing (and in my fiction). If I can’t sound like “me” writing a post I simply won’t write it.

YouTube and more

My channel is mostly going to be about spooky pop culture- my chance to talk about stuff I like to watch, listen to, and read when I am not writing. I have a new found respect for anyone making video, btw. I posted the first two right here on the blog, so let me know what you think!

I am planning on doing more events locally in Palm Springs, CA; cocktail history related, and probably some tarot or esoteric events too.

I’ll always try to give you something to take away, if nothing else!

Speaking of which..

How ’bout a Drink

The Old Fashioned is a living relic, and in a lot of ways, it’s the first cocktail. Certainly it wasn’t the first “mixed drink”. However the “Cocktail” per se was an actual drink containing spirit, bitters, and sugar. We don’t used that definition these days, but back in the mid to late 1800’s a cocktail was just that. Ice came later. So, as bartenders started messing around with things like vermouth, curaçao, and even citrus, the original cocktail became “old fashioned”. [That’s the short version, for a longer version check out Imbibe by David Wondrich. He has a whole chapter on the journey.] Anyway, it’s a drink I respect and love to make for people (partly because it’s easy and let’s me show off my stir) but hardly ever drink. Maybe because I cut my teeth drinking in dive bars in Boston where drinking whiskey that wasn’t a shot or Irish was looked at.. askance. While I gladly quaff a Manhattan or Boulevardier or three without a care, I still rarely drink these. But here’s the best way to make it, in my opinion.

Old Fashioned

2 oz Bourbon, rye is also acceptable- save the brandy for Wisconsin

1 tsp rich simple syrup (2 parts sugar to 1 part water, reduce over heat)

4 dashes of bitters (Angostura is the classic, but there are so many out there to try!)

Build it in a short, wide glass, add ice, larger cubes are better but nothing wrong with your household freezer size, and stir. Get a nice swath of orange peel, squeeze it over the top to express the oils over the drink, and rest it on top. It’s not a stir stick, leave it there to smell the oils as you sip! Remember, nothing wrong with going back to the well, once in a while!

The Passion(fruit) of the Crisis

I went to the local organic/farmers’ market for the first time since all of “this”, and the line at 8am showed me two things.

  1. People are tired of not doing community activities
  2. People are getting bored pretty damn early in the morning
Just have to buy that rainbow kale that’s gonna rot in your crisper!

I mean, why not? That’s the entire reason I was there! I did make some pretty solid sauerkraut from a head of purple cabbage, although the well-meaning purchase of dandelion greens (the new hot green!) was wishful thinking and went into the trash eventually. I have no problem eating weeds.. just faced with the dauntingly giant bundle of weeds, I lost my nerve. I am convinced that, at least for blue-collar Boston kids like me, the farmer’s market is mostly a place where we lie to ourselves. In one day I went from almost zero food waste to a barrel full of rotten plants. The strawberries, most of them, fared better and ended up in a syrup. The passionfruit, what was edible at least (much of it was empty husks when I got home!), I transformed into a syrup of the gods!

It was easy, really. Just spoon out the guts of the passionfruit, add sugar to cover, and muddle the whole mess with a spoon. Let it sit, covered, in a warm space until the sugar and fruit become a syrup. Push the mess through a fine metal strainer until only bare seeds remain. Sweeten to taste, and “Bob’s your uncle!”

This stuff is pretty great on anything, but I turned it into Margaritas.

So, once you’ve made that syrup, here’s the recipe.

  • 2 oz reposado tequila
  • 1/2 oz triple sec or curacao
  • 1/2 oz passionfruit syrup
  • 3/4 oz fresh lime juice

Shake, strain into a salted glass

For extra credit, garnish with spent passionfruit husks filled with a about 1/4 oz of syrup and a splash of tequila, lightly mixed! Trust.

Social (experiment) Drinking

Large ice cube is the worst choice for a Margarita.. but it was all I had at the moment!

We are currently part of a social experiment. Now, before you think I have gone off the conspiracy deep-end, it’s a de facto social experiment. I don’t believe that a shadow government of the new world order is behind the current pandemic, but a tidal wave of never-before-seen data is coming. Scientists from every field imaginable will study this moment in history for centuries. So, yes, this is a social experiment.

This little statistic went to market, this little statistic stayed home..

Personally, still riding high on the free time. Burning through Duolingo ‘high school’ level Spanish so I can get to the stuff I that actually need to practice. Their Chinese (Mandarin) lessons have improved quite a bit, so dusting off the neurons and synapses from that semester of it I took twenty years ago too. Man, time flies. SO THAT’S about twenty minutes of the day. Started a video series on cocktails and cocktail history with my roommate, since we’re uniquely qualified for that- he does the spirits knowledge and I focus on the cocktail history. It’s a good chance to practice video editing, even if I only have iMovie, it’s more than enough for my needs. It’s called 2BoredBartenders, and it’s on YouTube. Check it out. Even got a weird ghostly EVP that definitely was not either of us.. it’s about seven minutes in. Not surprised, there is some sort of power vortex around here or something.

Reading some Gurdjieff and Ouspensky through the filter of a fellow named ‘Red Hawk’, and thinking it’s getting to me at the right time. There is a lot of practical advice in his book “Self Observation” that I am trying to put to good use- I recommend it. The thesis of it being that self-observation without judgment as the key to making any progress in the ‘Great Work’ (he just says ‘Work’ but my Crowley side can’t resist). He writes with a great deal of humility, which is refreshing for the genre. Realizing through that book, and meditating daily at least once (using the Headspace app, which I was very resistant to at first, but it has been beneficial at breaking me out of a meditation rut), that the body and its tension are the best indicators of other problems. Working on noticing that more.

On a totally different note, I have also gone back to research some history on drinks that are so part of the canon at this point one hardly thinks about them. The Margarita, for instance, can claim its name from three (or more) different women- but was likely originally named after none of them. Being that ‘margarita’ is a word for daisy, and the drink is basically a tequila daisy (with salt), I agree with David Wondrich (as usual) that this is the most likely scenario. Being a bartender, I also know how bartenders think, and believe it was also actually named after all three ladies (one being Rita Hayworth!). In fact, every pretty woman named Margarita probably ‘had the drink named after them’ for the first two decades of its existence, when a bartender could still pretend he made the damn thing up and she would be none the wiser. Here’s my (pretty standard) take on the drink..

2 parts tequila, 3/4 part each triple sec and fresh lime, quarter part of simple

Shake, salted rim

Simple and effective, and if you want to throw it in a blender, just this once, I won’t tell.. perks of social distancing.

Haunted Bars or Haunted Bartenders?

the mysterious ‘White Lady’ at Paul, Palm Springs

Yeah.. I have worked at a haunted bar or two. Even the most sceptical STEM-bro, if he were to work in enough bars, would eventually have something happen that he’d have a hard time ‘sciencing the shit out of’.

 

What is it about bars that attract such strange energies?

I can’t say for certain, but perhaps it is a multitude of factors.

  1. bars are places full of life and energy- it only makes sense that the energy would linger, or at least imprint something on the mind to suggest continuing human activity after such activity had ceased.
  2. people drink at bars- our faculties as guests (and yes occasionally staff, especially after closing) are sometimes compromised, or perhaps more open to phenomena we would normally dismiss
  3. closing/opening staff are often alone- when you’re alone, sometimes you see or hear things that aren’t (?) there
  4. people die/suffer trauma at bars- sad but true, maybe the trauma leaves a psychic residue

So perhaps it is all in our heads; I don’t believe that but you’re entitled to if you like. I have two stories I can’t for the life of me explain, but I will save them for the podcast. Let’s get on to the cocktail!

It’s surprisingly difficult to come up with a ‘ghost-theme’ classic cocktail. I mean there are plenty of spooky names for drinks and plenty of corny Halloween cocktails online; but very little to work with in the classic sense of a ‘ghost’. I chose the ‘White Lady’, and went with the recipe from the Savoy Cocktail Book as it has claim to being one of the first recipes. It is what I would classify as a ‘daisy’- a family of drinks including the Sidecar and Margarita. The definition of daisy is loose, but it should contain a base spirit, citrus, and orange liquor as a sweetener. Soda water is optional, and then you basically have a Collins anyway, but I digress. The Savoy version is just two parts dry gin to one part each Cointreau and lemon juice, simple, dry, elegant- but a little lacking in body. Most bartenders I know use a beefier version with egg white, and make it into a gin sour.

White Lady

(modern version)

2oz dry gin

1oz lemon juice

3/4oz simple syrup

1 egg white

Shake without ice, then shake with ice, strain into a cocktail glass, apply bitters in little dots and dashes on top as you see fit

Why did I choose the White Lady? I feel like a ‘Lady in White’ is one of the most common apparitions reported at bars and hotels, and in general. The scorned bride who died tragically at her own hands, or the hands of another, or through some accident, is a common theme in folklore. She is a sad and elegant reminder of a bygone age, an equally scary and sympathetic figure, who calls us back to the edge of belief in an afterlife that may not be any happier than this mixed bag of existence. So therefore let us toast to her, all of the versions of her, and wish her soul some relief this Halloween!