After months, many many months, of staring at a microphone in my room I finally managed to summon up the courage to talk into it. Then I erased it and made a slightly less ‘lip-smacking meandering’ version.
I touch on Gnosticism and why, perhaps, we craft bartenders get so bothered by people who order trendy drinks.. or at least I do sometimes. I want this project to be about personal growth, whether or not I always live up to my own advice. So here it is, warts and all, and excited to do bigger and better as I go!
Halloween came and went, the veil between worlds is returning to its usual opacity. That’s just fine by most people, I mean many of us wish to know that there is more out there, and something that happens after death, and that’s about as much of the ‘dead’ as we like around us. We like to hear that Grandma and Pappy are happy together on a cloud somewhere, or that they’re watching out for us. That’s why ‘spirit boards’ are still on sale nearly everywhere board games are sold. We light candles as kids, we accuse each other of moving the widget, we get spooked, or nothing happens, and either way we put the board back in the closet (or the fireplace, or the trash).
Depending on the tradition one is working through, rum is pretty popular as an offering for spirits of the crossroads and the underworld. Back in my college days I dabbled with a spirit or two that seemed to enjoy it.. well since I was a complete newbie with no actual teacher in the systems I was messing with it was probably just the rum in my system making me think I was in touch with anything at all. These days I tend to let the dead lie, besides.. you never really know who is on the other end of that planchette.
In honor of the (just ended!) Mercury retrograde I rewatched a few movies from my childhood. While “Killer Klowns from Outer Space” probably doesn’t have much to add to this subject, “The Dead Zone” does, at least in an oblique way. Besides, I can’t resist an opportunity to reference Christopher Walken. The “dead zone” in the title of the movie, based on the Stephen King novel of the same name, refers to the blind spot in our perception, and for those of us who try and scry a little knowledge from the misty void that is a very real thing. I am actually glad that is the case. A pre-written, already known world (while very possibly the case) is a bit depressing to me. So here’s to the fog on the road, even if we don’t always know where we’re going.
Now on to the drink. Naturally I had to enjoy a ‘Dead Zone”, the ‘barrel cocktail’ on the current Bootlegger Tiki (Palm Springs, CA) menu. Both for the name and the warning of ‘One max per customer!’, and also since it was created by my coworker at Truss and Twine, Jesse.
He was a little tight-lipped about the exact ingredients but disclosed that it was a variation on a Zombie (also appropriate for this time of year) and that it had baking spices, a little citrus, and three over-proof rums- including the delicious and deadly OFTD from Plantation! It definitely drinks like a Zombie, but with more complexity in the spice profile and also from the richness of the OFTD. I can say that I certainly wasn’t clairvoyant before I drank it, but I was definitely in the ‘dead zone’ afterwards. Just make sure to leave the car at home, nobody wants to be in the actual dead zone.
Mercury retrograde is upon us, when the little things in life suddenly turn on us in irritating ways. Don’t ask me why, there is no scientific explanation (yet) why the perceived backwards travel of a small planet millions of miles away would affect our communication here on Earth. Yet, anecdotally I can tell you it does seem to have an effect, and patience is a virtue during these times.
In the Western (whatever that ever meant) magical tradition, this is a good time for being a little, umm, deceptive if that’s something that is required for the task at hand. So what more appropriate cocktail than the Long Island Iced Tea? It looks like a simple glass of iced tea, but whoa does it pack a punch! Here’s an updated version that is easy to make at home (pro tip- just buy the airplane bottles of any spirit you don’t have in your home bar) to get you through any electronic malfunctions or deception thrown your way.
1/2oz each vodka, gin, rum, tequila, and triple sec (all the clear stuff typically found in a typical bar)
3/4oz simple syrup
1oz lemon juice
splash of cola
shake all ingredients except for cola, pour over ice and top with cola
Oh, and there maybe some deception involved in the origin of this dive bar classic, you can read all about it here..
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.
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.
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
closing/opening staff are often alone- when you’re alone, sometimes you see or hear things that aren’t (?) there
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.
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!
Ever feel like you’re being watched? Well you are, but let’s leave the NSA, Russia, Amazon, Facebook, etc, out of it for awhile (hi guys!). If you find yourself in the Santa Lucia Mountains of coastal California, perhaps in search of a nice Pinot Noir, you may end up with some company. According to Jason Offutt in his book Chasing American Monsters, the Chumash Indians were the first to see mysterious silhouettes standing on the mountain ridges, silently staring. [edit 03/22/21 Ken Layne on his Desert Oracle podcast clarified the tribe as the Essalen, a tribe nearly wiped out by the Spanish, and from whom the Essalen Institute took its name.] Spanish settlers recorded seeing these vigilantes oscuros, and a quick search online (specifically the comments section of the Weird California page on the subject [unsecure link, not sharing it]) shows that these things are still being seen regularly today. Back to Offutt, “Legend has it these humanoid creatures rarely appear to anyone who is carrying a gun, or is dressed in weatherproof clothing; they only reveal the themselves to people who wander the mountains in more old-fashioned garb.”
Pepé, the protagonist of the John Steinbeck short story ‘flight’ had a gun, and little good it did him shortly after seeing the Dark Watchers.
Once, on a white barren spur, he saw a black figure for a moment, but he looked quickly away, for it was one of the dark watchers. No one knew who the watchers were, nor where they lived, but it was better to ignore them and never to show any interest in them. They did not bother one who stayed on the trail and and minded his own business.
Pepe looked up to the top of the next dry withered ridge. He saw a dark form against the sky, a man’s figure standing on top of a rock, and he glanced away quickly not to appear curious. When a moment later he looked up again, the figure was gone.
John Steinbeck, ‘Flight’
Steinbeck was interested enough in these mysterious beings that his son, Thomas, collaborated on a book (In Search of the Dark Watchers) about the subject with artist Benjamin Brode. Apparently lore of the Watchers was deeply ingrained in his upbringing, his grandmother even claiming to have traded with them- which is lore altering if true.
Poet Robinson Jeffers, in his poem ‘Such Counsels You Gave to Me’ also mentioned “the watchers, who are often seen in this length of coast range, forms that look human to human eyes, but certainly are not human. They come from behind ridges to watch.”
So, what are these ethereal observers? Are they like the ‘shadow people’ many observe in their bedrooms at night? Are they ghosts, or the remaining vibrations of a people long passed on? Perhaps it is a form of alien intelligence, curious about our hiking habits? Whatever they are, I thought they deserved a cocktail of their own. Luckily the boys at Bootlegger Tiki were up to the task and helped me whip up “The Dark Watcher aka the Poor Pepé”.
1 1/2 oz Singani 63
1/2 Demerara syrup
1/2 lime juice
1/4 oz fallernum
barspoon açaí pureé
shake with crushed ice, Collins glass, garnish with edible flowers to accentuate the floral aspects
It’s refreshing and dangerous, and just dark enough to add a sense of mystery. If you ask the bartenders at Bootlegger nicely, I am sure you could get them to make you one.
..and if you see something dark watching you on the horizon, just leave it be.
Yes, this is a blog about cocktails and Fortean topics.. but lately I have been messing around with fermentation and I want to share some stuff about that. I mean, why not add some good little critters to your diet? Especially if you live the ‘bartender lifestyle’, and maybe rely on late night Del Taco bags for your sustenance. So let’s start here before we get into the ‘hard stuff’, and get some healthy stuff in our guts!
This is so easy, I’m surprised they haven’t made it illegal. Just take a couple of pounds of cabbage and chop it finely after removing the core and outer leaves. Add a tablespoon of salt, I used kosher [edit: I am having better success with a little more salt than that, maybe an extra teaspoon] Don’t use iodized salt- for basically anything but definitely not this! Then just massage the salt in slowly, a little at a time. Eventually, after maybe five minutes, the vegetables will get nice and soggy, where they drip when you squeeze them. Next, pack the soggy cabbage into a liter jar, there should be about an inch of airspace left in the jar once you pack it in. Oh, quick tip, I find that green cabbage gives up its juice more easily, so start there. But I digress, push the veggies into the jar with your fingers or a spatula.
I decided to get creative with this batch, I mixed in some mustard greens with half of the batch. I did a pound of just cabbage, then did a pound of mixed cabbage and mustard greens. The smell of the mustard was amazing and I can’t wait until it’s ready. I also added some peppercorns, bay leaf, fennel and caraway seed to the bottom of the jar as well. My first batch of sauerkraut had the spices mixed in and I didn’t enjoy chewing on them so this time I am going to see if it works better this way. Make sure the juice covers the vegetables, I used one of the firm outer leaves left from trimming the cabbage to squeeze into the top of the jar like a wedge, holding everything under the juice.
So, this literally took ten minutes, maybe fifteen, and there is no excuse. You can have homemade probiotic goodness in just a few days! Next, it’s Tiki and spectral watchers, right here in California..
Hi, everyone who has patiently listened while I talked about my podcast/blog/whatever for the last two years! I have the computer, the mic, the camera, and not any real experience.. so anyone who wants to be a part of this crazy project let me know. I would love any haunted bar/restaurant stories that you might have, and I know you have one. The first episode is going to be about the Amityville case, and the drink will obviously be the Long Island Iced Tea. Next I have a California cryptid from Pinot Country you may not of heard of, and on to some hauntings in the Nutmeg State. Expect a wine-laced cocktail and something with a nutmeg garnish.. apologies if I sound like I am recording in a garbage can for the first couple! Send me your spooky bar shit at firstname.lastname@example.org