In my deep studies and dives into mixology, I am often delighted at the affirmations of my insights and gambles. It seems, most of the time, I have a decent idea of what I am doing, and there is no other feeling quite like setting aside the chemistry of a drink's draft before research and celebrating your apparent genius after. And though this practice fosters a keen and sharp wit and confidence in the subject, it can also drive the hooks of hubris deep before wrenching you to the floor.
There is much still to learn, grasshopper.
The chemistry of liquor could be argued toward an exact science. Parts and ratios, surgical measurements, yet loose enough to garner such phrases as "a dash" of this or a "splash" of that. There appears to be some arcanum in play as well, at least among the most pure. There are garnishes, and smokes; matches and incantations; so much that one believes flailing an orange over a glass gives it just the right "touch" of citrus.
And when I'm not casting spells to make things delicious, I am ruminating on the curious cavalcade of cutthroats and pinchpurses that just cannot seem to get along, no matter how many times I force them onto the same boat.
Let's consider what I call "Morgan's Fleet." No liquor is created equal, which is why offshoots like Lady Bligh (sweeter and mild) exist alongside Admiral Nelson (bright and sharp), with Captain Morgan the original reference point of rum. Kraken leans between Morgan and Nelson, and the ever-surprising Oakheart lends a slightly earthy tone between Morgan and Bligh. The CLEARLY Bligh clone of Blackheart Rum leans heavily beyond Bligh, too smooth for her own good.
Each of these rums on their own serve well in simple pairings, and can be quite tasty in these realms, elevating them to a mansion of high class. ...Put them in the same room, however, and they draw swords and kill each other, leaving behind essentially dirty water.
What I mean is, in my first attempt at crafting what I professed to be "my strongest drink" (a feat I believe has already been achieved in the form of the Incubus, go figure), I thought it would somehow be a good idea to blend all my favorite rums together.
So I took some Bligh, some Morgan, some Kraken, a little Oakheart, and a splash of Blackheart.
...It was devoid of all flavor. It left my tongue NUMB in boredom. So I tried again. Morgan, Bligh, Kraken.
Nothing. All flavors nullified.
Morgan and Bligh only? There's flavor, but it has no heart.
Frustrated, I put the concept away. I had a campaign to run and plenty of other drinks to write about, so no worries.
Flash forward a few months to the second week of teaching in the odd-as-hell Hybrid Model as a music teacher and I'm conceptualizing the conflicting flavors in a dose of my FIREWATER, a drink idea that's been rolling around for some time. It starts simple - a double shot of Fireball (makes sense, but if I don't like it, I've got After Shock to help out), then about a 1/2 oz of Lime Juice for some citrusy bite. Adapting from an old idea, I call in an ounce of Vodka (hmm), a quarter ounce of 151 Rum (HMM), and an ounce of...Captain Morgan.
The initial sip is a blastoise cannon of Lime, all semblance of rum or vodka GONE from the mixture. A hint of Fireball lingers in the wings, and the warmth is there (one of the targets of the draft), but after a second sip ALL I TASTE IS LIME. Where'd my pirate go? What the hell happened?
It is my understanding that if Spiced Rum is one of the core liquors in your drink, that you use only ONE RUM. The second test craves that citrus, but without the Lime, so I have some swapping to do. I propose the following changes:
Switch out the Vodka for Gin, and omit the Lime juice completely.
X out the 151, and keep the Captain on standby for a splash or two if needed
Fold in 1 oz of Jamaican Silver Rum
Add in 2 dashes of aromatic bitters
The Gin is precisely what this drink needed. The subtle citrus quality makes the Fireball a bright, shining, cinnamon sun. Bitters bind the Silver Rum into the fold, so no need for the Captain...but something's still missing. Alas, this one is far from done.
Though I've been pretty lucky so far, not every drink is a knock-out, and there are splendid lessons to be found in our hilarious "mistakes."
While dumping out the poor wasted liquor of the first test, a quick sniff of the glass elevated that sense of fire, like I had "rinsed" it with Fireball. I was looking for something light and easy to cleanse my palette and I reached for my Stella Rosa Pink (carbonated, light, sweet wine). Pouring just a touch into the glass, the smell (and resulting taste) was transcendent without carry; light, but satisfying. So I ventured further.
I don't want to sacrifice what the Pink brings to the table, so just a half ounce of Fireball in a whiskey glass, and fill it up with Stella Rosa Pink. It is lovely and bright; warm at the back and sweet at the front. Both for its color and profile, I name her my Ladefyre, and she is lovely.
Taste and toast well to what you are thankful for in this crazy world.
See you at the Bar.
Professional Game Master musician, music teacher, game designer, amateur bartender, and aspiring fiction author.
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