Monday, June 16, 2008

Ajeticha: A Cocktail Fable

Many thanks to Scofflaw's Den for hosting this month's Mixology Monday...








This is not a mere write-up of a cocktail recipe. This is a true story of redemption, a story it took one person 27 years to live out, yet we can capture its essence in a stemmed glass.


This is the story of a girl of Tlingit blood, the 4th of eight children, growing up on a dilapidated dead end street in Seatac, Washington, in a tiny little ramshackle house bordering the barren outer wastelands of the airport.


This girl's name was Fallen Star, or Ajeticha in the native Tlingit tongue, and it was her name that caused her so much trouble. It was an unmistakable sign that the girl had the devil in her. As if the contaminated Indian blood that pumped through her weren’t unsettling enough, she bore the name of the devil himself: for as any discerning, righteous, god-fearing individual would surely tell you, Lucifer was the fallen angel, or the fallen star.


And so throughout her childhood Ajeticha endured scorn, ostracization, and cruel interventions at the hands of educators, neighbors, parents of friends, and other such types who claim the persecution of a child to be tantamount to doing the Lord’s work.


Ajeticha had enough challenges to surmount apart from the response her name provoked in the hearts and minds of the righteous. She abided all the indignities America slings upon its poor and disenfranchised, particularly those of an ethnic disposition known to illicit unwanted memories of past genocides.


Young Ajeticha watched helplessly as her father broke down, piece by piece, crushed under the burden of providing for a family, as her mother distanced herself further and further from reality, and as older siblings fell by the wayside into addiction, despair, and violence.


She studied hard, sought mentors, and prepared herself for higher education over the protests of her teachers, who proclaimed her a dirty little Indian who would never amount to anything. And these teachers seemed to derive twisted pleasures from their fantastic visions of her eventual demise, as if this might deliver unto them a sort of vindication.


Despite her accommodating nature, Ajeticha was unwilling to indulge the fantasies of these noble edifiers. She left that little dilapidated house and went away to school. First a 4 year degree, then a move to San Francisco and a Masters Degree, and a career working towards the creation of a just world and equitable society.


But along the way Ajeticha acquired a partner, a person to share this life with, and a trusted soul to confide in and seek sanctuary from the hurts that cut so deep. Sadly, this trusted soul is today known to us as Great Destroyer, or Appolyon.


Appolyon was a being made of misery, a soul so plagued with illness that he couldn't help but to inflict upon Ajeticha many ultimate betrayals.


Ajeticha was nearly destroyed in the ensuing explosion, barely able to speak or sustain the most basic functions of life. And it appeared that all those years of climbing, surviving, and thriving had merely been illusion. Her journey had in actuality been an inevitable and preordained submission to the currents of the river Acheron, her ambition and gumption merely her ferry of transport.


Perhaps the holy despisers had been correct about her, and it was in fact her destiny to fall into Abaddon. Perhaps all her efforts to avoid this fate were nothing more than pitiful flailing, accomplishing nothing but the prolongation of her time in purgatory.


But one fall day, T.Mixeur and Ajeticha took a long, sad, silent walk through the Arboretum. And as the sound of the breeze rustled the leaves of the Big Leaf Maples, as the scents of the tree's mist and the season’s last flowers drifted upon us, and as we felt the soft earth below us inflect compassionately with each step we took, a tiny spark ignited within Ajeticha.


And from there it was merely a process of patience, as the fire returned to her, and she reclaimed what she had been, but had not even realized she was before: a beautiful, wise, and compassionate human being with her entire life yet to be lived. A life that will begin as an educated, accomplished, single woman in one of the world’s greatest cities, San Francisco.


And as has been stated before, we at Le Mixeur honor the mighty in the only way we know how…by making a cocktail for them. And as this is Bourbon month in Mixology Monday Land, we proudly present, The Ajecticha.


To begin the creation process of the Ajeticha, we naturally begin with the Satan Cocktail and then make the appropriate derivations to tell her story.


The Satan Cocktail, according to Cocktail Database, is this:


1 3/4 oz bourbon
1/2 oz sweet vermouth
1/4 oz pastis
1 dash Peychaud bitters


Given the harsh realities of the life of Ajeticha, we will turn the bourbon to rye and up it to two full ounces. We will also use Punt e Mes instead of sweet vermouth, and absinthe rather than pastis. The Peychaud bitters will remain.


We have now pushed the cocktail to levels of bitterness and heat to where it is unpalatable, just as Ajeticha had been pushed to such realms throughout life, then nearly over the edge by Appolyon.


But just as the sweet earth brought Ajeticha back to us that pristine fall day, we have a method to bring her cocktail back to us. Specifically, we will add to our concoction a measure of Saint Germain Elderflower Liqueur. Balance will be restored.


The Ajeticha

2 oz Rye (we used Sazerac 6 year)
½ oz Punt e Mes
½ oz Saint Germain
1 dash Peychaud Bitters
¼ oz Absinthe (we used Kubler)


Stir all ingredients except Absinthe in a mixing glass
Rinse cocktail glass with Absinthe, discard some or all according to taste
Strain the rest into the glass.
Enjoy.


And upon completion of this cocktail, with haunting visions of the depths of hell, the prince of darkness, and rivers of Hades, we have cleared Ajeticha of all charges of wrongdoing. We search for a means to realign these indelible images in our minds, and find that William Butler Yeats has already done so, just for us. And we leave you for today with his words...


Turning and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity.


Surely some revelation is at hand;
Surely the Second Coming is at hand.
The Second Coming! Hardly are those words out
When a vast image out of Spiritus Mundi
Troubles my sight: somewhere in sands of the desert
A shape with lion body and the head of a man,
A gaze blank and pitiless as the sun,
Is moving its slow thighs, while all about it
Reel shadows of the indignant desert birds.
The darkness drops again; but now I know
That twenty centuries of stony sleep
Were vexed to nightmare by a rocking cradle,
And what rough beast, its hour come round at last,
Slouches towards Bethlehem to be born?




Sunday, June 1, 2008

Foraging For Inspiration, Part Deux



Roots and Leaves Themselves Alone


Roots and leaves themselves alone are these,
Scents brought to men and women from the wild woods and pond-side,
Breast-sorrel and pinks of love,
fingers that wind around tighter than vines,

Gushes from the throats of birds hid in the foliage of trees as the sun is risen,
Breezes of land and love set from living shores to you on the living sea, to you O sailors!
Frost-mellow'd berries and Third-month twigs offer'd fresh to young persons wandering out in the fields when the winter breaks up,
Love-buds put before you and within you whoever you are,
Buds to be unfolded on the old terms,
If you bring the warmth of the sun to them they will open and bring form, color, perfume, to you,
If you become the aliment and the wet they will become flowers, fruits, tall branches and trees.

-walt whitman



In the previous post, we drew the background for a trip to Seward Park, repository of an old-growth forest that serves as microcosm for the flora of the Pacific Northwest, and shared our photos and descriptions of Evergreen Huckleberries, Salal Berries, Thimbleberries, and Oregon Grape.

Today we'll continue with the other ingredients - excusez-moi - native plants whose essence we diminish by photographing and analyzing.

RED-FLOWERING CURRANT


Red-Flowering Currants are Ribes, and we care not whether this statement offends anyone. The blueish-black berries it will put forth are edible, but hardly delicious.Some might say insipid, some bitter. Many Native American tribes ate them, but begrudgingly so. It is believed that, amongst the Saanich Tribe, eating Red-Flowering Currants was a hazing ritual which needed to be done in order to gain admission to a sorority. Certainly there must be room for the Red-Flowering Currant in a bitter or aperitif?

INDIAN PLUM


Indian Plum trees are quite common in the area, but the female species is much harder to come by, and it is only the female who is gracious enough to produce these lovely little plums, or osoberries, that you see pictured above. The plums will eventually turn purple, not unlike a store-bought plum, but would surprise your typical plum-eater with their bitterness and astringency. "Plants of the Pacific Northwest Coast" desribes the scent of the tree itself as "something between watermelon rind and cat urine." Le Mixeur is not one to cast aspersions, but we imagine that description might also apply to this:






RED HUCKLEBERRY


Red Huckleberry is the most common form of Huckleberry in the Northwest. The berries are bright red when ripe and palatable but too sour for some. The juice of the berries was traditionally drank as an appetite stimulant, the leaves and bark used for soothing sore throats and inflamed gums. The Sechelt people would smoke the berries over a fire made of the branches of the Red Huckleberry plant.

TRAILING BLACKBERRY


People in the cocktail world love a good ritual, be it the Absinthe ritual, the creation of a Blue Blazer, the acknowledgment of the traditional cocktail hour, or simply raising a glass in toast. Any cocktails created using Trailing Blackberries will come inherent with their own ritual, one passed down from the Coast Salish people, who would scrub their bodies with the stems of the plant prior to Spirit Dancing. True, this might be slow to catch on in the suburbs, but we here in the city are ready, I think.

Trailing Blackberry is the native form of blackberry, producing smaller and somewhat more sour berries than the invasive Himalayan Blackberry that currently is growing into the windows of T.Mixeur's house. Without having attempted it before, it is nonetheless easy to imagine these little berries producing some interesting twists on various Brambles.

LICORICE FERNS


Licorice Fern, or Western Polypody, was used by Native tribes to sweeten bitter medicines. And as we all know, liquor is one bitter medicine. The rhizomes of the ferns are medicines themselves, used to treat colds and sore throats. Licorice Fern enjoys growing off the sides of Big Leaf Maple trees, as seen in the photograph above. The leaves have been enjoyed as a snack for many centuries my a number of Northwest peoples (and for those who either are not paying close attention or mistrust labels, the flavor of the leaves is in fact licorice).

SAMBUCUS


Yes, that is correct. If you work for St. Germain, be afraid. Be very afraid. For the Elderflower plant grows in abundance in Le Mixeur's back yard. We need only to figure out how to get a fleet of bicycles with baskets on them into the old-growth forest to cart out the blossoms so we have a charming anecdote to put in the booklet of our Elderflower Liqueur!

In actuality, Sambucus grows in much greater abundance on the east side of the Cascades, where reportedly it is considered something of a weed. Also in actuality, we haven't the faintest idea how St. Germain could make such a delicious liqueur out of the Sambucus plant, as the flowers are known to have a strong, unpleasant odor, and no less an authority than John Cleese once famously told King Arthur that his father was a hamster, and his mother reeked of elderberries.

The stems, barks, leaves, and roots are toxic with cyanide, and the berries must be cooked before being eaten to avoid nausea. Hmmm. A challenge.

HONEYSUCKLE


Ahhh, Honeysuckle, specifically Western Trumpet Honeysuckle, aka Orange Honeysuckle. Honeysuckle's aroma and beauty have inspired countless artists, from William Faulkner to Fats Waller to August Strindberg to, well, Jimmy Buffet.

Just don't eat the berries. You'll probably die.

But for centuries Saanich children have sucked the sugary nectaries at the base of the flower. Would these tiny nectaries ever be practically incorporated into a cocktail, liqueur, or spirit? It is difficult to say. Perhaps Honeysuckle's role should instead be that of a hanging branch near the mixologist or distiller, continuing to provide the same artistic inspiration that has served so many so well before.

OUR FEARLESS GUIDE

To give the reader an idea of the enormity of this old growth Douglas Fir, please realize that Lela is a woman who stands close to six and a half feet tall.

Merci, Lela, pour votre sagesse et connaissance!

We hope to report on more, once time permits repeated trips to the forest, batteries permit more photos, and seasons permit more tastings.

T.Mixeur