Sunday, January 13, 2013

The Lady's Piercing Eyes

They told me I couldn't miss her. I did.

Trawling up'n'down the Rue Whatisevers, right aroundside the Pantheon for 3 hours, they told me I'd find her sitting outside at a café - and there weren't too many of 'em in that district.

To coin a phrase: Hah!

Turns out, after sweatin' like a hunk o'capicola left out on the sidewalk in the afternoon sun ('cause that's what I was, y'know), I find her sittin' outta sight in the shadiest corner under a canopy I musta looked in 10 times.

There she was, lookin' the perfect evil French stereotype: black bob under a purple beret, black Lennon shades, green sheath dress and stilettos that said "don't fall for me." Coulda been my eyes adjusting to the shade, but she blended in a little too well into the texture of the bushes behind her. Sitting tall at her lone table reading a book and sipping a demi-tasse. All she needed was a yard-long cigarette holder.

So I go up to her to deliver my message and I says: "Meduse de Javert? Good to see that you're well. I'm Bateman. Mr. Kinich sends his regards."

The lady's eyebrow twitched up and back, less reflexive than a brief display of inner calculation. She shut her book and sat back, taking me in. Felt like I broke some minute degree of protocol - maybe I didn't get everything outta the real Bateman when we were ripping out his fingernails to take over this transaction.

"Merci. J'envoie mes salutations à M. Kinich, aussi. Avons-nous un accord?"

"Oui, madame. Mr. Kinich also invites you for dinner this evening at Agapé Substance to further discuss the implementation. Seven Pee Em."

"C'est agréable. Mais, j'ai l'intention de manger légèrement." Here she was speaking too fast for me to hear. "Ma taille fine." But that I understood.

"Of course. Merci, madame. I will apprise Mr. Kinich." And here I half-turned: I shoulda just kept business and left, but something about her tickled me, like a faint tingle at the back of my ankle.

"de Javert, eh? Like that guy from Les Mis? Your family ain't into hockey, is it?"

She looked down, brow furrowed, squeezing her eyes so tight white light flashed out from behind her shades, scratching irritatedly a little too far up her scalp. Nah, couldntabeen. She murmured something under her breath. "Pardon, ma'am?"

She looked up. All I could see were those black holes over her eyes. They were swirling. Glowing. "Des. Yeux. Verts."

"H-huh? I don't speak.."

"Vous n'êtes pas Bateman. Et je ne travaille pas avec les incompétents!" The tingle at my ankle got the better of me. My head hit the concrete and all I see is her head in the red canopy, staring down cold dinosaur-like. Those black dots transfix me like the petite shoe sinking into my chest.

"A message for your employer: no one wishes to be Bateman." She lifted her shades, mouth wet, savoring the taste of her words. "Vois-ci!"

The garçon arrived to clean up the (medium-rare and babbling) mess. "Et votre café?"

"C'est bon. Mais, c'est l'heure: je voudrais voir votre carte de cocktails?"

The Lady's Piercing Eyes
2 oz Leblon cachaça
1/2 oz lime juice
1/4 oz Rumple Minze
1/4 oz simple syrup
1 barspoon crème de mûre
sage leaf 

Chill your serving glass.
Shake first 5 ingredients on ice to chill and mix.
Double-strain drink into serving glass and sink blackberry liqueur.
Lightly press sage leaf to promote oils and float on top of drink.
Whether your stir her glowing red eye is up to you.

One thing I keep forgetting to mention in these Vanilla Lace Bitters recipes: I try to keep my recipes not only seasonal, but connected to meanings associated with calendar and zodiac months as well. If my original batch of VLB had worked out, its recipe and these last two cocktails using it would have come out some time in October during the month of (Venus-ruled) Libra. Hence the exotic lady themes. My excuse for January? I associate it with snowy whiteness, to which vanilla is a natural match. (and Northrop Frye associates Winter with the Satire, being a season of Mind *draw the connection to* cerebral blackberry...or that might've just been the Smuckers commercial talking...)

With the idea of ladies and the Feminine firmly ensconced in my head, my first thought was to the White Lady cocktail, including an earlier version of the same, utilizing crème de menthe. The idea itself, associating white and white crème de menthe isn't bad -- there's a fitting purity in the bracing sharp peppermint in white crème de menthe (which is a little more toned down or rounded in the green variant) -- the execution and balance could just use a little work in that drink.

But: what lady would make use of razor-sharp peppermint? Shall we just say, cue the cachaça!

You might think the bitters get a little lost here, they certainly aren't as featured as in La Dame de Chantilly. But, I think their Venus-in-Libra pleasing/harmonizing aspect comes out well here: the vanilla falls behind the scenes to smooth and unite what is otherwise a lime-bright and slightly mint-chalky mix while the spices contribute depth. Interestingly, the most prominent note from the bitters is the vegetal/black pepper damiana (the Mexican aphrodisiac herb), which matches with the cachaça's grassy notes.

Overall, it's a little Stinger, a little Bramble, a little Caipirinha. Cerebral with blackberry and sage, an Amazon waiting to explode under demure (natch) lacy wraps. Beware the lady's daggers.

  • Of the 3 cachaças available on PA shelves, Leblon is easily the most refined and ladylike (another brand of similar characteristics would be advised if a sub is needed). [UPDATE (02-28-2013): Having just made this recipe with my new bottle of Neisson Rhum Agricole Blanc, I would say the cocktail is markedly improved with this drier, lighter sugar cane spirit. I surmise any agricole might make for an improved quaff.] However, that means it needs a larger share of the ratio in order to not get lost in the other Big flavors: 4:1:1, instead of the standard 2:1:1 sour formula.
  • The mint aspect was the hardest to get right. Straight white crème de menthe as the sweetener was perhaps a touch too sweet (Leblon being noticeably wetter than a London Dry gin in the comparable Bramble) and the sweetness dulled the mint's sharpness in the final cocktail -- a requisite given the name, ne? Given the need for a more thunderous mint, I reached out to left field for the mini of Rumple Minze I had in my fridge. There's an unspoken taboo about using any schnapps in proper cocktails (the connection to frat party pantydroppers ought to be good and well severed for those to whom discernment matters less), but here's a drier, high-proof, potent-flavored spirit of fine German craftsmanship*. In combination with simple syrup the sweetness balances just right, and the peppermint undergirds with a perceptible, perpetual frost.
*ranty MoD note: this is about the only place you'll see me use the C-word (e.g. in conjunction with 'German', from which the word originated and with which it still retains real meaning). MAKE. GOOD. COCKTAILS. Be confident, patient, persistent. All else flows from there. If you feel you have to associate yourself with a certain word (and in a world in which one can "Craft 2" at Qdoba) you're actually downplaying the quality of your work by qualifying it.