Monday, February 20, 2017

MxMo CXVI: Irish Wake

Life's been what it is, old paths dwindling, new paths glimmering before. One's personal approach to the spirits has undergone some re-evaluation and is beginning to peek through on the other side. But the old camaraderie burns strong and bright yet, and for that you take the time - because being able to slip back into the old groove like no time had passed and the great shake-up that was 2016 never happened is not something that should have been taken for granted.

Today is the last Mixology Monday. Our ringmaster and professional cat-herder Frederic makes the final call, with the theme Irish Wake.
So it is time for the final theme, the Irish wake. The Irish wake is a funeral tradition that is a send-off that begins at the time of death until the body is handed over to the church. It is viewed as a crucial part of the grieving process. My first Irish wake was a little over a year ago when Boston barman Ryan McGrale met his untimely demise. While the wake part with the family was sober, the mourning process with the Boston bartenders and the New York City ones who traveled up was most certainly not. Irish whiskey flowed. I remember getting home and wondering why my key would not work and I considered sleeping in the garage. Turns out, it was the wrong key on my key ring and it took awhile to figure that out. So what better way to celebrate the life and times of Mixology Monday and its 11 year run as the premiere "monthly online cocktail party" than with Irish whiskey.

For this theme, the approach is two fold. You can go traditional and generate or uncover a cocktail recipe calling for Irish whiskey. Alternatively, you can talk about a personal moment either where  Irish whiskey played a role in life or where drinks in general helped the grieving process. Such stories were actually rather cool for MxMo 41 "Vodka is Your Friend," so there is precedent for that, but it's not like we can break Mixology Monday for future events by straying from the rules.
Follow the link here to see the round-up for how everyone else took the time to salute.

It's been my experience that one happens upon certain communities during the course of one's wanderings in life, where your own interests intersect others' in such a way that the whole is far greater than the sum of the parts. Usually it's a confluence of an objective topic like a fandom or other source of geekery burning so bright that all the best naturally gravitate like moths to that siren fire call: X-Files on back in the day, the Whedonverse or comics on AICN during the 'naughts, cocktails on Twitter during the Great Cocktail Renaissance for the past decade or more.

Feu-de-Vie didn't start up in time to participate during Paul Clarke's tenure, but by the time Fred Yarm took up the reins I was very well clued-in that this was the thing to do. And my was it ever. September 2012 revealed an intense count of young gun cocktail blogs with more yet to rise, and the feel of the cocktail blogosphere in general throve on rapid output from all quarters. The number of vibrant postings in a week would make your head spin. Skip participating in MxMo for the blog hit boosts - the sheer number and quality of outputs, and the sense that you were part of a community keen to the idea that "what before had been unthinkable was now both do-able and transcendable (and delicious!)" - there's no greater oxygen for a creative spirit. Put that between your cheek and gum, dadgummit.

What's more, beyond the privilege of getting to host two monthly events (Fire and Ice, natch) and generally always having my best brought out by the events, I've had the great muse-ly pleasure of inspiring others. Pineapple-squash ferris wheels aside, I'm just glad the combination of Irish whiskey and Tiki proved so appealing to encourage folks to come back to MxMo one last time. Mind, an Irish whiskey Tiki Mardi Gras/NOLA cocktail would be the ne plus ultra for this month, naturellement.

And yet, as the old maxim goes, "those who burn brightest also burn shortest." So many of those young guns faded before too long. Cocktail blogging is a difficult enough endeavor, even if one has a plan to balance recipe development and output with moderation and self-care. And, alas, we (and our livers) all do get older and life does have a way of getting in the way. Take it from someone who's struggling with senses of imminent turning points of late and whose other Piscean pursuits also include astrology - there's literally something in the stars happening right now; we're in a year characterized by Uranus, planet of radical unexpected change. The Cocktail Renaissance moment has passed; it's mellowed and in the process of maturation. There's still plenty of room for new recipes and ideas, but, man, would I love to see everyone's recipes get some re-love and appreciation rather than be lost to the ether. For all the joy and fire shared during the best of times, as MxMo rests I do hope our fellowship continues.

So, a toast is in order for all the Mixology Mondays of the past, and those One True dreams of a distant future when the cocktail renaissance may yet be needed and come again.

Ladies and gentlemen, it's time for some comfort food.

Cinnamon Toast Old Fashioned
2 1/4 oz butter-washed Irish whiskey (Writer's Tears)
3/4 oz cinnamon syrup
3 dashes bitters (Fee Bros Whiskey-Barrel-Aged OF bitters)
cinnamon stick & cinnamon-sugar toastette for garnish

Stir with light ice and strain over a big rock. Garnish.

The cinnamon syrup is 1:1 syrup following JFL's method.

The infusion uses Don Lee's method for the Cinema Highball (also in the PDT recipe book) - make sure you're using clarified *unsalted* butter (no need for popcorn).

Pretty much exactly in-line flavor-wise. You could probably split hairs with the ratio to suit your taste, but 3 spirit : 1 sweet : 1 dash bitters produces a rich, sweet full mouthfeel that is immistakeable for real cinnamon toast. You might be able to dial down the sweet by subbing some cinnamon tincture or adding a neutral bitters like Abbott's or Boker's, but you also have to keep a tastebud open to what whiskey you're infusing. High-quality Writer's Tears, apart from being a classy way to send off our beloved (please do NOT scold on infusing such a dram - I KNOW I know..), has a distinct full body to it, which only enhances the overall cocktail.

Yes, Writer's Tears is a rich dram. Yes, we're loading it with butter also. Such occasions call for decadence like this.

Much love to all participants and hosts past and present, and especial gratitude to Paul Clarke and Fred Yarm for keeping the torch burning as long as it has. I'm grateful for the luck of sharing such a bright moment with you all, pushing boundaries and sharing in mutual bedazzlement. May your paths run true, and may ours cross yet again in the future, for a drink or two!

And, for the future, keep an eye out. We might just get back into the swing of things enough to get some settled recipes published. [Boomer: Stay tuned...]