A cocktail comprised of rum with Fernet, Gran Gala and a demerara vanilla syrup? Awesome.
Nostalgia is a funny thing. From Greek, the word nostalgia means a pain to return home; in many respects, while we use the term to designate a desire for returning to earlier or past times, the word connotes in English a desire to return to those times which are happier than present. Yet, in reality, a nostalgic yearning is more just a return to the familiar, to the home. Memory constantly comes into play in our daily lives, playing a part not only in terms of remembering facts and figures, but also in terms of the emotive and affectuous aspects in our lives. We yearn for things we remember, we learn from things we remember, we regret things we remember, and yet we constantly are engaged in that continuum of past and present and future, juxtapositions of time and memory, life and choice.
Right now, I can say I am a bit nostalgic for home: for my friends, for fun times, for the familiar. In that, I’m craving this cocktail, the Devil’s Own, which sounds like something one would requisition from Satan himself, in a sort of Faustian bargain for the past. While the Devil’s Own is also a cocktail created by Colin Symons which consists of equal parts gin, dry vermouth, and Cointreau with a dash of bitters, I am interested in the drink created by a friend of mine (Tarling). Jason Schiffer, of 320 Main (which has recently created a blog that you can see here) created this drink to showcase Zaya Rum. It seems common that we see drinks made to showcase a specific spirit, as is the case with many high-end bartenders, which only helps to illustrate the economic-politics behind the craft cocktail movement, which helps reaffirm both marketing aspects in the industry in addition to the norm setting rhetorics established by these industry representatives in alignment with distinction making practices about “taste.”
The configurations of how we engage with artifact and memory are fascinating. Certain objects, which we fetishize, can give us a sort of socio-economic status. For instance, Edward Green shoes. On the other hand, objects which serve as fetishes can have localized centers of power rooted in personal phenomenological experience. A fetish along this axis grants power to the local, provisioning an understanding of the past in behavior and memory, and takes on value based upon our own experiences. With regards to a cocktail, the visible and aesthetic function of the drink from an outsider’s point of view is rooted in external practices of fetishization, while for the imbiber, in many cases, the cocktail takes on localized experience based forms of understanding. The ways in which we configure our understandings and the appropriation of quality to food is rooted in memory: to drink something that reminds you of your past; to eat an apple pie that tastes like good old “Grandma’s home cooking.” Plus, while there is always the sociological dimension to these processes of high end cuisine, and the determination of what is good based upon the insights of others; but in reality there is less of a personal investment in the concerns and tastes of others, meaning that we cannot often experience truly profound moments, at least along the line of memory, with something in which we have no investment.
For the Devil’s Own, there is a vanilla demerara syrup. Make it as you would with an infusion of Madagascar vanilla bean in a simple syrup. However, for an added twist, change the simple syrup to an orgeat syrup, which gives it a nice nuanced flavor that contrasts just ever so slightly against the already strong flavors of vanilla that are present in Zaya rum. If you want to switch out the Zaya rum, go for another strong vanilla oriented rum, although the drink works surprisingly well with some Jamaican rums (with a bit of funk).
Jason’s cocktail is a drink which reminds me of home and good old times, seeing as how I first experienced it. However, that doesn’t mean it is a bad drink (far from it). Most other imbibers will not have a vested memory in this cocktail, seeing as it is new to them. But at the same time, we all have our favorite drinks, and memories of our first cocktail or first memorable experience with liquor. For me, I started good: a Sidecar made by a friend who was a bartender. And Sidecars, because of my vested interest in them, are still one of my favorite drinks.
1 1/2 ounce Zaya rum
1/2 ounce Fernet Branca
1/4 ounce Gran Gala
1 barspoon demerara vanilla syrup
Stir the ingredients with ice and strain into an absinthe rinsed cocktail glass. Express the aromatics of a lemon twist over the drink, and discard the lemon twist.
Tarling, William. 1937. Café Royal Cocktail Book. Pall Mall LTD: London, 1937.