With the birthday of Mithras out of the way, attention was turned to December 31st, the day Henri Matisse would have been 139 had only he taken better care of himself. Many parties, overpriced music shows, and fireworks displays were slated for this evening, I imagine in honor of Matisse, as is the custom of our people. Adding to the excitement was the impending arrival of close friend and kindred Mixer of spirits Paula Fallen Star Nicole Jenkins from the tiny hamlet of San Francisco, California. I began compiling lists of cocktails to share that would make her trip less a simple visit and more a sacred pilgrimage. Robert Hughes has likened the work of Matisse to the world described by Baudelaire in his poem, "L'invitation Al Voyage." In honor of Matisse and in honor of Fallen Star, I decided our December 31 cocktails should embody this same spirit:
"Furniture gleaming with the sheen of years would grace our bedroom; the rarest flowers, mingling their odours with vague whiffs of amber, the painted ceilings, the fathomless mirrors, the splendour of the East ... all of that would speak, in secret, to our souls, in its gentle language. There, everything is order and beauty, luxury, calm and pleasure."
It's fun when a cocktail does all that.
There were two events for us on that evening, one was hosting some old friends of Fallen Star's from yonder Seatac, the other was stepping into guest mode for a party at friend Misha's house on the east slope of Capitol Hill. Each presented challenges...
As host, what cocktails to make the Seatac, shots-of-tarantula crowd that would bring them painted ceilings and fathomless mirrors? As phoned word came that they were on their way, the answer appeared to me as if in a dream: champagne drinks. Everyone likes champagne, it's from France and it's Matisse's birthday, and they are easy to make.
I created the bases for several drinks. Some Creme de Cassis in the bottom of a flute requires only a topping of champagne to become a Kir Royale (though technically you put the Cassis in after...don't tell the Seatacians - pronounced "c-tay-shuns"). Campari and Italian vermouth, shaken and strained into a saucer, anxiously awaited it's champagne bath to become a Champino. Muddled mint, simple syrup, and lime met rum and bitters, then got shaken and strained into a cocktail glass, and realized that when it begins to rain champagne they will be an Old Cuban. The gin and lemons were jealous of the rum and lime, so they too got shaken with syrup and strained to await the bubbly monsoon and blossom into a French 75. There was some concern that the French and the Cuban would bicker, as the French tend to look down their noses at Cubans and Cubans tend to see French as preening prima donnas. However, they were able to set aside their differences when I assured them they would both have ample opportunity to engage in their favorite pastime: fucking with American's heads. Lastly, for myself, a wee spot of absinthe, which with champagne makes Death in the Afternoon, which might have been drunk by Matisse himself at one time. At the very least, he probably looked on disdainfully from his table as Picasso and Hemingway downed a few, then continued his knitting.
As the road-weary guests arrived, I greeted them with a popping cork, quickly topped the row of glasses, placed them all on a silver platter and passed them around. And the gleaming sheens of years did grace that room. Everyone was happy except for me, as my death in the afternoon caused me to once again brood over Francisco Franco's 1940 victory over the Republicans, and I demanded that the Old Cubans return Finca Vigia to me.
The next stage entailed our venture to Capitol Hill, and what to pack in my little ole' kit bag for me and my three traveling companions (Fallen Star, her sister Rachel, and the mysterious one they call "Nick") to imbibe while out in the wiles. For this, I referred to the blog of the venerable Jamie Boudreau, for a drink called Incan Gold
1 oz pisco
2 oz sauvignon blanc
1/2 oz Pama liqueur
1/2 oz simple syrup
1/4 oz lemon juice
2 dashes peach bitters
shake and strain over ice
I decided I would multiply the recipe by 6, shake and strain into a pour and store container, and then pour over ice once at the party. Unfortunately I had neglected to have sauvignon blanc or any white wine in the house, so I decided to use Lillet. In honor of Matisse once again, let's unofficially call this new version "the red studio."
I undertook this same process with the classic drink, The Fog Cutter...
1 1/2 oz rum
1/2 oz brandy
1/4 oz gin
1 1/2 oz OJ
1/2 oz lemon
1/2 oz Orgeat
Multiplied this by 4, shook and strained, packed it into my kit bag along with the red studio and a bag of ice, and off in an orange cab we went.
We arrived at this splendour of the east to warm greetings and a quaint little delicacy the hosts were engaging in, which I was later informed is known as "tequila shots." Misha soon thereafter provided us each with lovely coffee mugs, which I filled with ice and red studios. We enjoyed this drink very much, and the fog cutters after it (though there was no sherry to float...I thought for a moment I remembered reading somewhere that Cuervo Silver could be substituted for Sherry in some recipes, and considered floating this, but thought better of it). I would describe these drinks, just off the top of my head, as rarest flowers, mingling their odours with vague whiffs of amber. In a sea of Coronas and shotglasses, we were a picture of pizazz (and comparative sobriety).
We later returned to my home, discovered a cousin Maggi and some friends raring to go at 4am, and the Mixing continued on into the wee hours of the morning, and regarding this portion of the night, I digress...suffice to say, everything was order and beauty, luxury, calm and pleasure.