Here's what I wrote tonight. Still haven't figured out where I'm going, but hey, that's what dream time is for!
The rain moved rather more quickly than the meteorologists’ projections had indicated. In little more than a half hour the storms arrived onshore, bringing with them winds that sent the rain whipping through the streets, and swells on the ocean big enough to make some folks nervous. Clive had just decided he was going to head home when the skies opened, and the prospect of a long, wet slog home made him decide to just stay at the bar and ride it out. Hopefully the storm wouldn’t last too long, and in the meanwhile, he thought, he might just learn a few things about Drew’s cocktails that would prove useful with future tables. One television remained tuned to the weather; the restaurant remained deserted.
“So,” Drew said, pulling a battered notebook out of his apron and flipping through it, “What should we try next? I’ve got a few more esoteric concoctions in here that I’d enjoy another opinion on.”
“But-” Clive began.
“I know, you don’t want to blow the thirty-six bucks you made today at the bar. Don’t worry about it. I’ve got my own stash of ingredients back here that the restaurant didn’t pay for. That way, if something proves to be a hit, I can just put in for reimbursement and a stock of the stuff. Although, again, most of these things I’ve made myself.”
“Such as?” prompted Clive.
“Well, try this on for size.” He pulled from the back of the bar’s fridge a bottle of amber liquid, a squeeze bottle of what looked like honey, but less viscous, and a small bottle of seltzer, and grabbed another pair of Old Fashioned glasses. He poured a couple ounces of the amber solution over ice, sending an almost smoky aroma into the air, squeezed in a little of the honey-colored liquid, added a dash of bitters again, a little sweet vermouth, and topped it up with the seltzer to within an inch or so of the top. He repeated it with his own glass. He pushed one toward Clive, who raised it and sniffed.
“Is that-” He looked curiously at Drew, who nodded proudly.
“That, my friend, is a Bacon Old Fashioned with a Maple and Sugar Syrup. It’s so cool, you do something called ‘fat washing’ with the bourbon; you save the bacon fat that renders out when you cook it, and then while it’s still warm, mix about an ounce with a bottle of bourbon, let it sit at room temperature for a few hours, and then stick in in the freezer overnight. Come morning, you just skim off the solidified fat from the top. You get the essence of bacon in the bourbon with none of the guilt!” He paused for a moment, “Unless you feel guilty about drinking, I guess.”
“That’s disgusting, insane, horrifying, and brilliant. I love it.” Clive took a sip. “It tastes like breakfast! Screw the Bloody Mary, you should serve this in the mornings!”
“Believe me, I’ve thought about it. I’ve also got a dessert variant with pecan-infused bourbon. Both of them use the maple and sugar syrup, and I just make that from equal parts water and sugar, usually a raw cane sugar, and then drizzle in some maple syrup while it’s reducing down. I’ve thought about adding some pimento dram to the pecan old fashioned, but I thought that might be overkill.”
“Wait, pimento? You’re adding olives to a sweet drink like that?” Clive made a face. “No thanks.”
“I know, it sounds like olives, but pimento dram’s a liqueur from the Caribbean that’s flavored with allspice berries. I’m not sure how, but somewhere in food history, ‘pimento’ came to be two very different things. But that goes better with rum drinks than with bourbon, so I decided to leave it out.”
“Geez, you’re like a mad scientist with all your little bottles back there.” Clive peered behind the bar. “What’re the little blue bottles with the eyedroppers?”
“Tinctures. Just extracts made with overproof rum and various flavors. They let me give a little secret flavor to drinks without adding a lot of color or volume. They’re pretty potent. I’ve got orange, almond, rose, jalapeño, mint, basil, lemon and lime, rosemary, all sorts of them. I’ve also got this.” he said, pulling out a bottle half-full of a pale, muddy-green liquid.
“Absinthe?” ventured Clive.
Drew shook his head. “Falernum. It’s a blend of overproof rum, lime zest, lime juice, cloves, ginger, and almonds, plus some other goodies. Goes great in rum drinks and a little goes a long way. The only problem is it takes a long time to make. Well, not really to make. That happens in 24 hours, but once you’re done steeping all the spices and things in the rum, and you strain them out, you’ve got to let it mellow for a while, so all the flavors can mix.”
“Couple months. Up to three or four. But then you’ve got to use it quickly, or it’ll go off before long. But hey, a little of this with some dark rum and good ginger ale, and you’ve got a great Dark and Stormy.”
“Kind of like tonight,” said Clive, looking through the closed courtyard doors. The sweet bay tree was seething in the wind, the magnolia blossoms whipped off their limbs by the driving rain, plastering themselves on the walls and ground, showing pale against the dark wrought iron of the chairs and tables. “Man, I’m glad I didn’t try to walk home. I’d be soaked through. Probably catch a cold with my luck.”
“Hey, if nothing else, I appreciate the company.” Drew said, raising his glass, “Most of the other crew tends to head the other way when I start yammering on about cocktails.”
“I can’t imagine why they would. Hard not to enjoy a lesson that you get to drink the results of.” He took another sip. “It just seems a shame to not put all these ideas to any use. I mean, it’s all kind of going to waste here, you know?”
Drew sighed, “Believe me, I know. But for the moment, it’s all I’ve got. I’ve got my foot in the door here, at least, you know? I don’t want to risk being out on my ass, having to pound the pavement and say ‘Hey, I’ve got crazy weird ideas for drinks, but people will love them! They just don’t know it yet.’ There’s not a lot of takers for something that’s not really proven, and that people aren’t actively clamoring for. Especially here. Here it’s just ‘Make the Cosmos, the martinis, and the Hurricanes, and if you can get someone to try your weird stuff on your time, fine, but don’t waste ours.’”
“So then, this is the point where you go all Disney and start in with your ‘I want’ song, then is it?” Clive grinned. “Man, I hope you can sing.”