“Almighty God, thee only have I; thou steerest my fate, I must give myself up to thee! Give me a livelihood! Give me a bride! My blood wants love, as my heart does!”
– Hans Christian Andersen
Another weekend, another boozy literary event at the Reading Room at Petworth Citizen! This weeks installment offered imaginative cocktails paired to the stories of famed fantasist Hans Christian Andersen, author of so many notable fairy tales including the Little Mermaid and The Ugly Ducking. As always, these events, so ably managed by Ms. Chantal Tseng (see my previous experiences here, here and here) prompt me to do a little pre-game research I found Mr. Andersen sort of a tragic figure – if you want to feel better about your personal life, read about Andersen’s; in a word, rough. Not rough was Ms. Young’s daring cocktail list which are always intriguing, but this one took the cake — I didn’t recognize half of the recipes featured, perplexion that only wets the appetite. Even more exciting, I had a hard time placing many of the flavors — not to brag, but after dozens and dozens of bar visits and home tastings, I feel like I have some, limited ability to determine “A tastes like X, B tastes like Y.” But when I go to the Reading Room, my perceptions are torn asunder and I sip slow, challenged by the unique mixtures you get here, and only here. See, you just gotta go!
The magic began with “The Nightingale” with Kina l’Aero d’Or, Yellow Chartreuse, Sparkling Brut Cidre, and persimmon. The flavor of this one was evasive and ultra complex, with subtle influences from each of the ingredients. I picked out the cidre and persimmon especially, which blend well for a nice, soft tea-ish taste. I love drinks like this that you have to sip five times before making sense of them 🙂 Then we moved on to “A Story from the Sand Dunes” with Linie Akvavit, La Guita Manzanilla, cardamaro, lemon peel, and dill. I’m not a akvavit fan at all, so the fact that I thought this was pretty good is a huge credit to its quality. The taste is smooth and cool – the akvavit is there, but not overwhelming or overly abrasive. I liked how the cardomaro plays, sticking in the flavor all the way through. The lemon also joins in happily. Nice drink.
I then had the prettiest drink of the bunch, the “The Snow Queen” with Pernod pastis, Genepy, tea-infused Dolin Blanc, grapefruit, rose water, and crushed ice. Gorgeous, truly gorgeous. This was another complex mix requiring much sipping and contemplation to tease out the different flavors. Early on it tasted faintly of rose to me and ended with a indescribable, slightly sweet taste. The grapefruit is faint and there’s almost a smoke sensation. Mysterious. Moving on, I had the “The Shadow” with Cesar Florido Cruz del Mar Oloroso, Contratto Rosso Vermouth, Tempus Fugit creme de cacao, Gammel Dansk bitter dram, and orange peel. Bringing back memories of Alec Baldwin star vehicles gone by, the Shadow delivers an electric kick laced with bitter notes. This was not my cup of tea but again I loved the challenge. A+ for the flavor adventure.
Sprinting to the finish line as the bar filled up, I danced with the “The Wild Swans” which I had cold with Pierre Ferrand Cognac, Balsam Amaro, stinging nettle tea, honey, and lemon. Along with the Nightingale, this was my favorite drink of the evening – extremely refreshing with a heavy dose of cognac, the Wild Swans is tempered happily by the tea and honey sensations, providing a great overall taste. Loved it. My finale was the warm and inviting “Ole Lukoie,” mulled wine with cardamom, currants, orange, lemon, and spices. Can’t think of a better way to conclude a night of drinking and chatting – this winter concoction is a welcome, relaxing, and floral way to calm the nerves and spark end-of-night contemplation. Unique and tasty, it was a great choice for a nightcap.