As we march forward into 2016, it’s important we don’t abandon those customs that made 2015 fun. For me, one of these customs is attending the “Literary Cocktails” events at Petworth Citizen’s Reading Room, which this week tackled famed sci-fi author Ray Bradbury. I read so many of his stories when I was on a hard-core Heinlein/Asimov 1950s science fiction kick in college, so I was excited to get a cocktail-enabled refresher course. After all, cocktail-enabled learning is the best kind of instruction. All these sessions and drinks are fantastic, but I think this weekend may have been my favorite, with ringleader Ms. Chantal Tseng dishing out one standout drink after another. As usual, the setting – a cozy book-adorned bar full of friendly folks who love alcohol and books – helps make these events extra special.
DRINK TIME. First up was the “Zero Hour,” named after Bradbury’s subversive 1951 short story that involves children paving the way for an alien invasion. Fun little note, I found a GREAT old-timey radio drama version of the story here, which only strengthens my conviction that we need a radio drama revival. Anyway, the drink, made of gin, dolin dry vermouth, green chartreuse, rose water, cucumber, and lemon peel, was as good as the story is jarring. Zero Hour was my favorite of the night and is the definition of smooth, a perfect combination of diverse ingredients that finishes cool, subtly sweet, and ginny. Great mouthfeel too, just a masterpiece. Next up was the “Fahrenheit 451” with mezcal, manzanilla sherry, tea-infused blanco vermouth, cointreau, cloves, and HOT FIRE. I went in holding the edges of the bar and braced for a smoky inferno, but this was actually very pleasant and wonderfully aromatic. Good balance through and through with the burn up front and a cascade of pleasant supporting flavors as you sip. A mezcal drink that doesn’t punch too hard, this was a solid drink.
Because I can’t get enough heat, we moved on to the busy “Pillar of Fire” with light and dark rums, apricot brandy, PX sherry, Pu’erh tea, spices, lime, blood orange, pineapple, and HOT FIRE. Superb cocktail, the Pillar’s makeup is ultra complex but its taste is straight forward and excellent. I looooved the strong blood orange influence here which lends a wonderful sense of crispness to the full-bodied and herbal drink. Next up was the “Usher II,” which was one of my favorite short stories of Bradbury because of the callouts to Mr. Poe. The drink consists of Amontillado (nice) sherry, Kina l’Aero d’Or (an aperitif), Fernet Branca, and flamed orange peal. This was a little bitter and conveyed some new tastes to my palate, particularly (I think) the sweet Kina taste. Good.
Our finale was the awesome “Dandelion Wine” warmed with bourbon, cardamaro, honey, lemon, dandelion tea, chamomile and spices. Marvelous, simply marvelous, the Dandelion is a delicious, rich, and relaxing tea drink that is empowered with some bourbon, lending this wonderfully spicy taste to the overall mix. I seriously want one of these on every cold evening, although maybe I’d leave the bourbon out sometimes :). What a nice ending to the another fun night of great drinks and stories!