Means of Intoxication at Petworth Citizen

“The tremendous world I have in my head. But how to free myself and free them without ripping apart. And a thousand times rather tear in me they hold back or buried. For this I’m here, that’s quite clear to me.”                                                                                                                                   – Franz Kafka, 1913

Another weekend, another fun #GetLit event at Petworth Citizen’s Reading Room, this one in honor of Franz Kafka. I especially enjoy the events for authors of whom I know nothing, as they push me to read up on their biography and some of their works. I read “The Judgment” today and also discovered Orson Welles considered “The Trial,” his adaptation of the Kafka novel, as “the best film I have ever made.”  The more you know.

The proceedings began with “A Report for an Academy” with gin, dolin rogue vermouth, blood orange juice, and absinthe. Absinthe is a fitting ingredient for a story of an ape who becomes a human – trippy. The cocktail was very good, gin-forward, and the blood orange is a striking addition. Clean, smooth, and easy drinking, I loved this marriage of the herbal gin and citrus. Powerful. Then, we laid siege to “The Castle” made of cognac, silvovitz (a plum-based, fruit brandy from Central or Eastern Europe) Pelinkovac gorki bitters, crushed ice and champagne. The Castle is the dystopian story of a mysterious narrator named “K.” who battles to penetrate a mysteriously hidebound bureaucracy. The metaphor is perfect as that glittering shot of champagne rests in the middle of a cognac-heavy, powerful cocktail. This was good, different, and more than a mouthful of powerful and new ingredients. And that reward, ah the reward…if only K. had been so lucky.

I was transformed by a hot “The Metamorphosis” made of light and dark rums, apricot brandy, PX sherry, Pu’erh tea, cider vinegar, aromatic bitters, and lemon. Garnished by a date filled with peas that alludes to the sad fate of main character Gregor, the drink is excellent with a perfect apricot twist that peps up the wonderful cider vinegar. Of warmed cocktails, I usually feel they are repurposed versions of colder mixes with some hot water thrown in, and I walk away wishing I had tried it cold. But Ms. Tseng makes my favorite warm drinks and this is in-line with past favorites, as if the comforting sensations of a tea are gelled perfectly with the thrill of alcohol. On to “The Hunger Artist” with bourbon, bonal quinquina, lemon, and grenadine. its lilting garnish a salute to its namesake’s commentary on asceticism, this was an excellent drink and my favorite of the evening. I loved the high points from the bourbon, lemon, and grenadine, just perfectly refreshing but still substantive. I want three of these on an early summer evening sitting on a patio.

Our evening with Kafka ended on a surprisingly patriotic note with “Amerika,” made of that quintessential American spirit Apple brandy, ginger, PX sherry, egg, and nutmeg. Named after Kafka’s first incomplete novel of a struggling European wandering in the US, the brightly adorned drink has a soft and simple nature with tasty hints of the “gingered” apple jack and nutmeg off of the back end. A rewarding treat to end another enlightening evening in the Reading Room.


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