“All time is time. It does not change. It does not lend itself to warnings or explanations. It simply is. Take it moment by moment, and you will find that we are all, as I’ve said before, bugs in amber.”
― Kurt Vonnegut, Slaughter House Five
I was so excited to open the Washington Post on Friday and read this great write-up from Lavanya Ramanathan on Petworth Citizen’s Reading Room’s literary cocktail weekends, which I’ve attended way too regularly :). While I was happy that the event and its MC Chantal Tseng garnered some well-deserved PR, I was a little worried that an alcohol-fueled nerd horde would swamp the place, blocking my access to the wonderful concoctions. But nothing can stand between me and a good cocktail, particularly when they take their themes from the stories of Kurt Vonnegut, one of my favorite writers. This week’s installment was superb and included four standouts and some exciting, knockout tastes.
The tour began with “Breakfast of Champions” with gin, Dolin dry vermouth, orange bitters, lemon peel, and cornichon. An ultra smooth gin martini that finds its origin in the story itself, this was very good, smooth, pronounced vermouth, easy drinking. Nice opening cocktail. Then we ordered the “Sirens of Titan” with ginavit, apricot brandy, green chartreuse, lemon, and pickled pineapple. This standout was very sophisticated, with multiple inputs crashing and colliding, particularly the apricot brandy and lemon. At first sip I was a little taken aback by the combo, but the more I drank it the more I learned to savor the recipe. The chartreuse is also a great mellow influence, helpful in the background. Very good.
A story of a life-and-death chess match, “All the King’s Horses” came next with vodka, Plum wine, Cocchi Americano, pickled plum, and onion. This was a wild taste that I hadn’t had before. Try as I might I’m not a fan of the Cocchi taste so this wasn’t entirely up my alley, but I admired the plum wine addition, which is a very distinct and intriguing hit. Then the “Unready to Wear” with Dolin dry vermouth, Benedictine, absinthe, orange, and grapefruit peels. This was a great standout drink (and looked beautiful to boot) – I loved the adventurous flavor which pings perfectly off of the sweetened rim. The orange and even the grapefruit peel lend a really great citrus tinge to this perfectly balanced drink. Loved it.
Next up was the “Cat’s Cradle” with rum, Amaro Montenegro, All-spice dram, lemon, and sparkling Riesling. This was my favorite of the evening, ably combining the lemon, rum, and dram into a perfect, poppy full-bodied delight. So many complex ingredients came together here but were always even, in synch. Citrusy, fresh, lively, and delicious. Then “Slaughterhouse Five” with mezcal, Controtto Rossa, Combier Kummel (an interesting liqueur), bitters, and blood orange dust. A multi-faceted taste that is ignited by the orange dust and mezcal as you sip, delivering a pretty hard hitting sensation. Good.
It’s fun being on a journey when you know the end will be so rewarding. Taking a look at the menu, I spied the “Tomorrow, Tomorrow, and Tomorrow” and was giddy with anticipation. Named after a 1953 short story in which people live forever, this warm drink consists of bourbon, honey, grapefruit, Rooiboos peach tea, and nutmeg. Chantal’s warm drinks are always a great treat and this standout was no different with a wonderful, mellow bourbon taste in the lead that culminates in a nice, nutty, warm sensation. The grapefruit and honey also make themselves known in subdued hints.