Next up on the Spamalot cocktail list, Mr. Terry Jones, who codirected with Gilliam the Holy Grail (and who directed the later films), and could play a woman like no one else.
- 2.5 oz. Aquavit
- 0.5 oz. Creme de Menthe
- 0.25 oz. lemon juice
- 1 dash burlesque bitters
Stir with ice and strain into cocktail glass. Spray top with absinthe from atomizer.
Following Python, Mr. Jones wrote and directed Erik the Viking, which I must admit on never seeing, though it provided a nice Norwegian base spirit for this drink by way of Aquavit (Linie, from Norway). The Creme de Menthe is for the disgusting Mr. Creosote from The Meaning of Life and the wafer thin mint that did him in. It adds a nice sweetness to this drink. The burlesque bitters are for all his time in drag as well as his nude organist. Just seemed appropriate.
The lemon? Well, sometimes a drink just needs some acid, and I’d rather have a good drink than be stifled by theme too much. The absinthe, though, is for his later work with Brian Froud (of Labyrinth and Dark Crystal fame) on Lady Cottington’s Pressed Fairy Book. I would imagine the pressed green fairy would make for a nice, albeit morbid, garnish.
Yesterday was John Cleese’s birthday (along with my daughter’s, as it happens), and so a perfect time to bring out his Spamalot cocktail.
- 1.5 oz. Cognac
- 1.0 oz. dry vermouth (Martini)
- 0.5 oz. Jagermeister
- 0.5 oz. honey syrup*
Stir and strain into coupe rinsed with peaty Scotch (Laphroaig 10).
* For honey syrup, heat equal parts honey and water, reducing slightly.
For Mr. Cleese, I went with an international theme. The Cognac is for the French Taunter in Holy Grail, but could equally be for others, like the waiter in Meaning of Life. The vermouth, much needed in this drink to open it up a bit from the other, sweeter elements, must be an Italian dry like Martini. I put this in for A Fish Called Wanda, as his character of Archie is fluent in Italian and uses this (along with Russian) in a hilarious scene with Jamie Lee Curtis. The Jagermeister is German, but DON’T MENTION THE WAR! It adds a sweetness and bit of an anise hint to the drink. More sweetness comes from the honey syrup, a nod to Eric the Half-a-bee.
If I could have put a silly walk into the drink I would have done that as well.
For cocktail #2 from the Spamalot collection, I turned to the Python who appeared less in front of the camera yet whose illustration and animation defined a good part of the feel of Flying Circus, Terry Gilliam.
- 2.0 oz. Cachaça
- 0.5 oz. lime juice
- 0.5 oz. Coke syrup*
- 0.25 oz. cream of coconut
Shake with ice and strain into ice filled old fashioned.
* For Coke syrup, reduce Coca-cola over heat by half.
As Terry Gilliam has since Python days moved on to establish himself as a unique and talented director, I wanted to start with a base spirit that payed homage to that, and to his masterpiece, in my opinion, Brazil. Enter the sugarcane-based Cachaça, national spirit of Brazil. To this I added lime juice, following a similar path to a Caipirinha, but then added reduced Coke syrup for sweetness as opposed to sugar (and moving in the direction of a Cuba Libre).
There is some thematic thread here as well. I wanted to take a distinctly American product like Coke, since Mr. Gilliam has that origin, and then throw in the lime for his later adoption of Great Britain as home (c’mon, you didn’t think I could get through six Monty Python cocktails without a single Limey reference, did you?).
In addition, I wanted to represent his illustration and animation, a tough task for a drink. Then it came to me to flatten the carbonated soda, a nod to his 2D animation style.
The cream of coconut, of course, is all Holy Grail. Imported by swallows, I believe.
For the Spamalot cocktails, I thought I would focus on the Pythons themselves, not on the show necessarily, drawing from their work both within and outside the troupe. That would give me six cocktails and wealth of sources to draw from. And I started with the “It’s…” Man himself.
- 1.5 oz. Irish whiskey
- 1.5 oz. Amontillado sherry
- 0.5 oz. Sugar Maple liqueur
- pinch of Himalayan salt
I started with an Irish whiskey base (Jameson’s 12) as Mr. Palin has some Irish roots which he explored in some of his travel series. I also wanted something for his Catholic father from Meaning of Life, and thought an Irish whiskey could be fitting. To this I added some Spanish sherry, which might be unexpected …but “No one expects the Spanish inquisition!” For sweetness, in came the Sugar Maple liqueur, I am sure a favorite of lumberjacks everywhere, and I finished up with pink Himalayan salt, an additional nod to Mr. Palin’s travelogues, one of which was a trip through the Himalayas.
Now must be off. My brain hurts!
Earlier this year I got to act through some of my favorite movie comedy scenes, reset on the musical stage, in Mel Brooks’ Young Frankenstein. “Put the candle back!” It was a geek’s dream.
What experience could follow that up, and maybe even top it? How about a turn as King Arthur in Monty Python’s Spamalot, performing some of the funniest sketch comedy (masquerading as a plot) that has ever been written?
This went from geek dream to full on geekgasm (can I say it “took it to 11,” in the hopes a This is Spinal Tap musical might appear in the near future and complete a personal trilogy?).
And lo, there would be drinks. And there was much rejoicing.
I was issued a challenge and gifted an ingredient: Marmite in a cocktail. For those of you not familiar, Marmite is a yeast extract popular in England, often spread thinly on toast. It is strong. Pungent. An acquired taste at best. A cocktail is probably not your first thought on tasting it (unless that thought is to mask the taste).
Not one to back down, I took the Marmite (Marmite Gold as it turned out, a special edition with gold leaf) and after many unsuccessful iterations present Great Scot.
- 2.0 oz. Old Tom Gin
- 1.0 oz. Yellow Chartreuse
- 0.25-0.5 oz. Marmite simple syrup*
Stir with ice and strain into coupe.
* For the simple syrup, reduce 2 cups of water with 2 tablespoons brown sugar and 2 teaspoons of Marmite.
The idea here was not to mask the Marmite flavor, but really to highlight it. If you don’t like Marmite, chances are you will not like this drink. It is certainly more savory than sweet, as I think is appropriate.
Initially, I started down the road with Mezcal, thinking it might pair nicely. It really didn’t. I also had trouble with the Marmite, as it hardened when mixed with liquid into a sort of hard Marmite candy. To get around this I reduced it in some boiling water along with some brown sugar. My house stunk.
After a couple attempts with Mezcal, I tried Old Tom Gin, a slightly sweetened gin, and that worked much better. The Yellow Chartreuse’s herbal qualities I thought played nicely with the Marmite, certainly keeping it featured but toning it slightly down.
The name is a nod to the issuer of the challenge, and hopefully (perhaps only) drinker of the cocktail. A fun challenge. An odd drink.
Quick break from cocktails to show a poster design I put together for a local company, The Longwood Players. This was a bit of an emergency project as their original designer fell off the grid after deadlines were passed (ironically, they had moved to this designer without my knowledge, perhaps after the unfortunate situation surrounding my Chess poster). I had to put this together over a weekend to help them out. The result was the following:
I wanted to focus on Hedda herself, and her internal conflict, her boredom and loneliness and mania. I saw some wonderful pictures online featuring images created by a cracked glass algorithm that I wanted to try and replicate, with the idea being the fragmented state of Hedda’s mind and existence. In the end, the image became more stained glass with a bunch of tessellations than cracked glass, and I didn’t have the time to rework it, nor write my own algorithm (this was all manual) to create the randomness of the image. I also did not feel that the stained glass was inappropriate, so I stuck with it as the image came together.
My wife, Lydian, served as the model, wearing pajamas with her hair tied back at the end of the day. Probably the easiest two minute modeling gig she’s ever had, but her pose makes the poster.