I first got into the craft cocktail scene about ten years ago. For several years I just discovered (…and frequented) bars and restaurants with terrific and/or interesting drink programs, and mixed up from recipe books at home as I put my bar together. After a few years of this I decided that I wanted to try my hand at some of my own cocktails. But there was a problem.
One thing I’ve always been bad at is inspiration for creation. For instance, I can draw — somewhat — but rarely found reason to. I don’t really feel the need to express myself and feel that I have “nothing to say” (darn my parents for giving me a good childhood). But give me a story to illustrate, and I pour myself into it. I love to write song lyrics for a show, but you’ll never see me write poetry for myself.
It is the same with cocktails for me. Ask me to make something up and generally I got nothing. However, give me a theme and I’m all there. And so it was with my first cocktail creations. I was then (it was 2011) in a production of Stephen Sondheim’s Assassins and wanted a way to promote the show on social media that was more than, “Hey, come see my show!” I figured custom cocktails would be a unique way to handle this.
So what follows over the next couple of weeks are my very first attempts at creating cocktails, each one after one of the assassins portrayed in the show. I tried them all out again recently and was pleasantly surprised, for the most part. I got better, but I probably never had as much as fun.
The pic below, by the way, is me from two productions of Assassins I have done. On the left is 18 year old little me as Giuseppe Zangara in the electric chair. On the right is the 2011 production where I got to perform John Wilkes Booth. Died both times…
One last trip on the carousel. Here’s one named for a hashtag coined by our incomparable director/choreographer Rachel Bertone for our production, and one that is also all too fitting for an alcoholic consumption.
- 1.5 oz. silver tequila
- 0.75 oz. Pama liqueur
- 0.75 oz. Cocchi Americano
- 0.25-0.5 oz. creme de cacao (Tempus Fugit)
- 2 dashes mole bitters
Stir with ice and strain into a coupe.
There’s no thematic tie-in here. It’s just flavors we liked to drink. And we did. And we all had a real good time.
- 1.5 oz. Medford rum
- 0.5 oz. Hibiscus liqueur
- 0.25 oz. Allspice dram
- 1 pinch of salt
Stir with ice and strain into coupe. Top with 1.5 oz. of Whale’s Tale Pale Ale and garnish with a lemon twist.
I’m opening in a production of Rodgers and Hammerstein’s Carousel today with Reagle Music Theatre in Waltham, and like a bottle of Champagne smashed against a ship on its maiden voyage I thought I would christen our journey with a cocktail (less messy, and doesn’t waste Champagne).
This idea came mostly from my spotting of Whale’s Tale Pale Ale from Cisco Brewers in Nantucket. You see, in this production I am playing the scheming whaler Jigger, and in one particular lyric in the show he sings:
“Or to climb aloft to be
The very first to see
A chrysanthemum spout come out of the snout of a whale!”
So I wanted to make something with the ale. I started with the Chrysanthemum cocktail, which is dry vermouth, Benedictine and absinthe. Very nice, light, aperitif. Topping that with the ale was pleasant, but I didn’t think an improvement. So I started to play with proportions or swapping out to create something new. The thing was, I didn’t think any of my tweaks improved on the original.
And so I went a completely different direction, beginning with a rum base (from New England, preferably), then adding hibiscus liqueur to incorporate something floral for the sake of the drink’s name and add the sweet element. The allspice dram added some depth, and played really nicely with the rum. This made a fairly decent sipper in itself, but then adding the bitter element of the ale brought it all together.
The salt is for the sea, of course.
I haven’t been doing “show” drinks in a while — since La Cage a year ago, and that was the only group that year. I don’t think I’ll likely return to the point where I am doing constant collections, and instead I will simply — and occasionally — post a single drink here and there, when inspired. (I do have one more old collection to post, from a 2011 production of Assassins, which was the first collection I ever did, once I get around to remaking the drinks and taking pictures.)
I am inspired at the moment, for a production of The Wild Party that I am excited to be a part of, with Moonbox Productions in Boston. I was actually in another production of The Wild Party in 2012, for which I made a collection of drinks, but that was actually another version (famously, there were two productions of The Wild Party in New York presented at the same time — one on Broadway and one Off). This is the Michael John LaChiusa version, and, interestingly enough, I am playing the same role, that of the violent and unbalanced Vaudeville clown Burrs.
In one song, “Gin,” when Burrs is reaching his breaking point and cutting loose, he sings the lyric “Don’t give me no whiskey ’cause I need more than booze. Just pour me the real stuff so I can taste my blues!” Thus:
Taste My Blues
- 1.5 oz. Magellan Gin
- 1.0 oz. Hpnotiq
- 0.5 oz. Dolin Blanc vermouth
- 2 dashes Yuzu bitters
- 1 pinch salt
Stir ingredients with ice, then strain into cocktail glass and top with 2.0 oz. Champagne and lemon twist.
On the surface, this has many similarities with the Out of the Blue drink I did for the other production. But as the other one takes the blue-hued gin and takes it in the direction of vanilla, this one takes the gin (of course, had to be gin) and adds tart and sweet fruit through Hpnotig, evens it out with the vermouth, and adds the Yuzu bitters and salt to temper the sweetness and create a little more depth. We end that with Champagne or sparkling wine for some bright and popping indulgence.
I think we’re due to have a wild party. Hotchizadee!
Short and sweet post to introduce a collection of cocktails I prepared for La Cage Aux Folles, a show I am having the fun and pleasure performing with The Umbrella in Concord, MA. That’s me all dragged out in the pic above, flanked by the lovely (and dangerous) Cagelles.
I decided for this collection I would create a drink for each of the girls(sic) behind me, who worked their sequined fannies off in the show.
Here’s a show that I did over two years ago (that’s me looking all angry in the upper left of the image) based on a Jazz Age poem about.. well, a wild party. The poem was “rediscovered” by Art Spiegelman (of Maus fame) who illustrated a new edition right at the time it became public domain. Famously, two different productions were then presented in NYC, one on Broadway and another Off Broadway. This was the Off Broadway version, with book, music and lyrics by Andrew Lippa.
I got to play one half of the dysfunctional couple who served as host, a violent, abusive and drunken Vaudeville clown (literally a clown — I smeared face paint on while face down in a bathtub in one scene). I loved it. I don’t often get to portray the villain of a piece (such as it is — everyone’s pretty awful), and I ate it up.
Behind the scenes I of course conceived some drinks for our own wild parties. It was only my second time out experimenting with themed cocktails of my own, so I was still getting my footing, but going back now and tasting some of the results I wasn’t altogether displeased (though I admit to a couple of tweaks and, “What was I thinking there?”).
“We’ll be having a wild, wild party!” we sang. I was doing my part to contribute!
Just a preliminary post for a collection of cocktails I will be presenting next week in honor of my production of The Secret Garden, a musical opening on Friday with the New Players Theatre Guild in Fitchburg, Mass. This 1991 Tony-award winner is based on the classic children’s book by Frances Hodgson Burnett, and I get to walk around with a crooked back for two and a half hours. Drinks will be necessary.
Took a little holiday break, but now am getting back into the swing of things a month into the new year. I have a couple shows coming up in the next several months, but in the meantime I thought I would pop back in time a couple of years when I directed a production of The 39 Steps, a wonderful piece based on the early Hitchcock film (based on the book of the same name by John Buchan). It consists of four performers recreating the entirety of the film on stage on a shoe string budget. And it’s absolutely hilarious because of it.
As it turned out, although I was just on this as director, my lead lost his voice and had to bow out three days before we opened. Show must go on and all that, so I stepped in. What a whirlwind that week was! At least I had already prepared my cocktails for the show, which I based upon famous films in Hitchcock’s oeuvre (what a wonderfully pretentious word that I never get to use, since I always forget how it’s pronounced).
So let me introduce in the following posts the collection I dubbed my “Hitchcocktails.”
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.
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.