ome years back I was introduced to a Buddhist teacher in NY, Pema Chodron. Her teachings center around attachment or “shenpa” , working in the fashion industry at the time there was a lot of that going on, I lusted after jobs,pairs of shoes, people I wanted in my life and paychecks , I was a fledgling capitalist , but what I discovered through of all of this was that I didn’t feel any better or different by attaining any of it. It was all just empty nonsense. I can’t say I was a good student but meeting Pema and listening to her words put me on a very different path to the one I was on, yoga also helped in my meditation of the present moment and the middle ground rather than the highs and lows of past and future. Now don’t think I’m some perfect zen creature who wakes up and lights Nag Champa and chants Om before my first bowel movement ( too graphic?) , because I am so not, I still have bouts of intense nuttiness and constantly search for more peace in my life, in fact have just been dealing with a couple of months of self doubt and ennui when it came to work and I remembered both Pema’s words and the words of my ex roomie who is a Nietzsche lover, the only moment that exists is now, this very second, everything else is unimportant . On my quest for re-centering, I searched out a couple of books that were instrumental in clearing my head in the past, Clarissa Pinkola Estes “Women who run with the Wolves” which may show up in later posts and Herman Hesse’s Siddhartha .
Siddhartha is the story of a privileged young man born to highly respected Brahmin in India who decides that he needs to find enlightenment in his life by first following ascetics who eschew all attachment to everything including food and clothing , then a student of Gotama the Buddha , a student of desire and lastly he becomes an apprentice of a humble ferryman . The story is set some six centuries before the birth of Christ so when using this story as a starting point I hope you understand my imagination is in full force when it comes to any kind of libatious creation, one thing I do know is the kind of flavors Siddhartha would have enjoyed , heady spices and floral notes for sure but the rest is purely circumspection .
The Chosen one
Everyone knows Siddhartha, he is destined for greatness because he has mastered all the rituals and wisdom of his religion at an early age. His village is idyllic, and Siddhartha seems to live an enviable life. His father is a Brahmin, a religious leader and esteemed member of the community. Siddhartha seems well on his way to following in his father’s footsteps. What he does not see in his father’s life though is complete fulfillment even after reading all the scriptures he feels his and his father’s existence is mechanical , unbalanced and not whole, for him this has to change .
My thoughts on the drink that followed , since Siddhartha is looking to feel rooted and whole I thought I would include earthy and sweet carrot juice as the main flavor , scented with one of the main spices in Indian cooking , cardamom , keeping it bright and balanced with a bit of Aperol.
2 oz carrot juice
1 1/2 oz gin
3/4 oz Aperol
3/4 oz lemon
1/2 oz simple syrup
2 dashes scrappy’s cardamom bitters
Add everything to your shaker with 5 ice cubes and shake for 4-5 seconds , strain into an ice filled glass , garnish with whatever is seasonally available, pea tendril in spring, or parsley flowers in summer.
Barefoot in the Grass
One day a group of Samanas,wandering mendicant priests pass through Siddhartha’s city, the Samanas are starved, half-naked, and must beg for food, but only because they believe enlightenment can be reached through asceticism, a rejection of the body and physical desire. He decides to leave his comfort and safety behind and follow them in his quest for finding balance .
Ok, so I know these guys would probably never touch a drop of alcohol , so I figured the next treat could be either boozy or booze free, cherries that are bountiful at this time of year felt like the right choice for a shrub, I snagged a pound of black republicans from my local Farmer’s Market, sweet, tart and floral all in one juicy package. Then I cheated, yes I do that a lot ,by coming up with my own version of 20 minute tonic water.
Cherry Tamarind shrub
4 oz of tamarind paste soaked in 1 cup boiling hot water and strained through a chinoise ( reserve water from soaking for tonic water below)
1lb black republican cherries, pitted ( or farmers market cherries, the ones in stores pale by comparison in the flavor department)
1/2 cup organic cane sugar
1/4 cup of banyuls vinegar
mash cherries and tamarind together with sugar in a screw top jar, add vinegar and stir. Screw on lid and let sit in fridge for about 5 days, stirring daily for first couple of days. When ready strain off liquid through your trusty chinoise cap and bottle , keep some of the solids to the side.
1 cup of water reserved from tamarind soaking
1/8 oz gentian liquid ( Nature’s Answer is my favorite) instead of cinchona
1/4 oz rosewater
1/4 cup simple syrup
1/2 teaspoon of citric acid
Mix everything together and add to either an ISI siphon or a Twist and Sparkle device, charge with C02 and serve immediately
1 bar spoon cherry shrub solids
1 oz cherry shrub liquid
2 oz manzanilla sherry ( optional)
4 oz cheaters tonic
Build in glass, start with shrub and pulp, add ice and sherry if desired, top with cheaters tonic , garnish with whole cherry and curry leaves for that festive touch.
New Sheriff in town
Three years pass and Siddhartha feels no different, then a rumor reaches him that an enlightened one, Gotama the Buddha who has overcome the suffering of the world and brought his chain of karma to an end . The Samana’s are skeptical but nothing can sway Siddhartha from seeking out this Buddha fellow. He is accepted by Gotama as a spiritual pilgrim and is anxious to learn true enlightenment.
1 1/2 oz mezcal ( vodka and gin also work well)
3/4 oz coriander & curry leaf simple syrup ( I used my immersion circulator and cooked 1 quart of syrup with 1/4 cup coriander seeds and 30 grams of curry leaves at 55 degrees C for 1 1/2 hours, conventional steeping takes about a day, infuse the same amounts in boiling water then turn into a simple syrup once steeping time is completed)
3/4 lemon juice
1 oz dolin blanc vermouth
3 dashes scrappy’s firewater bitters ( more consistent than muddling hot peppers but they can be subbed out if you prefer )
add everything to your shaker tin with 5 ice cubes and shake for 6 seconds , strain into a rocks filled glass, garnish with curry leaves and chilli flakes if you want extra kick.
Lust for Life
Something however is still not connecting for Siddhartha, he confronts Gotama about his doctrine and questions how can one embrace the unity of all things, as Gotama asks, if they are also told to overcome the physical world? He also points out that Gotama reached this state of Nirvana without any kind of teaching and is not convinced that this is the correct path for him, so he decides to leave and go on a quest to learn from himself , find himself , he also realizes that he is truly now by himself which puts him in a state of awakening. He wanders alone for a time looking at the world through new eyes, then one day finds himself in a city where he meets the beautiful Kamala, an elegant courtesan , he is transfixed! He attempts feebly to seduce here but she rejects him on the grounds that he is not wealthy and has nothing to offer her. She recommends him to her a friend a successful merchant and asks that he increase his wealth by working with this businessman. Over time Siddhartha becomes more accomplished and richer than the merchant, at hit point he revisits Kamala in a second attempt to seduce her.
What kind of delicious delight would he present to Kamala as a form of love potion? When I think of love ripe sweet strawberries and roses come to mind, inspired by Barman Jeffrey Morgentahler’s book I decided to create a potion called ” tequila poor mi amante” or tequila for my lover, strawberries are infused in tequila, I took it a step further and added rose geranium leaves.
Tequila por mi Amante
1 pint ripe strawberries, the farmers market ones are way better ( of course) than store bought
1 750ml bottle of reposedo tequila
20 grams of rose geranium leaves
add everything to a large screw top jar and let sit for a week, the tequila will draw out the flavor from the berries , the berries sadly will become useless and tasteless so don’t bother to save them . Once ready strain off tequila and store either in a cleaned jar or sealed bottle.
1 oz alwahdi rosewater
2 oz egg white
12 oz bottle Timmermans strawberry lambic ale
1 1/2 oz simple syrup
add everything to you ISI and charge with 2 N02 chargers, store in fridge till ready to serve.
On the Wings of Desire
2 oz Tequila por mi Amante
3/4 oz red verjus
1/4 oz lime juice
3/4 oz simple syrup
3/4 oz amontillado sherry
2 turns of fresh pink peppercorns
Add everything to your shaker tin with 5 ice cubes and shake for 6 seconds, strain into a chilled glass and top with a generous helping of the rosewater foam, garnish with berry and rose geranium leaf
This is this, that is that, that is all there is
Kamala excites Siddhartha, she teaches him how to enjoy his physical body and exploit his senses, but she is not in love with him and he not in live with her, she uses his instruction for financial gain which considering she’s a courtesan is not surprising. From her, Siddhartha learns much that is useful in the world of time, including how to live happily in the moment and induce it to yield its fruits. Some Twenty years pass and he realizes that this life he has been living seems only a diversion from his path to enlightenment, he realizes it cannot continue forever and distraught leaves the city without a word. He finds himself by a river and contemplates ending his life in it, as he sits by its banks the sound of OM reverberates through his body, he becomes transfixed by the river and vows never to leave its side. His next decision to find work by the river leads him to meet a humble ferryman, the every day man , Siddhartha is fascinated that this man exudes such unattached enlightenment and yet strong connection to the river, he surrenders himself to the ferryman and follows his example in leading a life of calm fulfillment and wisdom, the river teaches him that time does not exist only the present moment. Siddhartha can now see that all life is unified, just as the river is in all places at one time, everything and everyone is connected, it is here that he finally finds true enlightenment.
What to drink for a hot day on the river and something for the everyman , for me a banana slushy sounds like just the trick…using banana rum, and the food staple of the humble brown rice to make a milk.
Brown rice milk
2 cups of brown rice toasted on a sheet tray or in a large pan till golden.
1 container of rice milk
1 container of unsweetened almond milk
grind toasted rice in a food processor till it resembles a coarse grind, add this to a container with rice and almond milks and using an immersion blender blend till rice is finely ground. Let sit for 24 hours in the fridge and them strain off the liquid
An old favorite of mine…
6 ripe bananas
1 cup brown butter melted
1 liter white rum
mash bananas with hot brown butter till bananas smell caramelized. Pour over rum and let sit for 12 hours. Strain off liquid then place in fridge, this allows the fat to separate form the liquid which can then be scooped off only leaving its delicious flavor in the rum.
Banana the Republic
2 oz banana rum
2 oz brown rice milk
1 oz saigon cinnamon simple syrup ( simple syrup that has been steeped with cinnamon powder then strained)
orange bitters to dash over the top
1 foot long piece of banana leaf
Form your banana leaf into a cone and fold the bottom portion over to seal the cone roughly, place the cone point down into a tall vessel of choice , I used a tin, a shaker tin would also work. Scoop in a generous amount of shaved ice ( I found an ice shaver at my local Japanese market for a few dollars and now can’t live without it) . In another tin add the rum, simple and milk and stir, pour over the shaved ice cone and dash over orange bitters, garnish with marigolds or carnations.