“Is history important?” My preoccupation with this philosophical question started when a crazy ex-boyfriend hunted me down so we could “reconnect.” After I successfully avoided him for seven years, he cornered me in the periodical section of the public library, and yes, he actually cried. He argued in non-library tones that we should revisit our time together; our relationship the most beautiful year of his life, he said. Clearly, I thought, history is a construct, viewed through the biases of the reminiscer.
I politely declined his reconnection request. I’m not convinced that history is important, and my ex is a strong justification for never looking back. When I’m playing Trivial Pursuit, you won’t find a yellow pie wedge in my game piece. Geek though I am, history was my worst subject in school. In fifth grade, I failed my first test ever in world history. I bombed the American history AP exam in high school. I seem to be incapable of memorizing dates and historical events (though I remember in vivid detail Romeo’s naked buttocks in the 1968 film Romeo and Juliet, which we watched during tenth grade lit class).
My history angst stretches into the arena of cocktails. For the love of Dale*, I can never remember where classic drinks came from, who made them, and why. The elitist worship of old-school cocktails drives me crazy with its snobbery of “shoulds” and “shouldn’ts” that many bartenders try to impose on today’s drinks. I’m not interested in either shaking raw eggs into cocktails or glorifying the disgusting herbal liqueurs sold during Prohibition in pharmacies as “medicine.” Some cocktails are best forgotten, like my ex-boyfriend.
But family heritage is my notable exception. Be it stories or objects, I saved everything my parents ever gave me, like the pair of red knee socks with white hearts my mom bought for me twenty-five years ago. Though they’ve faded and the elastic is long-gone, causing them to bunch around my ankles and slide into my shoes, I still wear them every February 14th.
When Leah and I opened the Lounge, my parents passed on to us their 1974 Mr. Boston Bartenders Guide (53rd printing). I flipped through the classics, but what caught my eye were the handwritten recipes penciled inside the back cover. Tequila sunrise. Daiquiri. In my dad’s script, Margaritas: Fill a blender halfway with tequila and the rest of the way with half triple sec and half either limeade or pop. And then there was my mother’s favorite drink, recorded in her slanty handwriting: Apricot Sour. Reading the recipe, I could taste it in memory, its tart flavor known to me from eating the liquor-soaked maraschino cherry left at the bottom of her glass.
1 ½ ounce apricot brandy
1 ounce orange juice
¾ ounce lemon juice
a few drops of maraschino cherry juice
Fill a Collins glass with ice. Add brandy and juices. Stir. Garnish with maraschino cherry.
*Dale DeGroff, a master mixologist credited for the revival of classic cocktails.