Intern: On the rocks? ...
Zissou snaps his fingers and gives a "finger gun" salute
--Wes Anderson in The Life Aquatic
In Sum: Forty Tales of the Afterlives, David Eagleman paints many scenarios of heaven and the afterlife; and of the many wondrous possibilities one in particular caught my attention. In this scenario, a person was made to dwell for eternity in their favorite memory.
This is so Proustian, don't you think?
Proust, of course, saw that how we occupy actual time is what gives meaning to our lives vis-a-vis our memories. And so in this world where time, meaning and vision come together, Proust was vehemently opposed to idleness, philistinism and amusement, or anything leading to numbness and " killing time."
In Pamuk's Museum of Innocence, the story begins in the describing of the narrator's happiest moment-- the moment he and his beloved first made love in the hero's Merhamet Apartment. It was-- the narrator says-- the most perfect and joyous moment of his life.
David Eagleman, however, in an interview he did on BBC Radio suggested that most people would not choose a love affair as their one eternal moment for most people would prefer to dwell in something less intense and more pleasantly banal, he said--like sitting on a bench with their best friend in a garden.
I know, for myself, if I had to choose a moment to dwell in for the rest of my life, it would be a very vividly happy and unforgettable memory of mine of being on a boat going from Lantau to Hong Kong with my son. He was just one years old and everything delighted him--nothing more than that boat trip. And each time we did it, at that precise moment the boat would swing into Victoria Harbor and all of Hong Kong Island would unfold before his eyes, my little Adonis would clasp his hands together and point and say "pretty!" And it was, indeed, so very pretty.
To me, this will perhaps always be my perfect moment. The moment that I would gladly spend an eternity living over and over again. To see that jewel of a cityscape through the eyes of my enchanting and enchanted little boy!
There is one more memory, though. And it comes a close second.
It happened in Italy last summer--sitting right under the umbrella you see in the photo above.
On that warm summery day in Parma, the duomo square in Parma was empty of tourists and devoid of any sign of the modern commercial world we live in. No cars, no ads, no souvenirs. Of course, a 30 second walk back toward the river and you would be back in our world again, but somehow that little square had been preserved pristine. It really was like traveling back in time as there was very little to hint at the present time period-- Feeling retro, I decided to find a place to sit down and have a campari on the rocks.
Waiting for my drink, I looked amazed at the pink Verona marble of the octagonal Baptistery. Constructed in 1196, it's smooth exterior delightfully belied the extravagance of the inside of the building, with its richly colorful painted ceiling-- evoking heaven itself.
The day was hot and the campari hit the spot. At first, bracingly bitter and then that taste of cherries and a hint of cinnamon. Sweet ~~ and yet the bitter never leaves. A slice of heaven in a glass.
Or time travel in a carmine color cocktail...?
Tom Robins in one of his later novels follows a few Vietnam Vets as they intentionally decide to go MIA. Hiding out in a remote part of Laos, the vets enjoy la dolce Vita in Villa Incognito. Finally forced to return home decades later, they can't believe the changes stateside. Everything--absolutely everything-- they lament has advertising on it. Everything is for sale ---even our own selves, everyone aiming to be the "best me" I can be, we forget that our bodies and souls are not actually disposable resources... that is how bad it's become.
Did you know that until comparatively recent times, the red of campari was made from cochineal? Except for Tyrian purple 貝紫染, carmine red, made from the cochineal insect of central and south America, was the most celebrated dye of the Renaissance and the third greatest prize gained from the New World, after silver and gold. The people of Seville used to dance in the streets when the boats would return to port with it. Carmine is what gives campari its jewel-like shimmering color; well, that is how it always had till 2006 when campari started using artificial food coloring instead--in deference to the bugs.
Campari is great on the rocks, but I read that 90% of bartenders list either the negroni or the old-fashion as their favorite cocktail. It makes sense. Especially the negroni, I think achieves pure perfection in its holy, holy Trinity of campari, vermouth and gin. Created, it is said, when a certain Count Negroni of Florence wanted to deceive his wife and drink a stiffer something so had the bartender swap the original soda water in an Americano (soda water, campari and vermouth) for gin.
When it comes to amari, campari is not the only game in town.
I guess that most time travelers don't just love retro-feeling campari but have an appreciation for the entire glorious universe of amari. With their secret formulas of herbal infused spirits, they somehow evoke an older world. Medicinal, monkish herbal blends, ambrosia. Like wine, they are each also associated with a particular place and terroir.
My favorite will probably always be zucca rabarbaro. Made with Chinese ginseng, it is almost indescribable. I think I might prefer all the classic campari drinks using zucca instead.... a negroni riff or Americano riff...
I also love it as a Spritz (the other classically Northern Italian appertivo).
My version of a spritz at left.
2 ounces Zucca Rabarbaro (rhubarb) Amaro; 1/2 ounce Campari; 1/2 ounce vanilla simple syrup; splash of soda water; orange slice, halved, preferably
Combine the Rabarbaro Zucca, Campari, vanilla simple syrup, and 4 ice cubes in a cocktail shaker. Shake vigorously and then strain into a chilled rocks glass. Top with a splash of soda water, add the orange halves, and serve.
And here is one sent from Joe of Astor Wines... (my favorite go-to for amari and sake).
TASTING ROME: THE COSA NOSTRA COCKTAIL
Cosa NostraAt Rome’s Caffè Propaganda, barman Patrick Pistolesi combines his affinity for classic Italian and American cocktails in his bittersweet house drink, the Cosa Nostra, which is featured in Katie Parla’s beautiful and insightful book, Tasting Rome.
1½ oz. bourbon
1 barspoon Campari
1 barspoon Rabarbaro Zucca
¼ oz. simple syrup (1:1)
2 dashes Fernet-Branca
Tools: mixing glass, bar spoon, strainer
Glass: Old Fashioned
Garnish: lemon twist
In a mixing glass filled with ice, combine all ingredients and stir until chilled. Strain into an Old-Fashioned glass filled with one large ice cube. Twist a strip of lemon peel over the glass and drop it in to garnish.
Serious Eats re-produced a great recipe from the Modern in NY, called the Beneventano. The town of Beneventano is famous for its witches... the legend is very old and this amaro, infused with saffron and fennel, gets its name STREGA from the witches.
Fill a mixing glass with ice. Add Aperol, Zucca, and Strega, stir well. Fill a rocks glass with ice. Strain Aperol mixture into serving glass, top with soda, and garnish with orange wedge.
Like in Japan, each amaro is most appropriate to a season. In general, it is the opposite of miso soup: lighter for summer and darker in winter. But of course, rules are meant to be broken....!! In the US, we have so few rules and we eat anything whenever we want it. I guess no where will be like Japan with its refined seasonal sensibilities when it comes to food. The Italians have a great sensibility to season and place as well... I love it and it heightens the taste and experience of things, I think.
For me, nothing beats the heat like a campari on the rocks.
But my friend Guita likes the Alpine-style Hugo Spritz
2 cl. of elderflower-syrup
7 cl. of sparkling wine
5 cl. of seltz or sparkling water
Some leaves of mint
We use St Germain for more alcohol... and I think it rivals the Aperol spritz. (Did you know the Venetians always wanting to be unique order their spritz with Select?) This from the Appertivo book, which is my favorite of the three in the picture left. There is also one called Spritz (not pictured) that is brilliant.
More cocktail tales and recipes later, but for now, here below is Fellini's Campari ad from the 80's! 乾杯～～～！！！！