Dear Mr Cocktail,
As a subscriber to Mr Cocktail Magazine for over two years, I must say I have become increasingly disillusioned by your publication’s editorial staff. As far as I can see, these people are incapable of pulling their head out the sand and providing their readership with challenging, contemporary cocktail recipes.
Month after month, Mr Cocktail offers up a series of leaden and fundamentally utilitarian drinks: cocktails designed to be drunk without thought, and then forgotten just as quickly.
No column inches are ever dedicated to the wider practice of modern cocktailing: no mention of the improvisatory Crushed Neon Group, no mention of Lev Harrington’s Slow Cocktail movement. Some extremely interesting work has been coming out of the University of Pennsylvania’s Center for Literary Mixology, as you may or may not be aware. And yet, these unstable poetic shards go undocumented. Instead, the cover of your magazine this month bears a photograph of the duty manager of the Bristol branch of TGI Fridays. It’s like looking into an open casket.
Last month I sent your offices the recipe for three new, modern rum-based drinks. Naturally, I did not expect Mr Cocktail to publish the entire triptych, although I find it hard to believe that not one of the Analogue Twilight Cycle was considered worthy of your pages.
I have reattached the best of those recipes for a second perusal. The cocktail is entitled: “The Door Is Open And The House Is Dark”, and is dedicated to the writer and essayist Vance Bourjaily.
The cocktail contains:
½ shot crème de framboise
Wineglass of raspberries
Dead leaves, possibly Russian
A clown dying in the corner of some Ivy Legue university
The way that first it rains, and then 20 minutes later, it rains under trees,
A freehand drawing of an electrician, tacked to a dusty corkboard
Blake’s hand, reaching into a silk puppet
Your fucking Dad.
Instructions: Crush the dying clown into psychedelic light. Drown the leaves in bourbon and cover. Blake retrieves a signet ring from the head of a Chinese shadow puppet. Winter freezes all liquids, and your Dad is reminiscent of everything. Unpin the drawing of the electrician from the wall of your unfurnished flat, and stand there until rain comes down outside like a stampede of tiny unicorns.
You might want extra sugar or crème. Also, change the flavour by using different crèmes and berries.
Just because a cocktail is difficult, that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try to drink it. Some truths cannot be easily swallowed. And perhaps this is the point: Cocktails require us to claim imaginative space; they require us to live with uncertainties. I believe that a good cocktail is resistant to interpretation, and in doing so, is never entirely swallowed. You should be able to return to a cocktail again and again, over the years, each time learning something new about it, and yourself. Discomfort is a valid emotion. As is regret.
For me, what makes something a cocktail lies precisely in the fact that it escapes categories and regards itself as a process, taking an opposing stance towards the prevailing practice of drink assembly. Modern cocktails are not bound exclusively to the contents of a glass, but can appear anywhere: upon the wall of a grocers, within the conflicts a football team, the scrapbook of an old school friend who walks long distances for charity…all of these things are cocktails if they are presented as such.
And yet anyone who picked up your magazine would be forgiven for thinking that all cocktails still used rhyme, and were essentially nothing more than vehicles for crude puns about our genitalia.
Walk into any modern cocktail bar in this country and you’ll see rhyme has been almost completely jettisoned from the drinks menu. Wake up, Mr Cocktail. We’ve come a long way since the Dingaling.
It’s not 1850, for fucks sake.
‘Handsome’ Dan Dunlock