There is a vanishingly small likelihood that any Olympics-caliber athlete is reading this, so I feel justified in saying that you and I, dear reader, will never be quite so good at sports as the people on TV. Now, we may be able to ski down a hill without falling, or do a figure eight on ice skates, and that is perfectly adequate. But between the merely adequate and the superlative is a tremendous distance. This is never so apparent as when we watch the Olympics unfold. Here are athletes at the peak of performance, very often the best in the world at their sport. But the Olympian ideal is something beyond technical sufficiency – it is the innate human desire to excel. In the athletes we see struggle and triumph personified.
Or so others might say. To be honest, once people started breaking their spines over in Sochi I began to think that a bit more of a focus on the technical aspects was in order. But that’s why I’m not an Olympian. Those people are a different breed. They ask themselves, “Is the chance at gold worth the risk of spending months in traction and perhaps never enjoying the sport I love in any capacity, ever again?” and then answer in the affirmative.
“No thanks,” sayeth I. I’ve been attempting to develop a set of skills that keep me a little closer to earth and further from the hospital. A talent for mixing drinks, no matter how humble, is something any of us can improve, if we are so inclined. The accolades you receive for putting together a killer cup may not be quite on par with the cheering of thousands of spectators, but they are far more readily obtainable.
Ultimate mastery needn’t be the goal. Dabbling is quite enjoyable, though even casual bartending requires dedication and persistence. Grueling, regular practice sessions can teach us whether a drink tastes best shaken or stirred, or if we should use bourbon or scotch, or how to float layers of different liquids atop one another. Unfortunately, the longer a practice session lasts the faster we enter the realm of diminishing returns – it’s awfully difficult to remember that little flourish with the lemon peel after the third round. But an evening enjoying something new, or an old cherished favorite, is a satisfying achievement in its own right.
The Beauty Spot
Today we have a lovely little number that continues to feed my mania for drinking raw eggs. I promise to take a break from attempting to give us all food poisoning after this one.
I should warn you that there are several other drinks out there called the “Beauty Spot” which contain no eggs at all. Where’s the fun in that?.
Some of the modern alternative recipes call for the use of sweet and dry vermouth poured over the grenadine, but that makes this a totally different drink completely devoid of the thrilling risk of contracting salmonella.
If prepared according to the classic recipe, the meaning behind the name of this cocktail is incredibly obvious. In this confused modern era, you’re likely to watch a bartender dump all the ingredients in a shaker and pour the whole mixture into a tumbler. While it makes a frothy soft-pink beverage that is not unappealing to the eye, it loses the unique character of the “Beauty Spot” by not having, you know, a spot.
To do it properly, you’ll need:
- 2 oz dry gin
- 1/2 oz creme de cacao (optional)
- 1 egg white
- A bar spoon’s worth of grenadine
Begin by mixing the gin, creme de cacao, and egg white in a cocktail shaker with ice. You may choose to live as our forefathers did, and eschew the creme de cacao for…nothing. Just egg and gin? Onward and upward.
Shake well, and strain into a chilled cocktail or coup glass.
Carefully, slowly add the grenadine to the center of the drink, allowing it to sink to the bottom of the glass. Do not stir it, as this will ruin the effect. The grenadine provides a brilliant red flare at the bottom of the glass, surrounded by the pale gin and egg mixture.
In this formulation, the egg white and optional liqueur do much to smooth out the bite of the gin, while the grenadine provides just a kiss of tart sweetness that grows more pronounced the closer you get to the bottom of the glass. The spot of grenadine is essential to rescue this drink from blandness. It’s a subtle taste, one that can be easily lost if there’s too much of the cocoa-flavored liqueur in the mix. But it is an undeniably striking presentation that gets high marks from me.