One of the excitements of making cocktails at home is that each unique drink that you undertake is a new opportunity to fail completely; to ruin otherwise delicious (and frequently expensive) ingredients, waste your time, and bespoil the mouths of friends and Margaretts. Wouldn't it be better to make a 'classic' drink, any of the dozens which have been developed by experts and refined by a century of evolution, sure to please the palate and simplify the pre-dinner hour? No. The stakes at risk in drink-making are quite low compared to most other aspects of modern life. That's not to suggest that somehow by failing at drink making you are less likely to fail somewhere else, but more that by getting accustomed to failure on the small-scale, by making failure part of life's routines, you can better inure yourself to the grand shocks that the great Thunderer surely has in store for you.
"Failure has made a good old man of me. It was horrible at first, but I'm glad I've failed. Praise be to God for the failure!"
I mention this both because I am chronically depressed and deeply pessimistic, but also as a counterpoint and reminder, because I have recently SUCCEEDED, succeeded beyond measure and precedence. My metric for concluding this is simple and iron-clad. In asking Margarett if she would like a drink, instead of requesting her usual glass of cold gin or Mezcal Sour she said "could you make that yummy cocktail again?" a heretofore unheard of experience. What could be contained in such a magic elixir? Romanian-style Tuica (Plum Brandy) and knock-off Fernet from the Czech Republic. Wham! I AM GREAT AND SMART.
Plum Brandy has become my spirit-of-choice in these last few months. Now that we have hit Peak Whiskey, I have been exploring other options in the hopes of finding a more democratic spirit. Plum brandy (or tuica, slivovitz, palinka, prune, or whatever balkanization you wish to employ) has an honest taste. The flavor says 'I am about to work' or later 'I have worked.' Perhaps that is why plum brandy fails to resonate with the puerile American tongue. The complaint that 'it's too strong' is possibly valid if you belong to a certain demographic. Even so, when someone rejects my plum brandy as being too robust a water,
it is difficult not to advise them to stick with thin beef broth until
their invalidity passes.
As you can see from that, while the flavor of fruit brandies move me profoundly, there are other perks to championing them. Plum brandy, alongside grappa, provides the best opportunity to sneer at the ignorance and weakness of others. When grappa comes up in conversation, they (the philistine) will often make a face and say something with the goal of conveying "ugh, I've been to Italy, what wretched stuff." Quickly, give them a look composed of equal measures scorn and pity, as though they said something like "why should I see the Sistine Chapel, I have a ceiling at home." Your glare should suggest that they are what is holding back the progress of art and humanity, which angers you, yet you can't help but have sympathy for someone to whom so many of nature's wonders are closed to.
This cocktail features Milibit's (or possibly Lil Bit) distillery's Plum TUiCĂ, which is made in Woodburn, Oregon. It is difficult to tease out much information about them, as their website features a Geocities-era Men At Work jpeg. FACTS: It is made out of some kind of plums, and is 40% alcohol. It is also quite tasty, with a different flavor than Clear Creek / Slivovitz style plum brandies, more sour and savory, with a strong smell of fermenting plum.
R. Jelínek Original Recipe Fernet (my second trip to Wikipedia to find letters with diacritical marks...) is a liqueur from the Czech Republic which bears little connection to the Italy or other assorted Fernets I've tasted. Sweeter, far less bitter, with more of the warm fall baking spice aspects (prune, clove, cinnamon, nutmeg, vanilla, caramel) and less mint. R. Jelínek is known for their plum spirits, but for some reason Oregon only receives the Fernet.