Today is April 15, the 100th anniversary of the sinking of the Titanic following that unfortunate encounter with an iceberg in the North Atlantic. You perhaps saw something about this in your newspaper this morning. Or, if you're under the age of 35, on your Twitter feed. (Note: the Titanic was an actual ship. It actually sank, and 1,500 people actually died, and, no, Leonardo DiCaprio was not among them.)
i decided to mark the occasion by fishing out of my freezer a five-pound slab of iceberg ice, and hauling it in a small cooler to my favorite watering hole in New Orleans.
Yes, I know. Who among us has not absent-mindedly forgotten that we've stashed a five-pound slab of iceberg ice in the back freezer (note: it's behind the frozen broccoli florets). This I obtained from a guy in Alaska. In the past, I've had iceberg ice from Greenland. (Another note: I'll be serving Zacapa rum with iceberg ice from Greenland a month from yesterday — May 14 — at a seminar at the Manhattan Cocktail Classic in NYC.) But I digress. Anyway, about that iceberg ice: today is the day to use it.
I bicycled with my wee iceberg up to Cure. Fate was smiling, as one of my favorite bartenders — Rhiannon Enlil — was working tonight. If fate had been this cooperative a century ago, that ship would never have gone down, and Kate Winslet would never have debased herself with that embarrassingly vapid splayed-arm-thing on the ship's bow.
I explained my mission to Rhiannon. She responded with alacrity and cunning, whipping up two memorial cocktails in short order. The first, the Starboard Side (named afther the side of the ship struck by the vile iceberg) included Bushmills for the shipyard, Pimm's for the crew, and a couple of dashes of Jerry Thomas Decanter Bitters because, well, it's an excellent and elegant bitters. Also, some smoked salt tincture for the briny deep. It was good, but it lacked a certain something — I wasn't getting any notes of the steerage passengers below deck playing fiddles and doing lively jigs.
Round two, however, had everything — the stately dining room with stuffed shirts and the freakishly happy Irishmen belowdecks. Rhiannon named it the Harland and Wolff, after the Belfast shipyard where the Titanic was built. The reccipe follows below and it features Bushmills plus Smith and Cross naval rum.
This is a wondrous tasty drink, made all the more excellent by being served on a slab of iceberg ice in a rocks glass. The ice looked like a miniature iceberg, all angular and unsettled, as if just briefly detained from its mission of roaming the seas and sinking ships. And it was filled with tiny bubbles — each bubble containing a bit of air entombed for 10,000 years or longer, much of that time held hostage beneath a glacier a mile thick. As a result, the oxygen was compressed, and as the ice melted in the glass the bubbles popped and crackled. Also, it reeked of mastodon (well, at least in my feverish mind. Jig dancing will do that to you).
Hail, Titanic! You taught us about hubris and human frailty. And hail, anonymous iceberg! You reminded us that prehistory can suddenly overtake the present, and do so without warning on a still and quiet night.
Harland and Wolff
1-1/2 oz Bushmills
1/2 oz Smith & Cross Navy Strenth Rum
3/4 oz Dolin Blanc vermouth
4 dashes smoked sea salt tincture (or substitue a small pinch of smoked sea salt)
Stir in mixing vessel (without nasty refrigerator ice), then pour over a jagged piece of pristine iceberg ice that calved from a 10,000-year-old glacier and then was plucked from the sea by a doughty fisherman. Either Alaskan or Greenland icebergs will do, although Greenland is preferred for reasons of historic authenticity.