Photo: Curt Richter
When the Director of the Key West Literary Seminar, Miles Frieden, asked me to come down to do a little specialty cocktail table for the various parties that follow the days' more sober proceedings I simply reviewed Embury and pulled some of the best recipes we've run over the years (yes, years!) and batched them up. But for the first night's party I pulled a last minute substitution. The same cold snap that descended over the rest of the continent did in fact reach Key West and nighttime temperatures in the low 40s meant that an outdoor partygoers could really use something warm.
A last minute experimentation with my crack drinking & concocting team from Bad Boy Burrito yielded the below version of a hot toddie. My one bit of advice for serving 300 people a cocktail with hot water as an integral part: make sure you've got working hot water source. And if you get percolators, make sure they don't have a residual coffee aftertaste. My assistant Zeph Allen and I worked with the one acceptable percolator and made it work, shuttling hot water across the garden in air pots. A bank of 3 or 4 instantly heating tea pots would have been nice. I'd named the Toddie after Seminar honoree Richard Wilbur's poem "The Beautiful Changes"
THE BEAUTIFUL TODDIE
(We used 8 ounce paper cups)
1 good slug of dark agave nectar, just enough to fill the bottom of the cup (to about 1/3 inch.)
1 1/2 ounces Maker's Mark
Hot water--fill to about an 3/4 inch from the rim, and stir about 5 times
Squeeze and drop in a substantial lemon wedge
Top with a couple healthy dashes of Fee Bros. Grapefruit Bitters.
The Grapefruit Bitters push the whole flavor equation into a zestier zone, bringing up the citrus and offsetting the sweetness of the agave and the Maker's Mark perfectly. By all accounts this was a home run, warming guests so sucessfully that many were able to brave the chilly night for a couple hours, and a couple rounds.
Helper monkey Zeph Allen taking the wheel. (One uses "helper monkey" in the most affectionate sense, and of course it comes from a Simpsons episode where Homer gets one as a sort of drinking & slacking buddy.) It was cool to watch a non-bartender start to get the whole key notion of balance in cocktails, and play with levels and tweak ingredients, an innate sensibility that probably is rooted in his musicianship. Towards the end of the evening Zeph made a few alternate iterations, subbing some light agave for the dark to refreshing, less knock-out drops effect
Jolly Benson, Lighting Director for the KWLS and too-infrequent Embury contributor (here) and myself.
Tomorrow: The Bennet for 200.
Photos: Ian Rowan