The lighhouse at the Key West Lighthouse Museum. All photos: Nick Doll
One of the great pleasures of the Key West Literary Seminar every year is discovering writers you're not familiar with, and who completely captivate you with their erudition, humor and charm onstage. A couple years ago astrophycisist Janna Levin was a compete surprise to me, and since then I've followed her writing closely. This year a new find for me was China Miéville, a genre writer who both embraces and refutes the label. Passionate and a bit irreverent, and armed with a seemingly effortless volubility, he more than held his own a formidable panel the included Margaret Atwood and Joyce Carol Oates, whose witty, pointed sparring called to mind a more intellectual Joan Crawford & Bette Davis. For a crash course in Mielville read his interview in The Believer from 2006 here, and there's a recording of one of his brisk talks at the Seminar here.
For a party at the Key West Lighthouse museum we decided to christen a couple cocktail in Miéville's honor. When I saw that one of his books was called "Kraken" I decided that a phrase ruined by the CGI atrocity that was the remake of the 1981 film "Clash Of The Titans" had been redeemed, and so dubbed a high-octane rum punch we made that evening "Release The Kraken".
Our other headliner that evening was a slightly tweaked version of the big cocktail hit of the KWLS 2011, the avo-jalapeno margarita. The original version and template came from my partner in Brooklyn Hemispherical Bitters, Mark Buettler as the Lovely Rita, video here. I've changed it a bit for Key West, adding a generous pinch of Pink Flake Murray River Salt directly ontop of the drink, and with Rhum Clement being unavailable in Key West I used Grand Marnier and a bit more dark agave, which I'd made more mixable by turning it into a 1:2 water/agave syrup. The local avocadoes we used were really nice and fatty, I think that's the key--a couple nice ladies who'd had the drink they year before had tried to make it from my previous notes and hadn't had much success. Good avocadoes are vital, and getting them emulsified rather than leaving chunky bits floating makes the flavor more evenly distributed--I used a wand this year which worked very well. As far as the heat of the jalapeno--that's all very subjective. I'd sliced open some pretty fiery jalapenos and let about 6 of them sit in 2 quarts of Don Julio Repo for about 4 hours, then fished them out. It's a tricky metric to describe--for me you should feel the heat slowly, and have it linger, extending the experience of that sip--but it should not burn or cause you to catch your breath. In the simplest form it's:
*The name comes from Miéville's off-the-cuff descritption of the steampunk aesthetic at a talk that very morning. A podcast of his talk on TK is up on the Key West Literary Seminar's site here.
Miéville with KWLS Board Member Judy Blume.