Ground Control to Major Tom: My cocktail tribute to David Bowie

Like many people, my first reaction to David Bowie's passing was shock. I understood on a rational level that he, like me, was human, and therefore mortal... But I think part of me didn't really believe could die. That maybe he was beyond death-- larger than it as he had been larger than life. 

His passing leaves many things to grapple with: The incredible weight he must have felt knowing his death was coming soon; the urgency to respond to this revelation with a final performance and creative gift to the world. The fact that a gift is given whether the recipients deserve it.  A sometimes ugly past. The incredible legacy of his work. 

I feel confident in saying that many of my favorite artists-- musicians and otherwise-- would not be who they are today without David Bowie defying the status quo. The complicated intricacies of his past need not be overlooked to still appreciate the incredible contribution he made to our culture, from gender politics to art. That work deserves tribute from all who were impacted by it. Raising a glass felt like the most fitting way to say thank you to that incredible Oddity in the sky. 

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Thirty-Three.

I sat down in the classroom portable after lunch recess and grabbed my book. I don't remember what it was I had been reading-- or pretending to read, more likely-- during Silent Sustained Reading [SSR]. I do remember that my Language Arts & Social Studies teacher, Mr. Burns, popped in a new CD as we sat down to read. He swore it'd be something we'd appreciate. 

We all rolled our eyes at the first track, a dainty sounding piano tune. We were 13 and 14 year olds in the mid-90s, after all, and this sure wasn't Nirvana. I could hear exasperated sighs from my classmates as they asked why on earth he'd make us listen to Yanni. The humanity! 

Then the second track started, and everyone shut right up. 

I probably don't remember what book I was reading that day because I became so astounded by what I was hearing that I don't think I read a word. After SSR was over, I remember sheepishly asking Mr. Burns (who bore a striking resemblance to John Arbuckle-- a fact we young teens never let him forget) what we had just listened to. 

"It's called Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness," he said. "Have you heard of Smashing Pumpkins?"

This is probably the most uncool way to be introduced to a band. You may be thinking, You were introduced to Smashing Pumpkins through your 8th grade Social Studies teacher? Yes. Yes I was. I'm sure I'd encountered the Pumpkins before on MTV or the radio at some point before then, but I have no recollection of that now. All I remember is Mr. Burns brimming with pride at proving the room of middle schoolers wrong. 

Silent Sustained Reading changed my life that day... Just not in any of the ways educators meant it to. 

Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness was released on October 24, 1995, and I turned 13 just a couple weeks later. We're both Scorpios, Mellon Collie and I, which probably says something about why I ended up so obsessed with this album. Wailing guitars, growling vocals, fluttering strings, and melodramatic lyrics combined powers to create a sonic trap for dark teenagers like myself, and set-off a years-long devotion to Smashing Pumpkins that carried me through the throes of high school and being a teenage girl. Their music was my coming of age. 

I'm sure this is informative for people who have met me as an adult. I can hear the echoes of my friends' voices now: "That explains a lot."

You don't even know.  

But I'm not writing this now as a celebration of Mellon Collie's 20th anniversary (though holy shit, I probably should've thought about that sooner). I'm writing about this because it's my birthday. 

I'll explain: When I finally got a copy of the album for myself, I listened to it on repeat. I remember popping the second disc into my CD player taking note of "Thirty-Three" when it came on.

 

Thirty-three, I thought. Hm. Thirty-three. That's, like, almost as old as my parents. I wonder if I'll ever be that old? 

Well, 13-year-old me: You made it! And one of the perks of making it this far is getting to enjoy a celebratory drink. 


And for a moment I lose myself
Wrapped up in the pleasures of the world
I've journeyed here and there and back again
But in the same old haunts I still find my friends
Mysteries not ready to reveal
Sympathies I'm ready to return
I'll make the effort, love can last forever
Graceful swans of never topple to the earth
Tomorrow's just an excuse
And you can make it last, forever you
You can make it last, forever you

 

(Excerpt of lyrics from "Thirty-Three")


Thirty-Three: A cocktail inspired by Smashing Pumpkins

Original recipe by Sara Galactica

What you'll need:

  • 1 oz orange honey syrup (below)
  • 1.5 oz gin
  • .5 oz Lillet blanc
  • .25 oz lemon juice
  • 1 oz buttermilk
  • 1 egg white from large egg
  • 3 dashes Angostura bitters

What to do:

Combine all ingredients in an empty cocktail shaker. "Dry shake" (meaning without ice) vigorously for about 20 seconds. 

Fill shaker about halfway with ice, replace lid, and shake it like you mean it for a full minute. I recommend wrapping your shaker in a towel to keep your fingers from freezing off. 

Strain into a cocktail or coupe glass. Garnish with orange twist.

Sip and marvel at your ability to make something that is both pretty AND delicious. Well done!


Orange Honey Syrup

What you'll need:

1/4 cup honey
1/4 cup water or juice from a fresh orange (about 1/2 of an orange)
thick zest from 1/2 an orange
1 strip of lemon zest
1/2 tsp clear alcohol such as vodka or moonshine* (optional)

What to do:

Combine honey with water/juice in a small saucepan and heat over medium, stirring until well combined.

Bring mixture to a simmer. Reduce heat to low and add lemon and orange zest. Simmer on low heat for 5 minutes.

Strain mixture into a jar or other storage vessel. Stir in vodka/other spirit until combined and cool thoroughly before using. 

*Use this if you're planning on storing syrup in your refrigerator for more than a week or so. Discard syrup if it starts to look cloudy.