Take Your Medicine
Our household has had a bad run of luck on the health front, lately.
First Tina had an absolutely rotten week, featuring a horrible kind of cough that she claims has totally left her, despite the fact that she still hacks like a coal miner when she thinks I can’t hear. It was an exhausting but happy time for me, because I am never more content than when I can serve a purpose, even if that only involves bringing bottles of water down and demanding her to take her medication. Nagging is its own reward, when it can carry some positive benefit for my lovely lady.
Now, I have been seized by some kind of foul infection that is filling my brain with rotten awfulness, loading my sinuses with cruel sputum, and creating an altogether horrible sensation of shifting weight if I even slightly lower my chin. Allow me to say this: I do not at all approve of the contents of my skull becoming mobile on the slightest motion. I was given to understand that all cargo was secure. This is altogether unwelcome, and I greatly object.
On top of that, even, I have a cat curled up in my lap who has undergone that most terrible but necessary of procedures: The Operation. Despite being energetic and entertaining as a fully-intact male feline, his propensity for whimsically and vengefully targeting my clothes as his “marking” target made this appointment an inevitable one. We had procrastinated enough, to be honest, but let me just say to anyone else out there who might be considering it: repeatedly peeing on my laundry going to get you right on the fast track to surgical neutering, and no fooling.
But even I have some sense of mercy, and while our poor boy rests his pruned loins on me and naps fitfully, dreaming of a time when he was fully intact and seized by passions now oddly faded, I can recognize that this is a household dearly in need of its medicine.
Mary Poppins is widely known for saying that a spoon full of sugar helps the medicine goes down, but I am willing to go on record as saying I’ve never fully trusted any character played by Julie Andrews. Sure, she has her little pixie haircut and her sweet smile, but that was a woman who sung like and angel and swore like a pirate — do I want to rely on such a study in contradictions to administer care to my family?
No, for me it’s a matter of concocting a tonic that will soothe the pains of the congested and coughing, ease discomfort and promote warm feelings of contentment that will ultimately lead to unconsciousness. Sure, I could just down a cup of Neo Citran, but where’s the fun in that? Instead, I present:
Take Your Medicine
- 4 to 6 ice cubes, crushed to fine snow
- 1.5 ounces of Plymouth Gin
- 1/2 an ounce of Scotch Whiskey
- 1 ounce of Cassis
- 1 ounce of simple syrup
Take Your Medicine is a simple combination of two hearty liquors and two sweeteners, served over a bed of finely crushed ice. The gin provides an herbal note, while the Scotch offers a measure of warmth and body; the Cassis offers currant-sweetness, and the simple syrup just muscles in and makes all the other ingredients hug and get along.
Start with a chilled shaker, loaded with a couple of ice cubes. I have this stainless steel one that’s lasted me forever and a day, and while I’m sure there are a hundred reasons why I should be using a glass one, or one with a little window, or one that didn’t come from Ikea, I don’t actually care — this one is enormous, it chills extremely quickly, and I can clean it in the dishwasher.
Keep in mind that this isn’t the only way the drink should get cold, but boy oh boy does it ever help to just stick your shaker in the freezer for a few minutes before you get started.
Next up, your gin. London Dry will work for this, but I really do prefer Plymouth whenever I can find it.
For those of you whose gin expertise extends only to how well it mixes with tonic water, a quick explanation: Plymouth is a variety that is distilled in exactly one (1) place on Earth (England) by law, on a protected site that has been producing the liquor for centuries. It has a distinctly different flavor from Dry varieties, with more herbal flavors and therefore not so much of a punch-your-nose juniper taste.
It’s also a little stronger by volume, but I prefer it because it’s a bit unique and doesn’t taste like I licked a pine tree… as much. Plus there’s a whole story behind it, and isn’t it always fun to bore people with details like those?
Of course it is.
Drop 1 and 1/2 ounces of your gin in the shaker, and move on.
I am showing this picture only because I am high on cold and flu medications, because otherwise blending 15 year-old single malt into a cocktail is suicide.
And by that I mean, “provoked homicide”, because Tina will kill me for using up her Scotch this way.
But in my defence (i.e. eulogy), I hope it will be noted that the smoother the whiskey you do use, the more the flavor will come through as soothing warmth and not burning chicken-wing heat. There is a difference.
And it’s only a 1/2 ounce anyway. Drop ‘er in.
Cassis is just lovely, a very simply boisson alcoolique of blackcurrants and the booze they produce. Too much of it and a drink can quickly become treacly, but in the right proportions it adds a lovely grown-up sweetness and a not-insignificant boozy kick. Plus, it pours out a lovely dark-violet and blooms into a pleasant deep red.
Color, flavor and liquor. Cranberry juice can suck it.
Drop in 1 ounce.
Simple syrup is your best cocktail friend. It is the one tool you always need around, and are always glad to have. Bitter drinks become sweet, catastrophes become sensations, and all thanks to a little water and sugar.
It also lasts forever, so when you whip up a batch you don’t need to fear doing a big one.
In this case, the syrup is really here to do two things: take the rest of the edge off the Plymouth, and balance out the whiskey. Both the harder liqours are ones you taste in the back of your mouth, and are accompanied by some heat — and in the case of cheaper varieties, pain and anguish. The syrup will bring the flavor forward a bit on your tongue, lessen that initial bump, but still deliver the neat little individual benefits of the ingredients.
Add 1 ounce, or to taste.
The ice is important here, and should be shaved down to as fine a snow as you can manage. This is for three key reasons:
- It will take longer to melt than ice cubes.
- The drink will form into a slurry that is very comforting to those with sore throats.
- It is incredibly theraputic to wrap up a bunch of ice cubes in a towel and smash the shit out of them against a brick wall, tile floor or nearby foe. Seriously, you have no idea. (Alternately, you could use a blender that you don’t care about any more, since for whatever reason nothing kills blenders faster than crushing ice.)
Pack the glass roughly 3/4 full of the snow, and pour.
IMPORTANT: As tempting as it might be, do not use actual snow. It’s cute and romantic and everything, but as beautiful and white as it is, snow is gross and filthy, and you don’t want what’s left behind after it melts forming a sandbar at the bottom of your cocktail glass.
And there you have it! If you’re feeling creative, you might also choose to garnish with berries (fresh or frozen) as I did here. They can’t hurt, they add a little visual flair, and frozen blackberries serve as very flavorful ice cubes.
You now have a smooth, cool and slushy drink that cools the throat, warms the belly, relaxes the brain and bruises the liver.
Now if you’ll excuse me, the doctor needs to heal himself.