First off, a little introduction in case you don’t know me: My name is Michael, but any variation of it will do. I live just outside of Toronto with my wife, forever known as “W” in the blogosphere (though she’s also occasionally referred to as “The Mrs.”). We are photographers but I like to think we’re so much more than that. Never defined solely by our occupation. Our weekends are spent photographing weddings or other special engagements, but when we’re not busy we like to host dinner parties where drinks being served are just as important to the night as the food. A good drink sets everyone at ease. But there was a time before my wife and I got together.
I was fresh out of University and out of ideas. Like a good number of people in my situation, I was at a loss for what to do with myself. Nothing called to me. I felt stuck. One morning I found myself outside a local restaurant and bar, application in hand, my nerves my only friend. I knocked on the door and sheepishly handed my paper to the girl who answered. She said something, most of which I can’t remember, and shut the door. Tight. That was it. My first impression.
Later that day, I was called in for an interview and I was shocked. I wasn’t ready. Truth is I didn’t have any tangible experience, just summer work but nothing related. I sat across from the bar manager that evening and nodded way too much. I probably said a few things, but those words escape me. A young man hoping for a chance. We talked for a good ten minutes and I shook his hand and left. As I was driving home, it hit me. I start tomorrow. And I’m not prepared.
That first day I picked up my position behind the bar, or what is forever affectionately known as “the wood,” and got to work. I wore my pressed blacks and apron and brought my handed-down tools of the trade. I poured beers and opened bottles and ran to my trusty bartender guide whenever someone ordered something that I had never heard of. Most of the drinks back then had me running to that guide. The pages grew worn and marked from overuse but I slowly found my rhythm. And, in a blink, those first few days turned into weeks. Before long I knew everyone’s name and they knew mine. Most importantly, I knew what they drank. Regulars and irregulars. I became as commonplace as the furniture. Only I poured the drinks and they came to drink them.
I saw my fair share of things working the wood through the years. And I heard more than I care to tell. I poured drinks to help people celebrate and I poured drinks to help people forget. In those years people confessed the strangest things to me and shared secrets they hadn’t had the nerve to share with family. Like cancer, job loss and divorce. But I also had people tell me how nice it was to see a smiling face after a bad day. And they thanked me for always knowing exactly what they wanted when they walked in.
For the better part of ten years I worked the wood. And I treated it like home. I switched locations but the wood followed me. No matter where I went I had my regulars. Mostly new but some went where I did. It wasn’t long before I was in charge of creating daily cocktails, experimenting with the rows of bottles behind me and some syrups I made. I put twists on the old classics and created new ones altogether. But I always poured whatever someone ordered. I did it quickly and with a smile. And I did it over half a million times.
Those days are long behind me now. Some lost in the rear view mirror of life. The only cocktails I make now are for our dinner parties or for W and I. Yet there are still days that I stand with my trusted tools and experiment with new recipes, like this one here. Just for you. I took the classic Tom Collins and stood it on its head. Gin, sage, peaches, fresh lime and orange juice, mineral water and a sage, ginger and cardamom simple syrup. I like to call it the Bomb Collins, as I did back in the day. It was the drink I made most often when peaches were in season. Like they are now.
Welcome to The Boys Club. What are you drinking?
Yield: 4 cocktails
Bar spoon (or a long, tall spoon will do)
Jigger or shot glassIngredients
8 oz (240ml) Gin
2 peaches, halved and stone removed
12 sage leaves
1 oz. (30ml) fresh lime juice
1 oz. (30ml) fresh squeezed orange juice
8 dashes bitters
8 tbsp. (120ml) Sage, Ginger & Cardamom Simple Syrup (recipe below)
Mineral water, to top
Ice and crushed ice
1 tbsp. (15ml) nutmeg
Sage sprigs, for garnish
1/4 peach, for garnish
Instructions1. Muddle a peach segment and 3 sage leaves in the bottom of the glass.2. Add the gin, lime juice, orange juice, bitters and 1 tablsepoon of Sage, Ginger & Cardamom Simple Syrup. Stir.3. Fill the glass with ice and top with mineral water. Add the crushed ice over top.4.Pour the remaining 1 tablespoon of Sage, Ginger & Cardamom Simple Syrup over the crushed ice. Grate a half a teaspoon of nutmeg on top.5.Garnish with the sage sprig and 1/4 peach.6. Repeat with the 3 other glasses.
Sage, Ginger & Cardamom Simple Syrup
Mike is the man behind the blog Verses From My Kitchen.