As I slide my phone into my pocket, I glance at the time. 3:17. I find myself standing, lingering really, near the doors to the square, characterless communications building on campus. My tattered black backpack rests on my shoulders, jeans just barely hug my legs, and a black and white gingham button-up drape around my upper body. My eyes dart to the large dark panes of glass facading the building. I run my hands through my hair, tidying up the loose ends.
I take a deep breath. The damp, floral air fills my lungs but does little to calm my young, jittery nerves. I begin to trek out into the courtyard; I’ve waited long enough. Somehow walking seems so unnatural. The clumsy blue Nikes barely hold onto my feet as I make the familiar walk towards my dorm. Halfway through the plaza and I’ve already managed to forget why I was so nervous. My eyes sink to the ground out of bad habit. I begin counting stones, looking for rogue weeds, and doing everything other than paying attention to where I’m walking.
With a thud and a jolt, the wind is knocked out of me. I look up, terrified at the possibility of what I’ve just run in to. Any color on my face melts away leaving a pale ghost behind as I stare up into beautiful auburn eyes. 50,000 students on campus and I run into him.
Not traditionally handsome or particularly unique, this gorgeous guy standing in front of me, in his prehipster tight black jeans, striped vneck, too-large glasses, strange hat and loafers exudes such playful confidence that he has managed to catch my eye nearly every day after class for a semester now. Somehow he has stood out amongst the sea of students swimming about the rolling campus and today I ran right into him.
I never did remember if I apologized or if I said anything. I just remember never speaking to him after that moment and after the semester never seeing him again on campus.
Then, four years later and some 2,000 miles away, I found myself facing a familiar face, this time nervous but still as beautiful. The crush I never really met, this boy who stood out on my campus, is handing me a drink in a bar, four states away from where I first laid eyes on him. I don’t know if he remembers me. He couldn’t. Could he?
The drink, a plum and brandy concoction, was mixed with bad brandy, watered down, and cloy but my attention wasn’t on the tumbler or its contents. Instead I was focusing on how I managed to meet this man twice in my life. And this time, I knew I wouldn’t mess up the introduction.
To this day I am amazed that I dated a guy I met twice. The first was a mess of an introduction, but without it I don’t know how special the second meeting would have been. And when I finally admitted the events of that day on campus, a few months into our relationship once we moved past the awkward phase, he confessed he too had hoped our second meeting would come much sooner than it did. So he did know.
Sometimes when you get a second chance, it’s amazing how different things can turn out. This drink, an homage to the coincidences we find ourselves facing in fate, is much better than that upon which I modeled it.While Im not sure I would have ever wanted to try it again, I am glad I since have as it is a new favorite. The tart and sourness of the lemon playing with the barely sweet brandy seem to marry so well with the sweet, spicy cinnamon, citrus and plum syrup mixture. Leave the layers separate and you get just a hint of sweetness in each sip. Mix the two together and you get a drink that begins to taste like a deliciously robust punch.
Brandy Plum Sour
Yield: 2 glasses (5 ounces each)
Glassware: Square tumblers
2 oz. (60 ml) lemon juice, freshly squeezed
2 oz. (60 ml) water
1 oz. (30 ml) sugar
3 oz. (90 ml) Brandy
2 oz. (60 ml) Cinnamon Plum Syrup (recipe below)
1. Stir the lemon juice, water and sugar together in the shaker until the sugar is completely dissolved.
2. Add the brandy. Cap or top the shaker and shake vigorously for 30 seconds.
3. Add ice to the two glasses. Pour the shaken drink over the ice.
4. Tilt a glass slightly and carefully pour the prepared cinnamon plum down the side of the glass, letting it pool in the bottom of the glass. Repeat with the second glass.
5. Serve immediately. Garnish with a slice of orange and a plum wedge otherwise serve the drink on its own.
You can omit the syrup in this recipe for a more classic brandy sour. If you plan to include the syrup try it both ways: mix it in completely for a sweet, punch-like drink or leave it layered at the bottom for just a hint of sweetness in each sip.
Cinnamon Plum Syrup
Yield: 8 ounces
Heavy bottomed pot
8 oz. (235 ml) water
8 oz. (235 ml) sugar
4 oz. (120 ml) brandy
1/2 orange zested & cut into slices
1 cinnamon stick
1/2 tsp. vanilla
4 plums, halved and pitted
1. Place all of the ingredients in a heavy bottomed pot.
2. Bring to a slow boil and let the liquid reduce until it is thick enough to coat a spoon, about 20 minutes. The consistency should be that of maple syrup and honey.
3. Strain the plums, orange slices and cinnamon stick from the liquid. Reserve the liquid and let cool completely.
Sours: Don’t bother with the sweet and sour mix. Cutting and squeezing lemons is so easy and it gives a much cleaner flavor. You just need a little sweetness which is as easy as simple syrup or sugar and water (this recipe calls for the latter).
Sugar in Cocktails: While it is typical to make a simple syrup to add sweetness to a drink, the ratio of liquid to sugar in this recipe is more than enough to allow the sugar to dissolve completely. Just be sure to stir vigorously and for long enough to ensure the sugar is completely dissolved.
Shaking vs. Stirring: I almost always shake drinks – unless of course it has a soda – as I find it does a better job of mixing all of the ingredients together. An added benefit of shaking with ice is that it can chill the drink down if you wont be serving it over ice. This drink is served with ice so there is no need to shake it with ice.
Layering Drinks: The key to layering drinks is adding the layers from lightest to heaviest. It may seem counter intuitive but this is the best way. Each time you add a heavier layer, pour it in slowly along the side of the glass, with the glass tilted, so it can slide slowly to the bottom without disturbing the other layer. A glass with a sprout makes this task much easier. If you want a messier, drippy look, liberally pour the heavier liquid over the lighter liquid and ice.
Russell van Kraayenburg runs the from-scratch baking blog Chasing Delicious.