Monday, June 23, 2008

Cocktail of the Day: The Cosmopolitan

One of my life lessons seems to be that I should stop underestimating girly things.

For example: have you ever really looked at a cheap paperback romance novel? Your aunts, sisters, girl cousins, and grandmothers read them in full view of children, god and everybody. And nobody actually looks at them, because they're, you know, romance novels.

They're pure soft core. Nothing but cover to cover fucking, only with a slightly different vocabulary.

Also, I used to think, before I actually tasted one, that a mint julep was the antebellum southern equivalent of a wine spritzer. The first time I had one, in New Orleans, my eyes crossed, my nipples shot out, and my hair knotted itself into tiny coils. Pure minty bourbon! On ice!!! My entire view of southern womanhood changed inexorably and forever. Those corseted, hoop-skirted ladies with their fans and vapors, were sitting on their verandahs drinking pitchers of the stuff and admiring the field hands.

So it is with the Cosmo, a drink I have hitherto scorned as impossibly, ridiculously, commercially girly in the very worst way.

Until I actually had one, quite by chance, last Saturday night, in an otherwise uninteresting highwayside road house in Coldwater, Michigan.

(Note to self #2. I have also found that you sometimes get a much, much better cocktail in little, out-of-the way nowhere places than in expensive, stylish cocktail bars. Go figure.)

It was the summer solstice. The relentless solarity was pulsing hard on me. I had to drive home from Michigan a day earlier than I'd lazily planned, and I was a bit annoyed to be on one of the most tedious stretches of interstate in the country rather than somewhere interesting barking the sun up.

I was hungry, and bored, and wanted to indulge in a festive cocktail. Everywhere has flavored 'martinis' these days. Flavored vodka is cheap, fashionable and profitable. The cosmo stood out on the list--oh so a decade ago now, but made with cointreau and real lime juice.

It was exquisite, Plato's Ideal of Cocktail--just precisely the right balance of bitter, tart and sweet. It was deep red, like the rim of the setting sun (cosmo purists, please do not lecture me about the proper color being pallid pink. This drink was red,. like the sun, and a better metaphor, ok?)

I loved it so much, I had another, late getting home and long nasty drive be damned. So much pure, immediate happiness.

Why is it that I scorn stereotypical femininity so much? It's never what I think it's going to be when I really try it.

The Cosmo, like the mint julep and the romance novel, is consummately feminine. It's so easy to underestimate, to dismiss as light, trivial and pink--until you actually taste it, indulge in the blood-red, bitter depths, let it go to your head in the relentless hot gaze of the pitiless sun that hides nothing, takes nothing for granted.