We were having a cocktail party. Not a large group but about ten friends for light snacks, cocktails, and conversation. When one works in the hospitality industry sometimes one can be a bit monkish on one’s own time. And while it certainly can be challenging to stand in front of people when you are being paid, it can be even more challenging when you are not.
I was younger then, 20 years younger, and I had gotten the bright idea to serve my guests specialty cocktails. Challenging specialty cocktails. If a bartender is throwing a party, people just might have some expectations.
I decided on the Vieux Carré. It was going to be epic.
I assembled all the ingredients necessary: VS cognac, rye whiskey, premium sweet vermouth, Angostura Bitters, Peychaud’s bitters and Benedictine liqueur. Fresh orange zests and Luxardo cherries were the garnishes and I premade twenty perfect large round ice “cubes.”
I was ready to go.
My guests began arriving about twenty minutes after the time on the invitation.
“Do you have any white wine?” asked the very first guest when I informed him of the Vieux Carres.
Luckily, I did, and I quickly whipped up the first Vieux Carré for his companion.
“What’s that picture of?” asked her friend as he fished out the large round ice cube and looked for a place to deposit it.
“That’s a Buddhist monastery I visited in China,” I said.
“That sounds interesting,” he continued first trying to balance his melting ice ball on his hors d’oeuvre plate, before finally discarding it into an empty water glass.
“It was,” I said.
“Can I get a Manhattan?” interrupted another guest.
“I’m making Vieux Carrés,” I replied.
“But you know what, I have all the ingredients, why not?”
As I mixed half the ingredients for a Vieux Carré for the Manhattan: rye whiskey, Angostura bitters, and vermouth, I finished up my thought with my first guest.
“It was great. We ran in to Thich Nhat Hanh there,” I said. “The Chinese government had allowed him to visit, but only on the condition that he would not speak.”
“What are the odds of that?” asked my friend.
“I know,” I replied.
“Lisa wants to know if you can make a margarita?” interrupted my wife.
“I can’t,” I said. “I only got stuff to make Vieux Carrés.”
“Do we have sparkling wine?”
“Where was I?”
“China with Thich Nhat Hanh,” replied my guest.
“So instead of speaking, he did a walking meditation around the walls of the monastery,” I continued. “It was amazing, monks were running around excitedly and quite a crowd had gathered.”
“Sorry,” said my wife interrupting again. “Can you make anything else besides a Vieux Carré,” asked my wife.
“An old fashioned?”
“I guess,” said the other guest.
“I guess,” replied my wife.
“You know a Manhattan sounds good,” replied the friend I was talking to.
So I made the old fashioned: rye whiskey, Angostura bitters, sugar, and garnished it with the cherry and orange. I then made a Manhattan with the whiskey, bitters and sweet vermouth and garnished it with a cherry.
“Where was I?”
“Yes, so all these monks are running around and I see this American guy, Joey from Brooklyn, who had a shaved head, elaborate robes, sandals and the most expensive video camera that I have ever seen. He’s backing up in front of Thich Nhat Hanh like Francis Ford Coppola in Apocalypse Now.”
“Doesn’t Hahn say, ‘If you abandon the present moment, you cannot live the moments of your daily life deeply,’” replied another guest.
“He does,” I said impressed. “Which is what made that so ironic.”
“After the walking meditation, we all ended up in the mandarin orchard outside the walls. We spent an hour picking big, beautiful mandarins in silence. It was beautiful,” I said.
“That’s a great memory,” replied my friend.
“As a momento, I picked up a rock from the ground to remember that event. I hauled that rock all over China and brought it back here.” I pointed at my bookshelf dramatically. “And there it is!” I said.
Only it wasn’t there. I looked around, on the floor, on the shelf.
“Where’s the rock I had on that shelf?” I asked my wife.
“I threw that dirty old thing out years ago,” she said.
Leaving me with these thoughts:
-The best lessons about nonattachment, often involve attachment.
-Cleanliness might not be next to godliness.
-Making fancy cocktails and hosting your own party is more difficult than it seems
-The passing of a great person only emphasizes the impermanence we all face.
-“Many of us have been running all our lives. Practice stopping,” Thich Nhat Hahn.