Saturday, June 18, 2016

Blast Off - Part I

It’s summertime.  The days are getting longer and the nights are full of dreams.  There’s something magical about looking up at the stars on a warm evening that stirs the imagination.  Let’s take a trip into outer space together.  We’ll board a rocket ship and head out to the planets, propelled by some tropical rocket fuel and our wits.  The journey to the cosmos is a long one, so we won’t get there all at once, we’ll have to take our time.  Buckle up!

Rocket by Osamu Kasho

The concept of outer space inspires all sorts of things, including puzzle boxes.  The Karakuri Creation Group embraced this with their “Space” themed exhibition.  One of their artisans, Osamu Kasho, created his “Rocket” puzzle box for that exhibition.  He describes having wanted to try making a rounded shaped box on a lathe, and he has succeeded very well.  The Rocket, like all of Kasho’s puzzle boxes, is a whimsical, toy-like object with smooth rounded curves and a playful design sense.  He enjoys breaking the mold with his boxes, most of which are not “boxy” at all.  The Rocket is a cartoon come to life, a child’s drawing space ship full of limitless possibilities.  It hides a clever puzzle with a few lovely touches barring your entry to the cockpit.  You might need to enlist a rocket scientist to help you figure this one out – but probably not.  Crafted with chanchin, maple, walnut and magnolia woods, Kasho has made a fine vessel for the imagination.

It's a supersonic smooth operator

A particular rocket holds a special place for us at the boxes and booze household as well.  Early in his career, my father helped to develop the X-15 rocket plane, the fastest manned aircraft in history.  The X-15 was essentially a cockpit bolted onto a rocket, with wings attached.  Maybe my father would suggest it was a bit more complex than that, but you get the idea.  The rocket would be carried under the wing of another plane and dropped into the atmosphere, so all of its fuel could be used for speed acceleration rather than takeoff.  The pilots would literally be falling to earth as they tried to get the engine started, and then, BAM!  It earned its fame on Oct 3, 1967, when fighter pilot Pete Knight flew the rocket at 4,520 mph (Mach 6.72).  The data gathered from the X-15 test flights helped propel us into manned spaceflight.  An X-15 now hangs in the Smithsonian’s Air and Space Museum, where we proudly stop for family photographs when visiting.

The X-15 Cocktail by J. "Popo" Galsini

As if that wasn’t cool enough, a bartender named J. “Popo” Galsini created a cocktail in honor of the rocket plane during its heyday.  You know your rocket is seriously cool when it’s got its own cocktail.  Galsini worked at a popular “tiki” bar in Huntington Beach, California, called the “Kona Kai” where engineers who helped designed the rocket would hang out (although according to my father, Laguna beach was even cooler).  The “X-15” cocktail is light on its feet thanks to a gin base, rather than the more typical rum found in tiki drinks.  It has an incredible blend of tropical flavors from a combination of passion fruit, almond, lime and ginger flavored syrups, but remains surprisingly light and refreshing.  It’s a perfect poolside summer sipper and just might accelerate you into happy space.  Start your count-down now and let these rockets blast you into the summer stratosphere.  I’ll see you on the other side of the atmosphere, on the way to the planets … to be continued.  Cheers!

These two will rocket a smile to your face 

X-15 Cocktail by J. “Popo” Galsini circa 1967
½ oz fresh lemon juice
½ oz passion fruit syrup
¼ oz falernum
¼ oz orgeat syrup
1¼ oz gin
8 oz (1 cup) crushed ice
Blend all ingredients together until smooth and pour into a favorite glass.  Orchid and tiny umbrella garnish if you want to go interstellar.

For more about Osamu Kasho:

For a prior look to the stars please see:

For more “tiki” themed cocktails please see:

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