Saturday, November 28, 2020

Shaking Things Up

B&B HAS MOVED - COME SEE THE NEW SITE HERE

I’m about to shake things up here at Boxes and Booze – figuratively, literally and otherwise. Next week I’ll be launching a new site which will allow for some much needed functionality. Some folks come for the boxes, and some for the booze, so to speak, and I’ll finally be able to offer some proper hospitality around these parts. Getting the new site shipshape will take some time but I think, and hope, it will be worth the effort. I’d love your feedback and support, so once it’s live please sign up and follow along. I’ll also be launching a new series featuring something really special, so stay tuned!

Canfield-Shaker by Rocky Chiarro

What we really need in order to get ready for this celebration is something to help me with the  shake up - perhaps a cocktail shaker, don’t you think? Let’s see, I’m sure I have one around here somewhere … ah what’s this? The final installment of the Rocky Chiarro Picture Show, that’s what! After that fortuitous encounter with Jerry Slocum in 1995, Rocky began to receive request for his brass puzzles from all over the world. Twenty-five years, and over fifty unique puzzle designs later, he realized that he has misplaced many of the solutions to his puzzles. Which is to say, in this case, the designs themselves. Rocky only ever created his puzzles by starting with the solutions, and how the puzzle would work. His son helped him compile all of the solutions to his many puzzles from over the years, and they are now published in Rocky’s new book, “Puzzle Sculpture”.

this is a good sign ...

There’s one puzzle that is not in that book, however, because Rocky likes to shake things up too. I once asked him if he would ever consider making a cocktail shaker puzzle. He thought for a bit and finally asked, “well, how would it work? I need to know the solution before I can decide about making a new puzzle”. I suggested something along the lines of, “I don’t know, maybe you have to …” and I suspect you can guess what that might be, so there’s no need to spell it out! Rocky pondered and tinkered, pondered and tinkered, and at one point let me know he was having a ball just coming up with different ways to achieve that solution. At last, he presented me with the final result, the CANFIELD-SHAKER, a Brass Puzzle by Rocky that I am most proud to display.

“If you don’t like being here you will not be here that long; attitude is the key.” – Rocco Chiarro

El Morocco by Gabriel Lowe

Rocky turned ninety-one this past week, and that calls for a toast! This is one solution I’m happy to divulge, and I knew the moment I read about this cocktail whose puzzle I would be pairing it with one day. It originates with a bon vivant travel and culinary writer from the nineteen forties names Charles H. Baker, who wrote for Esquire and Gourmet magazines, and published a few notable books on the subject as well. His “The Gentleman’s Companion: Being an Exotic Drinking Book (or, Around the World with Jigger, Beaker and Flask)”, 1939, remains an amusing resource for classics but is most admired for Baker’s colorful stories and amusing writing style.

a shaker from Baker

The excerpt from the 1946 edition of his Companion reads: “This is from the field notebook of a trusted friend on a Mediterranean cruise in 1938, and dated from Tangier, North Africa. Take 1 pony each of cognac, red port wine and ripe pineapple juice, putting it in a shaker with lots of cracked ice. Flavour further with a tsp each of grenadine and orange Curacao; and make tart with 2 tsp of lime juice, strained. Shake and strain into a tall flute cocktail glass with a stem … personally we have come to omit all grenadine. The port gives it all the sweetness needed, also pretty colour.” San Francisco bartender Gabriel Lowe of the Cognac Room revamps the Baker classic with modern proportions that produce a delightfully delicious cocktail. The ruby port is there to give “pretty colour” and he keeps the grenadine, and you should too. Happy Birthday Rocky!

cocktail, shaker

El Morocco adapted by Gabriel Lowe from Charles Baker, c. 1946

1 ½ oz California Brandy

½ oz ruby port

¾ oz fresh lime

½ oz pineapple gum syrup

¼ oz grenadine

2 dashes Angostura bitters

Shake with ice and strain into a favorite glass. Lime wheel or lemon shaker garnish. Cheers!

For more about Rocco Chiarro:

Loafing Around

Brass Glass

T-Party

In Bloom

Saturday, November 21, 2020

Loafing Around

B&B HAS MOVED - COME SEE THE NEW SITE HERE


 “I still have my feet on the ground, I just wear better shoes.” – Oprah Winfrey

Things are afoot here at Boxes and Booze, and there’s no time to loaf(er) around. Fresh off the heels of the brass beer stein from Rocky Chiarro comes the next step in this series, surely a shoe-in for a favorite.

Lo-Fer by Rocky Chiarro

Rocky may have created his first interlocking puzzle in brass while in the Navy seventy years ago, but that puzzle would not stay together. It would be another thirty years before he created a version with a central locking pin.  Around that time that he chanced upon an add in a woodworking magazine for "Puzzles Wanted".  He answered it on a whim, sending his design to none other than Jerry Slocum, who loved it and ordered a few copies. That was when his hobby became his second act, and his "retirement" turned into his "Brass Puzzles by Rocky" which are prized by collectors around the world.

Shoe-in for a favorite

The Lo-Fer puzzle box is Rocky’s homage to the classic “psycho snuff box”, a Victorian era design for pocket snuff containers which featured a multi-layered lid which locked in a mysterious and puzzling fashion. Such boxes took on various appearances, including that of a little shoe. Rocky recreated his design to mimic one of these antique shoe puzzle boxes, in his signature shiny brass style.

Shoe Maker by Joann Spiegel

A proper toast that can go toe to toe with the Lo-Fer should have some spring in its step and be laced with spirit. We find what we are looking for in the Shoe Maker, an Irish jig from New York’s Joann Spiegel of The Dead Rabbit Grog and Grocery (winner of Best Bar in the World, more than once). A native of Cork, Ireland, she is currently Director of Operations at Cocktail Kingdom, the industry equipment standard bearer.

Irish whiskey never had it so good

She developed the drink in partnership with Knappogue Castle, an award winning fine Irish whiskey distillery. The cocktail is a delicious Old Fashioned, with Irish whiskey and in the “cherry and an orange style”. She adds dry fino sherry for perfect balance, to lengthen the drink and shift categories. It’s a lovely way to appreciate a good Irish whiskey and perfect for the cooler weather. Cheers!

If the shoe fits, pair it

Shoe Maker by Joann Spiegel

2 oz Irish whiskey (Knappogue Castle 12-year single malt, preferred)

1 oz fino sherry

½ oz sugar syrup

1 d orange bitters

2 raspberries

1 orange slice

Muddle the raspberries, orange, bitters and syrup in a tin, then add the whiskey and sherry and shake with ice. Strain to an Old Fashioned glass, express and orange peel over the drink and garnish with mint and raspberries.

For more about Rocky Chiarro:

T-Party

Brass Glass

In Bloom

Saturday, November 14, 2020

Brass Glass

B&B HAS MOVED - COME SEE THE NEW SITE HERE


“Beer, if drunk in moderation, softens the temper, cheers the spirit and promotes health.” – Thomas Jefferson

Beer-Stein by Rocky Chiarro

I’m preparing for a few interesting events coming soon here at Boxes and Booze. In preparation, over the next few weeks I’ll be featuring a mini-series of a few works by everyone’s favorite brass puzzle artist, Rocky Chiarro. Rocky likes to keep his conversations short and sweet (he is a very wise man) and who am I to argue with that wisdom?

Rocky, who is still making puzzles in his garage workshop in Pueblo, Colorado, got his start as a machinist for Colorado Fuel and Iron when he was twenty-two years old, straight from his four year stint in the Navy. He was their youngest machinist ever, and his supervisor tried to hand him a broom on his first day, not realizing. He made his first eight piece interlocking cube puzzle while in the Navy, and was surprised that his buddies had trouble putting it together.

Rocky's signature move

His “Beer-Stein” was part of a set of puzzle “vessels” he invented, which also includes the “Ice-Bucket” and “T-Pot”. Each simply needs to be opened, and has space inside, so can be considered a puzzle box. I wouldn’t recommend putting any beer inside this stein, but I suppose that technically you could. Rocky always starts his design process with the solution, which is amusing in this case. But I’m not talking about beer. He envisions the mechanism and has to see how the puzzle will work entirely in his head, before he sits down to create a prototype.

I’m raising my glass to Rocky to toast his clever puzzle vessel with a beer themed cocktail I created. The impetus for this cocktail came about from an international gathering of puzzle minded folks I joined a few months ago – a virtual puzzle party. Try it at your own gathering, virtual or otherwise. Cheers!

The "Shandoni"

Packing Puzzle Potion

With five pieces, this puzzle has an infinite number solutions (you might think it should be 120, but you would be forgetting the unlimited combination of proportions), yet there are four distinct challenges to attempt depending on your mood and inclination.

First, assemble your pieces as best you can. It's fine if you don't have all of these, or can't be bothered. You are also ALLOWED to use external tools (perish the thought). This puzzle is meant for everyone.

The possibilities are endless, but the choice is clear

Pieces:

Gin

Sweet vermouth

Campari

Lemonade

Beer of choice

Challenge 1: "The No Fuss"

Use any of the pieces as is, combine any two, or introduce an external tool. Examples: Have a beer! Try an Americano (Campari and vermouth). A Campari and soda is nice. And of course, a gin and tonic. There's also lemonade if you don't drink or want alcohol.

Challenge 2: "The Brit"

Combine lemonade and beer of choice approximately 50:50 for a "Shandy". The classic British "pub water" from 1850 goes down easy and is typically made with pilsner, although I love it with a hoppy IPA.

Challenge 3: "The Snob"

Here's a classic Negroni, with equal parts gin, sweet vermouth and Campari. Invented in Florence over 100 years ago, it's an acquired taste but once you've acquired it, there's no going back. For the sophisticated palate. OK, let's be honest, the pretentious crowd.

Challenge 4: "The Shandoni"

The ultimate goal is to create a Shandoni, a delicious portmanteau of shandy and negroni. Combine the negroni and the shandy in the following proportions: 1/2 oz (15ml) each gin, sweet vermouth and Campari, then top with 50:50 beer and lemonade.

Beer Cheer

For more about Rocky Chiarro:

T-Party

In Bloom

Saturday, November 7, 2020

Free Box


Joe Turner comes from a big family – eight brothers and three sisters - and Christmas was always a challenge. He relates the origin of his gift giving solution: “I started making puzzles in the early 1990’s. While looking through Jerry Slocum – Jack Botermans book, “Puzzles – Old & New, How to make and solve them”, I decided to try to make the “T” puzzle, a very simple puzzle. Using my table saw, I made a jig to help cut pieces to the correct length and angle. After successfully making my puzzle, I realized, hey, I could make several more with very little effort. So, I made another 15-20 out of “high quality” tempered hardboard and placed them in a sandwich size Ziplock bag … nothing but the best for my family.” 
Free Me 8 by Joe Turner


His puzzle production runs expanded quickly, to the point where he was often making two hundred puzzles for his ever expanding list of family and friends each season. His interests have changed over the years as well. “Well, that was 30 years ago. My current goal is to keep making puzzles, but only make original designs. Whereas the earlier puzzles were meant to be “friendly”, taking around an hour or so to work through, now I want the puzzle to “challenge”, and to require the puzzler to give some serious thought to what needs to be done. It is also great to come up with new puzzle mechanism, but this continues to be a challenge (at least for me).” 

Joe, an aerospace engineer who worked at Boeing for 37 years, 2 weeks and 1 day (did I mention he is an engineer?) has become known in recent years for his innovative series of “Free Me” puzzles. He has entered a few of these blockish “coin release” type puzzles into the annual International Puzzle Design Competition, and in 2017 his Free Me 5 won an honorable mention. It is a fabulous puzzle and well deserving of the award. I’m surprised I haven’t written about it here already. But Joe has created something more appropriate for these pages now – he has made a puzzle box. 
The object of emancipation


He describes the evolution of his newest offering in the series, Free Me 8 - the “Reptile Box”. “In 2014 I saw a puzzle box described on a woodworking website by James Vavra. I liked the idea and put the write-up in my files for ‘someday’. In 2019 I had the chance to attend a St. Louis Woodworkers Guild weekend class to learn how to build a gift box. The class was taught by Doug Stowe who has written at least a half dozen books on the subject. I learned some excellent basic concepts. These included: a good box dimension is A x A+2 (inches), start with a long strip of wood to match the grain on the corners, you can be sloppy with glue because it can get cleaned up during the sanding process, miter keys add strength to mitered corners and also enhance the appearance, gluing a box together with mitered corners is easy by just laying the sides together and attaching them with painter’s tape, a veneered top gives an affordable range of wood looks and minimizes wood expansion/contraction concerns. I could go on, but needless to say, it was just the class I needed to motivate me to make the puzzle box. I came up with my dimensions, wood, and general appearance. But the funny thing is, as I started to think about making the previously mentioned puzzle mechanism, I was concerned about tolerances and fit and whether the box could be solved incorrectly. I started to tinker with the locking mechanism. One thing led to another, which led to another. By the time I was done, the lid locking mechanism was nothing like the original box. It was then I realized, if I can find a way to include a coin into the puzzle, I could make this into another Free Me puzzle. Well, a little more tinker and success. I am pleased to say the final results of the puzzle box is just what I was hoping for. 
He who tessellates is lost


To finish the box, he knew he wanted interlocking pieces on the lid, and has always been a fan of M.C.Escher. Joe found a supplier for the Cherry, Maple and Walnut reptiles who coincidentally lived only minutes away from him. The final creation is quite beautiful, and quite tricky. There are multiple steps and layers to this iteration of “Free Me”, from figuring out how to open the box, to discovering a way to keep going, and realizing there is much more than you expected. The coin peeking out on the bottom urges you on to the finish the whole way. It’s a stunning conclusion to Joe’s interest in making a puzzle box one day, and a gorgeous addition to the Free Me series. 
The Warning Label by Maks Pazuniak


I’m toasting Joe and his puzzle with a cocktail that tells a cautionary tale about this puzzle. The box comes with an instruction manual, as many puzzles do, which contains information and even the solution, sealed away. There is also, as with many puzzles, a separate disclaimer included, a strip of paper warning the new owner to be gentle, not force anything, and not try to manipulate the small lizards on top of the box or they will break off. Well, it’s a good thing I read it, because those lizards are oh so tempting. But, I resisted, and spent a few weeks in quiet frustration, getting absolutely nowhere with the box. Only after having a tiny peek at the solution booklet, and seeing what the very first move was, did I realize the misunderstanding. The cocktail comes from Maksym Pazuniak, a New Orleans bartender who along with Kirk Estopinal edited a slim cult classic cocktail recipe book known as “Beta Cocktails” in 2011. It features equal parts of Cynar, a bittersweet Italian amaro renown for its use of artichoke leaves, overproof rum from Guyana, and the unique vermouth “Punt e Mes”, which means “point and a half” and refers to its formula of 1 part sweet to ½ part bitter. To these delicious ingredients is added a dash of both orange and grapefruit bitters, and to top it all off there is a rinse of Campari in the glass. 
Sweet vermouth and Ramazzotti are a good substitute for Punt e Mes


The drink is a variation of the classic Negroni, albeit with strong rum and different amaro and vermouth. And while absolutely delicious on its own, it was the end of August in Houston when I made it – not the best time for a dark and brooding drink - so I gave it the Morgenthaler treatment. Jeff Morgenthaler has improved the lives of many a cocktail, and has a summer fix for the Negroni as well (not that it needs fixing). He adds fresh orange juice and some simple syrup, then blends it all up with ice for a slushy taste of heaven. Cheers! 
Comes with Warning Label, proceed with caution


The Warning Label by Maks Pazuniak 
1 oz Cynar 
1 oz Demerera 151 rum 
1 oz Punt e Mes 
1 dash Regan’s orange bitters 
1 dash grapefruit bitters 
Campari rinse 
To frappe: Add above plus ½ oz fresh orange juice, ½ oz fresh lime juice, and ¾ oz simple syrup to a blender. Top with about 8 ice cubes and blend.

Saturday, October 31, 2020

Sleepy Hollow


A drowsy, dreamy influence seems to hang over the land, and to pervade the very atmosphere.
— Washington Irving, "The Legend of Sleepy Hollow"
 

The Dormouse Box by Ray Sylvester and Lynn Hazell

One afternoon in 1995 while visiting New York City from their home in Britain, Ray Sylvester and his wife Kathy strolled up to a shop on 7th Avenue at 52nd Street. That fortuitous stop at “An American Craftsman” which culminated three hours later with Ray carrying his first ever “bandsaw box”, changed his life. He calls it his “Epiphany on 7th Avenue” – it was when he realized what he wanted to do with his second act. He retired early as an English teacher and together with Kathy opened Temima Crafts. Ray now calls himself a “Born Again Box Maker” and has been making various styles of Bandsaw Boxes and Vanishing Castles ever since.

A pair of dormice in their sleepy hollow

A bandsaw box is so named because it is created from a solid piece of wood using only the thin blade of a bandsaw. Most are not terribly puzzling but may include many layers of secret compartments and the occasional hidden mechanism. Ray likes to use wood with interesting figuring, markings, color or natural features from bark and burl knots, which he will preserve for the lid. When he finds a piece with a nook, cranny or hollow, he does something truly unique. After sawing off the top to preserve the natural features, he gives it to his good friend, the wildlife sculptor Lynn Hazell, who transforms it into something extraordinary. While Ray is busy crafting the bandsaw box, Lynn will analyze the lid and allow her inspiration to guide what type of stoneware “critter” she will create to nestle inside. Each of these special collaborative boxes is individual and unique.


mottled birch burl

The Dormouse Box is one of Ray’s “medio style” boxes made from mottled birch burl. It features an intricate knot of bark and branches on top with a little hollow where two adorable dormice are nestled, asleep. These particular critters must be “hazel dormice”, the type found in the British Isles, and natural friends of Lynn Hazell. The box itself hides a few secret compartments and is locked by a central “key” well disguised within the knot. The mice in the “sleepy hollow” are absolutely adorable and give the piece a warm and welcoming feeling that’s perfect for this crisp autumn All Hallows Eve.

Sleepy Hollow adapted from Diana Yen

“The Legend of Sleepy Hollow”, the American gothic story from 1820 written by Washington Irving, tells the ill-fated tale of Ichabod Crane, resident of the ghost riddled glen of Sleepy Hollow in Tarrytown New York, who incurs the wrath of the Headless Horseman. Diana Yen, who runs a multidisciplinary creative studio focused on recipe development and food styling in New York City called “The Jewels of New York”, turned the story into a creative cocktail back in 2014. Her Halloween themed drink is a well built mezcal Old Fashioned which uses a healthy dose of Allspice dram to sweeten the drink and preps the glass with a rinse of absinthe. The drink is served with a smoky sprig of rosemary to highten the olfactory and visual senses.

rich, warm flavors of the season

Allspice dram is a liqueur traditionally made by infusing pot-stilled Jamaican rum with pimento berries – in other words, allspice. The liqueur is essential in many tropical (tiki) cocktails, full of exotic spice and less sweet than a sugar syrup. Add some to any drink for an instant autumn or winter vibe. I’ve tinkered with Yen’s cocktail recipe slightly by substituting the allspice dram for Besamim, a lovely seasonal liqueur from an independent California craft distillery. It has a flavor profile similar to allspice but with a broader warm spice palate. I’ve also added a touch of Sfumato, a favorite smoky rich amaro, and tweaked the sweetness with a pinch of cinnamon syrup. It’s the kind of drink that will make you curl up in your own sleepy hollow on a cold autumn evening. Happy Halloween - Cheers!

a cozy pair

Sleepy Hollow, adapted from Diana Yen

2 oz mezcal

½ oz Besamim

¼ oz Sfumato

Barspoon cinnamon syrup

Absinthe rinse

Stir ingredients with ice and strain into a favorite glass. Smoked rosemary garnish, or a dormouse lemon wheel.


For more about Ray Sylvester:

http://www.temima.co.uk/

For more about Lynn Hazell:

http://www.lynnhazel.co.uk/index.html

Saturday, October 24, 2020

Petals on the Wind


Should the east winds blow,
Carry to me the fragrance
Of apricot bloom;
And though your master is gone,
Never forget the springtime.

- Sugawara no Michizane

The Apricot II

In the year 901 CE, famed Japanese scholar, poet and lover of “ume” (Japanese apricot) Sugawara no Michizane whispered this love poem to his garden’s apricot tree before he left from Kyoto to take his position in the Emperor’s court. Michizane exemplified the waka style of classical Japanese poetry, which, although there were many forms, typically refers to a 5-7-5-7-7 meter. The poem evokes a powerful nostalgia for one’s home, and is shrouded in a mystical mythology regarding love and longing. The story tells that the apricot tree flew through the night, from Kyoto to Fukuoka, to visit its master one evening.

Apricots are in the stone fruit family and grow in the summer season. The fruit is preceded, in the winter and spring, by edible delicate white flowers. Apricot blossoms have five white petals that are sometimes tinged with pink. In Japanese tradition, apricot blossoms symbolize “timid love” and can be given as a gift from an admirer. This particular apricot blossom, from master artisan Akio Kamei, would indeed make a nice gift. Kamei, who began creating novel secret opening “boxes” in the nineteen eighties, formed the Karakuri Creation group in 2000 and coined the phrase “karakuri box” (trick box) to better capture this new style of art. He wanted to create something very special for a big event early in the group’s career, an exhibition the group held in Nagoya, in 2003. “Apricot” was his first large format piece, made from rare Japanese Horse Chestnut Crepe (Tochi), Rosewood, and other exotics, and included beautiful inlay marquetry by Haruo Uchimyama, one of the masters of that art. The woodworking was exceptional, and included a shaped bow on top. The mechanisms featured one of Kamei’s signature inventions, the binary movement system he developed for his “Cubi” puzzle, although utilized in a brand new and surprising way. The elegance and rarity of the piece without question achieved the goal of unveiling something sensational at the exhibition.

Hides a beautiful secret

Kamei-san has revisited his work on Apricot with a new version that mirrors the original in most details. Most notably the inlay design has changed, and is now the work of one of Japan’s new marquetry masters, Tomoko Hasuo. She began to work with Kamei a few years ago on his four seasons chests, creating inlay which provided clues to the secrets. For the new Apricot chest she was tasked with, of course, ‘apricot”, the theme of the inlay on the original. But she had never seen an apricot blossom. During her walks one day, shortly after the plum blossoms had come and gone, she found them. There were little birds pecking at the flowers, the Japanese white-eye, and she captured this little bird in her new design. Apricot II also has one added secret, with a total of three hidden chambers to discover now, one more than the original. Like all of Kamei’s fine work, it exceeds expectations and is full of surprises. It is his whispered love poem to his art.

Travel the East Wind

One of the original Japanese cocktails was served at the Yokohama Grand Hotel in 1889 by head barman Louis Eppinger, a German bartender who gained fame in the San Francisco bar scene of the late eighteen hundreds. He was recruited by the new hotel to bring the elegance of the American cocktail culture to the East. His “Bamboo” cocktail, a low alcohol martini made with dry sherry and vermouth, was already gaining popularity back in the States, but it was Eppinger’s introduction of the drink in Japan that launched it into the history books.

Like the scent of nostalgia

There are many, many variations on the basic template of the Bamboo that range from simple and subtle changes to the main ingredients to the addition of a myriad of ingredients that make the drink almost unrecognizable. Here’s an elegant and sweet interpretation of one of the original Japanese cocktails in an homage to one of Kamei’s masterpieces. Let it whisper to you – kampei!

To remember the master

East Wind

1 ½ oz Oloroso sherry
1 ½ oz blanc vermouth
½ oz apricot liqueur
2 dashes orange bitters

Stir ingredients together with ice and strain into a favorite glass. Lemon twist.


For more from Akio Kamei:

Top Shelf

Double Trouble

The Game is Afoot!

Get Lost!

https://karakuri.gr.jp/craftsman/kamei/

Saturday, October 17, 2020

Championship Round



The Champion by Eric Stevens

I’m unlocking a new edition of “Locks and Libations” this week to feature another fantastic creation from magician and inventor Eric Stevens. You will recall just a few weeks ago I presented his “Tumbler” box, the first puzzle box I have ever seen that is made completely from playing cards. Now let’s look at another one of his unusual, innovative and original ideas – a puzzle lock made entirely from playing cards. Stevens explains the evolution of these puzzles: “Since playing card puzzles don't exist (and have never existed, at least according to my research thus far), I had no frame of reference for anything, so every mechanism and methodology had to be devised from scratch. I watched as many puzzle solving videos as I could to see how others went about crafting their creations with the aforementioned mediums of wood and metal, and did my best to adapt what I had been inspired to build in a useable form with what I had. Most of what I have made, however, has been relatively original. My process changes depending on the puzzle. Sometimes I will sketch out my concept first and then change it after I have built the prototype, while other times I will build the puzzle and then sketch what I am happy with.”

Flush with details and extras

The Champion, so named in order to give a sense of accomplishment to anyone who masters its secrets, will surprise you. This is a real puzzle lock, make no mistake, which requires at least six distinct steps of discovery and execution in order to release the shackle and solve the puzzle. Granted, it is made from playing cards, so must be handled gently, but Stevens has reinforced it well. Each Champion is thirty cards thick, in places, giving it a more solid feel than you might expect. It turns out, there are a lot of secrets one can hide inside playing cards, and some aspects seem almost like a magic trick, which is not so surprising considering the maker. Stevens spares no detail to enhance the experience, and includes a built in holder for the shackle once released, an acrylic stand to display the lock, and an elegant gift box full of supporting material and the sealed solution. He will even customize the lock with special playing cards, like these purple “Monarchs” which are fit for a king. Solving this lock will give you a royal flush.

Monarch by Douglas Ankhar

Let’s toast this special Champion with something appropriately royal, the Monarch cocktail, an elegant martini of the modern era. The cocktail was created by London mixologist Douglas Ankrah, who is notorious for another one of his inventions – the “Pornstar Martini”. A modern classic that is either loved or hated, his salacious cocktail was created for the opening menu of Townhouse, an influential London bar of the early two-thousands during the new cocktail renaissance. He thought up the drink, which contains passion fruit and vanilla vodka, and is served with a side of champagne, in an instant, as he recalls, and it has been provoking reactions ever since.

A sovereign sip

On that same opening menu he presented something quite a bit more reserved and refined. The Monarch is a gin martini, as true martinis should be, although it also veers dramatically away from the classic. The addition of lemon juice really places this cocktail outside the martini realm entirely, but at that time all gin or vodka drinks were called martinis. St. Germain, a liqueur made from delicate white elderflowers, was all the rage at the time as well, and remains a lovely nuanced way to sweeten a drink. Finally mint adds a nice touch and additional element to elevate the drink. This cocktail is sure to please just about anyone, but today we serve it to the Champion. Cheers!

This pair is one of a kind

Monarch by Douglas Ankhar c. 2003

2 oz gin

½ oz St. Germain

½ oz fresh lemon

¼ oz sugar syrup

7 mint leaves

2 dashes peach bitters

Shake ingredients with ice and strain into a favorite glass. Lemon peel garnish.

 

For more about Eric Stevens:

I'll Tumble for You

https://www.ericstevensmagic.com/