Sunday, August 30, 2015


If you look to the heavens this time of year, in the north - northeastern sky at sundown, you may be able to find a bright constellation in the shape of a “W” or “M” depending on your perspective.  You would be looking at Cassiopeia, the Queen of Ethiopia and mother of Andromeda (who floats nearby along with her hero Perseus).  She is doomed to cling desperately to her throne as she circles the north star, often upside down, for boasting of her own beauty over that of the sea nymphs, or so the story goes.  The prolific Japanese puzzle box master Akio Kamei of the Karakuri Creation Group is well known for his inventive, often complex mechanisms and his beautiful woodworking skill.  He must have been inspired by the stars when he created his constellation themed boxes based on the “Great Bear” (the “Big Dipper”) and “Cassiopeia”.  The Cassiopeia 3 box is an evolution of the original which simplifies the opening mechanism into only two moves while retaining the original concept and beauty.  This version is made of rose and katsura woods and is adorned with the constellation it is named after.  In an upper corner of the box sits the north star as well.  The box is astonishing in that its solution incorporates a unique navigational mechanism which can be intuited by looking to the stars.

The Cassiopeia 3 by Akio Kamei
There were a few cocktails I considered pairing with this lovely puzzle box.  Since Cassiopeia was a queen, I considered the “Queen’s Cocktail”, an drink originally found in Harry Craddock’s Savoy Cocktail book from 1930.  This tasty tipple is a variation of the “perfect martini”, which requires half sweet and half dry vermouth along with the gin.  In the Queen’s Cocktail, pineapple juice is also added.  In recent times this cocktail has become associated with the other “Queens”, the borough of New York City, and is often found along with the "Bronx" cocktail.  As much as I love New York, that wouldn't retain the proper spirit.  Another “Queen’s” cocktail is the “Dubonnet Cocktail”, a mixture of gin and Dubonnet rose liqueur, which is an herbal and quinine based spirit created in the mid nineteenth century.  The mixture creates an elegant type of gin and tonic which also has the distinction of being Queen Elizabeth’s favorite cocktail. 

The Compass Rose Cocktail - this drink is stirred, not shaken ...
But in the end I paired the Cassiopeia box with an equally lovely cocktail which combines cognac, Campari and maraschino liqueur (and I am not talking about neon red maraschino cherry juice, heaven forbid, but fine cherry liqueur).  A three ingredient drink which includes Campari is almost always a Negroni variation in my opinion, so is automatically off to a good start.  This combination works incredibly well, with a great balance of flavors and complexity.  It’s called the “Compass Rose”, and I will leave its connection with the Cassiopeia box for you to contemplate.  Look to the night sky for a little mythological or mixological inspiration of your own.  Cheers!

Let the stars be your guide ...

For the Compass Rose cocktail created by Jimmy Patrick:

For more about the work of Akio Kamei:

1 comment:

  1. I love this box! I do not understand how he could make a mechanism that does such an amazing thing but it is a thing of wondrous delight as well as beauty!

    Campari takes me right back to my youth! Yummy cocktail!