If you have been following along with boxes and booze you will no doubt be aware of my love for Japanese puzzle boxes, both new and old in design. The original Japanese secret box (himitsu-bako) was invented over 100 years ago in the Hakone mountain region of Japan. New “traditional” type himitsu-bako are still being produced today using the classic techniques of puzzle box making and wood inlay work known as yosegi and zougan. Modern puzzle box makers have paid homage to these techniques with new classics, which add their own unique spin on the traditional designs. I’m very fortunate to live near one of the best American puzzle makers to have done so in recent years. Kathleen Malcolmson now resides in Houston, Texas, the home of Boxes and Booze as well. A few years ago she produced a series of beautiful Japanese style puzzle boxes with a twist in her workshop in the Sangre de Cristo Mountains outside Cotopaxi, Colorado, where she used to reside.
|The Sliding Panel Puzzle Box #2 (aka 16 Move Puzzle Box) by Kathleen Malcolmson|
Her “Sliding Panel Puzzle Box #2” is a lovely box made with lacewood and primavera which provide contrasting light and dark waves as they undulate across the surface in a stunning pattern. The box is also known as the “16 Move Puzzle Box”, since, you guessed it, there are sixteen moves required to open it. The twisting pattern of wood inlay is not only beautiful but hints that there is also a “twist” going on here. You will need to turn the box in the right ways along with the more traditional moves if you want to open it. This is due to the clever use of a metal pin inside the panels which blocks and locks your progress as you go. It’s worth the effort of working out the exact moves required, though, because the inside of the box is just as beautiful as the outside, with the wave pattern of wood mirrored internally.
|The inside is just as beautiful as the outside|
Kathleen has also teamed up with puzzle designer Robert Sandfield over the years to design and create limited edition wooden take-apart puzzles. Robert is known for his devious dovetail designs, which at first glance appear to be impossible to separate. Robert also lives in Houston, so to toast my puzzling neighbors I have crafted a cocktail which dovetails nicely with his favorite design detail and Kathleen’s picturesque puzzle box. The “Puzzle Box Sour” cocktail incorporates elements of two other cocktails, the “Dove Tail” and the “New York Sour”. The Dove Tail, a modern cocktail which originates from Bradstreet Craftshouse in Minneapolis, combines Grand Marnier, grapefruit, lemon and orange bitters. The New York Sour is a classic cocktail dating back to the later 1800’s. It is a fancier version of the whiskey sour, a drink whose virtues I have extolled on a number of occasions before. The New York Sour, which was invented in Chicago, of course, adds a vibrant layer of red wine over the top of the drink, resulting in a gorgeous light and dark layered effect. It reminds me of a certain puzzle box.
|The Puzzle Box Sour cocktail, with a cache of puzzle exchange offerings in the background|
The Puzzle Box Sour cocktail takes elements from each of these drinks and adds a little taste of Texas to boot, in the form of Texas Rio Star grapefruits. These grapefruits are a stunning, vibrant ruby red in color and offer the most delicious flavor of any grapefruit I have ever tried. They are a true state treasure. The "prototype" cocktail we created at Robert Sandfield's home also used Garrison Brothers, an award winning Texas bourbon, but it's flavors are too unique and overpower the balance of the drink. I recommend using a milder mixing bourbon, such as Buffalo Trace or W. L. Weller instead. The only twisting you'll need for this puzzle lies in tilting the glass to your lips, and you’ll find the solution with each sip. As for how many moves it will take to get to bottom of this “Puzzle”, I would recommend you take a studied approach. Cheers!
|A pair of pretty Puzzle Boxes|
The Puzzle Box Sour Cocktail:
2 oz bourbon (a milder bourbon will work best)
1 oz fresh lemon juice
½ oz fresh ruby red grapefruit juice
½ oz simple syrup
2 dashes orange bitters
½ oz red wine float
Shake the bourbon, juices, simple syrup and bitters together with ice. Strain into a glass and float the wine on top by pouring it gently over the back of a spoon held against the inside of the glass.
For more information on Kathleen Malcolmson: