Saturday, November 21, 2015

Two Hands

Get ready to exercise both sides of your brain for this installment.  You’ll need the logical left side and the artistic right side to fully appreciate this particular puzzle pair pairing and potion pair pairing, and puzzle and potion pairing.  Hmmm, perhaps I should explain myself.

A puzzling friend of mine, who also hails from Houston, Texas, has been quite successful developing his unique ideas into reality, with the help of many different artists.  Matt Dawson has contributed designs and concepts behind the scenes on many well known works.  His collaboration with Yasutoshi Makishi on the Pagoda puzzle series even spawned his own puzzle moniker, “MakDaw”.   Another of his highly successful collaborations was with the brilliant puzzle maker Robert Yarger, who has his own well known moniker, “Stickman”.  This pair of puzzlers did not, thankfully, lead to any more monikers, such as “DawMan” or “StickDaw”, but you never know.  

The Ambidextrous Hexduos by Matt Dawson and Robert Yarger

Matt worked with Robert in preparation for IPP 30 in Japan to prepare his exchange puzzle that year, the “Ambidextrous Hexduos”, which he designed and which Robert brought to life.  The “ambis” are a pair of small cubes, which have a secret opening mechanism, of course, but with quite a twist.  As the name might suggest, the trick involves a bit of ambidextrous dexterity with this duo of right rhombohedrons.  In fact, neither box can be opened without the other, simultaneously.  The majority of the puzzles were made from basswood for the exchange; however, Robert also created a limited set of pairs made with exotic wood inlays left over from prior Stickman designs.   These inlayed versions have strikingly colorful, contrasting angled stripes around each box which make for a very distinctive look.  The boxes are moderately difficult to solve and present a unique challenge, and a great aha moment once you understand how they work.  Your artistic and logical brain will enjoy the beauty and mechanics at work by this pair of puzzler’s puzzles.

One box opened ... ?

Of course, we need a well crafted cocktail to compliment these dynamic duos, says the right brain.  Actually we need two cocktails, replies the left brain – one for me and one for you.  How creative of you, compliments the right brain.  It’s only logical, demurs the left.  The left brain then reaches for the “Right Hand” cocktail, a combination of aged rum, Carpano Antica sweet vermouth, Campari, and 2 dashes of chocolate bitters.  This tasty treat was created by Michael McIlroy from Milk and Honey and Little Branch in New York City.  The left brain analyzes these ingredients and suggests that the combination of a base spirit (rum here), vermouth and Campari makes this a variation of the classic Negroni cocktail.  The right simply enjoys this incredible variation, which balances the rich flavors so well, and calls it, “just right.”  

The Right Hand by Michael McIlroy

On the other hand, Sam Ross, also from Milk and Honey and Little Branch in NYC, suggests using a fine bourbon as the base spirit here instead of rum (or gin, as in a classic Negroni).  His variation, featured in Jim Meehan’s fantastic PDT Cocktail Book, is known as the “Left Hand” cocktail.  He describes it as a marriage of a Manhattan (rye and sweet vermouth) and a Negroni.  Of course, a bourbon based negroni is also known as a “Boulevardier”, a drink we have discussed in detail previously for the “Red, White and Bourbon” cocktail.  The right brain thinks that it is acceptable artistic license to rename the drink after the simple addition of some chocolate bitters, as it reaches for the “Left Hand” cocktail.

The Left Hand by Sam Ross

While comparing these two different but so similar cocktails, the brains have a hard time deciding which they like better.  The fine aged rum tastes almost like aged whiskey, but smoother (and you know how I love aged rum), while the bourbon adds a spicy kick which is so nice.  Whether you prefer yours with gin, aged rum, bourbon, or an altogether different base, this cocktail platform always seems to work out.  Now, as you contemplate these excellent offerings, you are left (right?) with the age old drinking problem of two hands, one mouth.  If you’ve solved the ambidextrous hexduos, however, you can probably work this one out as well.  Cheers.

Right Hands and Left Hands required ... Cheers!

Right Hand by Michael McIlroy:
1 ¾ oz aged rum
¾ oz Carpano Antica (sweet vermouth)
¾ Campari
2 dashes Bittermens Xocolatl Mole Bitters
Stir with ice to chill / strain into a cocktail glass

Left Hand by Sam Ross:
1 ¾ oz bourbon
¾ oz Carpano Antica (sweet vermouth)
¾ Campari
2 dashes Bittermens Xocolatl Mole Bitters
Stir with ice to chill / strain

For more information on the Right Hand Cocktail:

For more information on the Left Hand Cocktail:


  1. You forgot the title!
    Lovely puzzles - I very nearly bought them when they came out but my box inhibition stepped in!


    1. Thanks Kevin, lack of sleep. And you've really got to get over your inhibitions!

    2. I am a Jewish boy (albeit not a good one)! I have a LOT of inhibitions!!!