Saturday, December 12, 2015

I'll Tell You a Secret

Would you like to hear a secret?  Who doesn’t like to be in on a good secret?  Mysteries, codes, hidden treasures, all excite because in part they hold a secret which we might be able to access, if we are clever enough.  The allure of the puzzle box relies on the secret, on knowing there is a hidden way in, and on finding it if we can.  Cocktails, on the other hand, are hardly mysterious.  Their allure lies in the stories inside the glass, the swirling history of one of humankind’s earliest inventions and all the people who have left fingerprints on it ever since.  There are so many great stories, it’s usually easy to find a cocktail to pair up with a puzzle box, or to modify one slightly.  In this case, the cocktail came first, practically begging for inclusion in this quirky endeavor of mine.  The holiday cocktail called “The Secret Catch” could easily be paired with almost any puzzle box, which, by definition, always holds a secret catch which must be discovered.  

Secret Base by Hiroshi Iwahara

But we have to pick one, so I have chosen the popular “Secret Base” by Hiroshi Iwahara of the Karakuri Creation Group.  Secret Base, originally created in 2007, is an incredibly fun puzzle box which has been so popular that Iwahara developed 13 official design versions over the years, using different wood inlays on the top and modifying the mechanisms and center piece for stability.  The box has a simple but surprising and elegant motion which reveals the first space inside.  The real challenge is to find your way into the second space, the secret base.  Iwahara mentions that he was inspired by Japanese animations which featured an underground, secret base, containing a robot hero.  To save the day, the base would swivel its shutters open and the hero would fly out.  This should give you some idea of how this box works, initially.

The Secret Catch by Ivy Mix
Just in time for the holiday season arrives “The Secret Catch”, a delicious cocktail to enjoy while sneaking your way into the Secret Base or just sitting by the fire.  This decadent egg nog evokes a dense and nutty fruit cake, as intended by its creator Ivy Mix of Brooklyn’s Leyenda by incorporating sweet sherry.  Mix was nominated this year for Best American Bartender of the Year.  

Aged rum works incredibly well, too. Don't forget the fresh nutmeg!

The original recipe calls for aged cachaça, a sugar cane based spirit popular in such cocktails as the Brazilian Caiphirinia. I substituted an aged rum, another sugar cane based spirit which keeps the recipe close to its intentions.  After all, you well know I am quite fond of aged rum.  The Secret Catch is rich, warm, spiced and luscious.  It may be the best egg nog I’ve ever had.  These could be quite dangerous on a cold night by the fire or at your next holiday gathering.  To be entirely safe, you should test them out ahead of time.  A few times.  Here’s to a cozy fire, a sumptuous cocktail (you deserve it), a lovely puzzle box and the start of the holiday season.  Cheers.

These are two secrets you should not keep to yourself

The Secret Catch by Ivy Mix:
11/2 oz aged cachaça
½ oz Pedro Ximenez sherry
¾ oz heavy cream
½ orgeat
¼ oz cinnamon syrup
1 fresh egg yolk (pasteurized if preferred)
2 dashes Angostura bitters
Dry shake (no ice) all ingredients then shake with ice. Strain into a glass and garnish with grated nutmeg

For more about Hiroshi Iwahara:

For more about Ivy Mix:

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