Saturday, September 10, 2016

Double Crossed

Last week we set sail to southern destinations while listening to some Crosby, Stills and Nash, exploring the incredible Cross Box by Robert Yarger, and enjoying the classic Southern Cross cocktail by “The Only” William, a famous bartender of the day in turn of the (20th) century New York City.  We’ll continue our journey south, following our starry guide in the southern hemisphere, the “Southern Cross”.  Leaving Oklahoma and the Stickman Cross Box, we make our way down to Texas (don’t mess with us) where we find another master of wooden puzzle madness named Randal Gatewood.  He ups the ante with not one but two crosses, in his “Double Crossed” Puzzle Box.  

The Double Crossed Puzzle Box by Randal Gatewood

This beautiful box is crafted from Argentine Walnut and Palo Blanco Acacia woods and features bow tie splined corners, an internal aromatic cedar liner and an amazing all wood double action hinge inside which raises the lid in a fascinating manner.  On top of the box there is a prominent cross outlined in contrasting wood.  Exploration reveals that each of the twelve sections of the cross can move, although most appear to be locked in place initially.  The name of the box is a play on words, since this cross will make you cross as it double crosses you.  As you slide pieces about (if you can even get the first piece to move at all), you will likely find that your progress has suddenly been erased by this devious device.  At times you will need to hold things in place to prevent this from happening, and towards the endgame there is a move requiring you to hold back not one, not two, but three separate pieces at once in order to make the next move.  It’s like a game of puzzle box twister.  You are finally rewarded with an interior as beautiful as the exterior, and can marvel at the meticulously crafted wooden hinge and wonder how all those internal springs and set-backs can be made entirely out of wood.

This one will double cross you, and give you hell. (sorry, couldn't resist)

Continuing the theme, we can up the ante on “The Only” William Schmidt’s Southern Cross cocktail as well.  We’ll swap out the base spirit of white rum for something quite a bit bolder and funkier, some Smith and Cross Jamaican rum.  This distinctive rum, which has a dark caramel color from molasses, is made from some very unique pot stills and dates back to 1788.  It is presented at “Navy Strength”, which is 57% alcohol by volume (114 Proof).  Navy strength was the minimum percentage of alcohol needed to still be able to ignite gunpowder if it were to be soaked in the spirit (sailors of old could never be too careful).  It’s also how we got the term “proof” – as in, this rum ration better not be diluted – let’s soak it in gunpowder, ignite it, and see the proof.  It became the standard concentration for rum in the British Royal Navy, back when daily rum was good for soldiers.

The Double Cross, adapted from William Schmidt

Jamaican rum is also often fermented with wild yeast, which can add an odd, strong flavor (let’s just call it “funky”).  Now we’ve got Smith and Cross in our Southern Cross – it’s a double cross.  In case you missed it.  If that wasn’t enough (it was, truly) I’ve swapped out the classic brandy for an intense apricot “rakia” brandy, of which I’m particularly fond.  So double cross your fingers and hope you get to try one of the Southern Cross versions for yourself someday soon.  I’m sailing on into the sunset now, my destination a puzzle, but I’ll see you here next time on our next journey, and leave you with another soulful sailor’s song, this time from Van Morrison: “Hark, now hear the sailors cry, smell the sea, and feel the sky, let your soul and spirit fly, into the mystic.”  Cheers!

Don't be cross if you're seeing double ...

The Double Cross (adapted from William Schmidt circa 1891):

1 ½ oz Smith and Cross Jamaican rum
½ oz apricot brandy
1 oz fresh lime juice
½ oz demerera syrup
1 barspoonful orange curacao

Shake ingredients over ice and strain into a glass filled with crushed ice.

For a prior puzzle box by Randal Gatewood please see:

For the original Southern Cross cocktail:

For other rum cocktails see:

A Plethora of Pineapples

Nota Bene: Sadly, our friend Randal Gatewood died earlier this year after a battle with cancer.  He will be missed.  Please read a few words about his life and sign his guest book here:
Randal Gatewood Obituary

The "Gatewood" cocktail, created in his honor by Houston's Chris Frankel and seen here with one of his puzzle boxes.

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