Saturday, November 26, 2016

Business as Usual

There’s a flat little box I keep on my office desk at work.  It sits innocuously at an angle in the corner, minding its own business.  If you look more closely you will notice that it has a lid, with an indented finger hold on each side, where you can conveniently grasp it to take the lid off.  Crafted from walnut, it has dowel joint accents at each corner and a pleasant wax and lacquer finish.  On the lid there are a few grooved lines which complete the simple details.  It’s a handsome desk piece and appears right at home.  Mostly the box remains ignored, biding its time.  Mostly.  Once in a while, however, at the end of a meeting, or an interview, someone will ask for my business card.  And I will smile, nod and reach over to pass them the box.  Of course, the lid won’t come off.

Open for Business by Peter Wiltshire

The “Open for Business” box was created by Peter Wiltshire, a cinematographer who resides in Canada.  Usually busy directing the shots with his massive cameras and video equipment, Peter occasionally turns his considerable talents to woodworking.  He has designed a number of award winning and sought after puzzle boxes over the past few years, and the Open for Business box is his most recent offering which he made for the International Puzzle Party in 2015.  He created the box specifically to hold business cards and designed it to fool the unsuspecting non-puzzler.  This box also has one of the better names out there, and who doesn’t like a clever name?  There are only two moves required to access the cards inside, but they are cleverly hidden and once discovered will bring a smile to your face even if you are a seasoned puzzler.

Just open it for business (cards) ... simple, right?

The name and purpose of this puzzle box got the creative cocktail wheels in my brain turning.  Wouldn’t it be fun, I thought, to have an “Open for Cocktail” which needed to be “opened” to access it somehow, just like this box.  It couldn’t just be a bottled cocktail, open and pour - that would obviously be much too simple.  The challenge reminded me of another cocktail I once created, which changed from one thing to another over time – I called it a “sequential discovery” cocktail which “solved itself”.  That was the London Calling which celebrated Brian Young’s IPP Grand Prize for the Big Ben puzzle in 2015.  The drink transforms from a Gin and Tonic into a Pimm’s Cup as the ice melts.  Working from that idea, I present the Open for Business cocktail.  It starts out as the classic business person’s drink – the dry martini.  Inside the glass resides a purist’s ratio of mostly gin to a hint of vermouth.  Sitting prominently amidst this impeccable potion is an impressive ice ball.  Even more impressive is the fact that this sphere is not solid, and holds another cocktail inside.  That’s right – a combination of bourbon, lime, ginger beer and bitters are housed inside the hollow ice.  This is a mule variation (as in Moscow mule) which uses bourbon rather than vodka.  It’s often referred to as a Kentucky Mule or a Beacon Mule.  So now we have two cocktails.  But we should make it a true “Businessman’s Special” (three drinks), right?  We’ll have to … drumroll please … Open for Business.  Crack the ice ball and allow the drinks to mingle and you will have another classic from the tiki canon, a cocktail perfect for anyone unfortunate enough to be faced with this bothersome business card box: the Suffering Bastard.

The Open for Business cocktail

The story behind the Suffering Bastard cocktail dates back to World War II when in 1942 Allied and German forces were locked in the battle of El Alamein to determine control of Egypt on the North African continent.  After the long and hard fought defeat of Rommel’s forces by the British Army, Churchill declared the battle to be the turning point in the war for the Allies.  The height of elegance in the capital city of Cairo was the Shepheard Hotel, where officers and the likes of Charles de Gaulle, King Farouk and Churchill himself were known to gather at its Long Bar.  Head barman Joe Scialom invented a strong drink which masked the low quality booze available with limes and ginger beer and dubbed it the “Suffering Bastard” (the Allies were losing at the time).  It proved immensely popular, to the point that Scialom once received a telegram from the front lines requesting he deliver eight gallons to the soldiers right away. Rommel was quoted saying he would be “drinking champagne in the master suite at Shepheard’s soon”.  Perhaps he should have ordered the Suffering Bastard instead.

A Dry Martini plus a Kentucky Mule makes you a Suffering Bastard!

So beware next time you request someone’s business card – they just might present you with the Open for Business puzzle box.  You can politely puzzle your way through it while drinking these three cocktails at once – a martini as you get down to business, a mule since the box stubbornly refuses to open, and as it takes you longer and longer, and the ice in your glass melts, a suffering bastard.  I hope I’m not the only one who thinks this is hysterical.  Cheers!

Time to get down to business!

Open for Business:

1 oz gin
¼ oz Cocchi Americano
1 oz bourbon
½ oz fresh lime juice
¼ oz demerara syrup
2 oz ginger beer
4-5 dashes Angostura bitters

Add the gin and vermouth to a glass.  Combine the bourbon, lime, syrup, ginger beer and bitters, and inject into a prepared hollow ice sphere.  Carefully place the ice sphere into the glass and plug the hole with a twist.  Crack the ice or allow to melt to complete the cocktail.  Serve with the remaining ginger beer to be added as desired.  Take a bow.

For the London Calling sequential discovery cocktail see: 

To see the Open for Business cocktail in action, watch here:

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