Saturday, January 28, 2017

Puzzle Or Drink?

“POD”, by Karakuri Creation Group artist Hideaki Kawashima, is a little box with a large secret.  In fact, Kawashima says that this box represents the culmination of all he has learned about puzzle box making over the last 8 years, and that’s saying something.  His boxes tend to move in unexpected ways, and interact within themselves to either assist or block the way.  They are incredibly well thought out, and often contain multiple compartments, which can only be accessed at the expense of other compartments which then remain locked.  He creates many of his puzzles to embody internal contrary forces, which are thus complimentary, interconnected, and interdependent.  It’s as though these boxes embody the spirit of Taoism.  

POD by Hideaki Kawashima

The POD box ranks as one of Kawashima’s greatest achievements yet.  It is visually striking thanks to the bold primary design it features, a “Yin-Yang” of contrasting woods set into each of the six cube faces.  The box behaves in a very unique and unusual way, which becomes quickly apparent from the moment you begin to explore it.  The functionality of the yin-yangs is revealed, and the mechanism is wonderful.  Panels start to move in every which way and you can quickly get lost or find that your way has been blocked.  Yet there is a poetic symmetry and characteristic logic underneath it all, which, once you recognize it, leads to the solution.  The box requires at least 20 moves to open, depending on how you count.  The purist in me puts it at 30 moves, with each move counted separately.  Either way, it’s one of the most complex boxes Kawashima has created, and one of the most entertaining.  An additional anecdote is worth mentioning, about the name of the box.  He did not want to give away even the slightest hint with the name of the box, as he has done with some of his other boxes (e.g. R-L Box, X Y Box), so struggled for a while to come up with an appropriate name which contained no clue.  He hit upon it one day when he observed that the ‘yin-yang’ design could also be seen as Roman alphabet letters – “p” “O’ and “d”.

Notice the "p" "O" and "d"? You might have to twist your mind around it ...

For one of my favorite artists, I thought I would toast with one of my favorite cocktails.  I’ve written about the storied “daiquiri” before, that simple yet simply perfect combination of rum, lime juice and sugar.  Much maligned and confused with the frozen slush, fruit sweetened and sad slurper which many think of as a daiquiri, the original was the simple and elegant combination of rum, lime, and sugar.  Hemingway and JFK were famously infatuated with them, and so am I.  To prove it, we won’t even settle for one daiquiri, but for this special box, we’ll have two – a “pair of daiquiris”.  

The Pear of Daiquiris cocktail

The first uses standard simple syrup and Plantation’s Pineapple “Stiggin’s Fancy” rum – a potion I have mentioned before along with another puzzling pineapple.  The folks at Pierre Ferrand teamed up with cocktail historian David Wondrich to recreate an old-time pineapple rum the likes of which would have been imbibed in Dicken’s day.  They have done it again, this time to create an overproof dark rum known as Plantation OFTD (Old Fashioned Traditional Dark, or as it is also fondly known Oh F* That's Delicious).  The OFTD rum is the brainchild of a team of seven leading rum aficionados led by Pierre Ferrand's master blender Alexandre Gabriel.  Such a rich and tasty rum holds up well to a bit of acidity, and the second daiquiri uses the OFTD rum with a spiced pear “shrub” (a sweetened drinking vinegar) to great effect.  Put these two delightful daiquiris together and you’ve got a prefect pair.  Of course, I had to take it a step further (I’m a glutton for pun-ishment), so this is the “Pear of Daiquiris” cocktail.  Here’s to contradictory yet interdependent forces, light and dark (rum), magnificent puzzles and the culmination of our collective experiences. Cheers!

Puzzle Or Drink? Go ahead, have both.

The Pear of Daiquiris

1 oz Plantation Stiggins Fancy Pineapple rum
1 oz Plantation OFTD rum
1 oz fresh lime juice
½ oz spiced pear shrub
½ oz simple syrup

Shake together over ice and strain into a favorite glass.  Garnish and enjoy with balanced energy.

For more about Hideaki Kawashima:

For prior puzzles by Kawashima:

For prior daiquiris:


  1. Is there a recipe for the spiced pear shrub?

  2. Here you go (I use the cold press technique here):
    Add equal parts fruit and white sugar in a non reactive container. No need to peel the pears but use ripe, washed pears cut into pieces. About a cup of each is good to start. Also add spices you might like - I used 1/4 cup fresh ginger, cinnamon and cloves. Let it sit in the fridge for 2 days or so then add 1/2 cup apple cider vinegar. (Most shrub recipes start as equal parts vinegar as well but I preferred to tone it down for this recipe. If you love more vinegar, go for it). Combine and strain into a glass bottle. Shake occasionally to dissolve remaining sugar over the next few days. Enjoy!