The only problem with spending many weeks focused on a rare and mythical masterpiece (i.e. the Apothecary Chest) is deciding what to do once the series has wrapped. Fortunately I feel like all the fine puzzle boxes are masterpieces, and indeed they all bring something new to discover. Let’s step back and admire our old friend and champion of the modern day puzzle box, Japanese master Akio Kamei. His original works have graced these pages time and again and I suspect will continue to do so for as long as I keep this up. He has crafted some of the most timeless designs and invented the mechanisms which made them legendary. He is well known to enjoy making people think outside the box – a saying which takes on new poetry when considering the medium in which he works.
Another one of his many classics is “The Box with a Key”, a lovely little chest of walnut with decorative miter splines and functional wooden hinges. The box has a keyhole on the front and comes with a clover headed key. As if it weren’t obvious, Kamei teases the solver with the statement that usually, the key is turned in the lock to open such a box. But not in this case! Try as you might, turning the key has absolutely no effect. Which is why it is truly madness that you keep trying. The solution, known to many, is a revelation of design brilliance and one that unfailingly puts a smile on your face the first time you experience it. Kamei knows the key to a great puzzle, and we are forever in his debt.
This time of year is always perfect for an Old Fashioned cocktail, with the seasonal flavors of fall stirred into the mix. For this classic, old fashioned puzzle from Kamei, I’ve turned the key to another old fashioned, the classic drink of spirit, sugar and bitters. The “Black Key” is a richly satisfying rum old fashioned which was originally created for Mount Gay Black Barrel rum, a dark rum blend which is finished in bourbon barrels. Maple syrup for the sugar really hits the right notes for the fall. I’ve kicked up the autumn notes in my version with the use of Besamim, a delicious liqueur full of seasonal spice flavors including cinnamon, nutmeg and clove. Angostura and orange bitters grace the original, but I’ve also played with those as well by using Black Cloud Black and White Bitters, which bring flavors of chocolate and vanilla to the party. The key here, if it isn’t obvious, is to stir things up as you see fit, and turn them in a new way. Here’s to playing with the recipe. Cheers!
The Black Key (original) The Autumn Old Fashioned
2 oz blended dark rum 2 oz aged rum
1⁄2 oz pure maple syrup ½ oz Besamim
1 dash Angostura bitters 2 dashes Black and White bitters
1 dash orange bitters
Stir ingredients with ice and strain into a favorite glass. Garnish with orange peel and puzzle over something new.
For more about Akio Kamei see: