Happy New Year! I want to thank everyone who has taken the time to follow along with me each week here on Boxes and Booze. This year has been full of wonderfully puzzling works of art and fantastic cocktails. Looking back to New Year's past, we have celebrated many different countries as they ring in the new year. We traveled to Japan and joined their tradition of eating soba noodles a few years back. We headed north to Canada to pay father time a visit. And we stayed right here in America to join a favorite artist on his origin story. This year let’s head back to Japan and bring in the new year with a traditional symbol of welcoming, the pineapple.
|Pineapple Secret by Hiroshi Iwahara|
Pineapples, most often associated with the tropics, actually originated in South America. They were introduced to European society by Christopher Columbus as a gift to King Ferdinand, his benefactor. The rare and perishable fruit became coveted by the noble classes. A famous painting of King Charles II circa 1675 attributed to the British School, 17th century depicting the king accepting a pineapple launched its popularity as a status symbol of wealth and prosperity. The English name we use today also originated in Europe, where pine cones had the same name and the resemblance stuck. However in most of the world the fruit is known as ananas (excellent fruit), from the Brazilian Tupi Indians. James Dole is credited with bringing the fruit to the masses via his plantations and canning facilities in Hawaii, where natural pollination from hummingbirds is abundant and the fruit thrives.
|Intricate carvings and twisted challenge|
In America, during the early colonial days, New England sea captains back from travels in the tropics would spear a pineapple on a post in front of their house to let friends and neighbors know they had returned home safe. It was a sign of invitation to visit, share the spoils and listen to the tales. The pineapple began to appear on innkeeper signs, furniture and architectural details as a symbol of friendship and hospitality. I feel incredibly lucky to have one of these amazing fruits to share with you all as well. Hiroshi Iwahara’s Pineapple Secret is one of the most strikingly beautiful pieces he has created and is an incredible achievement from this master of the Karakuri Creation Group. The body consists of an 18 plate polyhedron which has square plates intermixed with triangles to create a globe. The detailed carving and wood contrasts create the pineapple texture, and the delicate carved crown on top adds the final flourish. Iwahara created two versions of this puzzle, one yellow, with uniform plates, and one black, with a twist to the plates. Each is quite complex, requiring over 30 moves to solve, with multiple occurrences of blocked movement, overlaps and switchbacks. The black version is slightly trickier thanks to that twisted twist. It’s quite a challenge to solve, which only adds to its status as one of the best Karakuri boxes, in my humble opinion. I display it on my shelf as a warm welcome to all who would like to visit and experience it.
|Sherry Colada by Caitlin Laman|
An end of year toast is clearly in order as well now, and obviously must include pineapple! The classic pineapple cocktail, without a doubt, is the Pina Colada. Like any true and proper classic cocktail, the origins are murky and disputed. Some say the drink was invented by the pirate Roberto Cofresi, a Robin Hood like criminal and hero from Puerto Rico in the early nineteenth century. Others give credit to Ramon Monchito Marrero, a bartender at the Caribe Hilton Puerto Rico in 1954 (shortly after the invention of Coco Lopez, a critical ingredient in the modern version of the drink). Then there is Don Ramos Portas Mingot in 1963 at Barrachina, another restaurant in Puerto Rico. One thing is certainly clear, the drink is from Puerto Rico, and it became the country’s national drink in 1978.
|Amontillado sherry gives this classic a new spin|
I’m offering this modern twist to the classic (in a nod this pineapple's twist) from award winning mixologist Caitlin Laman of Chicago’s Ace Hotel. She brings the drink back in time by swapping most of the typical rum for sherry, which was wildly popular in the days of Dickens and has had a resurgence again as of late. It adds a robust nuttiness to the drink and turns something too familiar into something fresh and new again. Let’s approach the new year like this, with fresh new ideas which open our eyes to new perspectives and let us see things in new ways. Wishing everyone a happy, healthy and welcoming new year. Cheers!
|A welcome pair indeed|
Sherry Colada by Caitlin Laman
1 ½ oz Amontillado sherry
½ oz aged rum
1 oz coconut syrup
½ oz fresh pineapple juice
¼ oz fresh lime juice
Shake ingredients together with ice and double strain into a favorite glass. Garnish with citrus zest.
For more about Hiroshi Iwahara:
For prior pineapple posts: