Penny for your thoughts? In fact, here’s three, in case you have a few. To prepare ourselves for this payment let’s travel back to the year 1728 and listen to the “Beggar’s Opera” for some puzzling inspiration. That opera, considered to be the most popular theatrical work of the eighteenth century, was a sort-of “anti-opera”, set in Victorian England with the aim of poking fun at and satirizing the melodramatic Italian operas famous at the time, and the results were clearly enjoyed by the masses. Instead of rich orchestral music, it used popular tunes of the day and starred regular working class characters. In 1928 the work was translated into German by Elizabeth Hauptmann and produced as the “Three Penny Opera” by her lover Bertold Brecht (who claimed it as his own work) and who updated the music to reflect the times once again. The opera’s most famous character is Macheath, a rogue scoundrel who is better known by his moniker “Mack the Knife”.
|Three Penny Box by Thomas Cummings|
At this point you may be wondering what all this has to do with Boxes and Booze, and I don’t blame you. Don’t ask me, though. Ask Thomas Cummings, the devilish designer of devious delights over at Eden Workx, his puzzle box making brand. His “Three Penny Box” is another one of his characteristic boxes, which usually have a uniquely clever mechanical feature adorning the top of a sturdy handmade wooden box. As with his other boxes, this has well-tended details, stains and patinas applied to give it an old fashioned appearance. The Three Penny Box is also made from salvaged nineteenth century wood, a nice touch for the theme. The defining feature however is the set of vintage British pennies which slide and rotate around the top. Some are quite old, dating as far back as 1883, and this is no coincidence. Search carefully around the box and you will find other details and clues. Keep your wits sharp and you’ll be fine – just watch out for ‘ole Mackie – I’ve heard he’s back in town.
|Vintage British Pennies|
Three British pennies won’t buy much tea these days, but it might have been enough for a spot in Victorian England. Here’s a lovely “tea” cocktail to toast the Three Penny Box I discovered recently at one of Houston’s fine establishments, Weights + Measures. The “Penny Royal Tea”, created by Seth Cunningham and Nicole Meza, is a tasty tipple featuring an Earl Grey tea syrup and the trendy new Italian liqueur Italicus.
|The Penny Royal Tea by Seth Cunningham and Nicole Meza|
Tea syrup is an incredibly tasty way to add unique sweetness to any drink, and works so well in this one. Italicus is technically a rosolio, an Italian aperitivo wine made from rose petals dating to the 15th century and considered at one time to be the “drink of kings”. This version was brought to life by Guiseppe Gallo using a family recipe from the 1800s which highlights prominent bergamot and cedro flavors steeped with many other botanicals. The result is a bright citrus burst of sweetness begging to be added to prosecco, gin, or delicious cocktails like this one. I’m mixing one up for Jenny Driver, Sukey Tawdry, Lotte Lenya and old Lucy Brown. If you’d like one too, well that line forms on the right, babe. Cheers!
|This is a cocktail fit for Royaltea ...|
Penny Royal Tea by Seth Cunningham and Nicole Meza
1 oz gin
½ oz Italicus
¼ oz orange liqueur (e.g. Gran Gala)
¼ oz Elderflower liqueur (e.g. St. Germain)
¼ oz lemon
½ oz vanilla syrup
¼ oz Earl Grey syrup
1 egg white
Shake ingredients vigorously without ice then briefly with ice. Strain into a favorite glass.
|A pretty pair of pennies|
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