Let’s take a walk. The path for this is a bit unclear, but I have been assured that if we keep an open mind we will find our way. Taoism, the ancient Chinese religion, is hard to fathom for most of us who prefer concrete definitions. It’s hard to define by nature – there is no easily explainable definition of what it means. The idea is to experience it, to walk the path, and find the understanding. Anyone who takes life as it comes and accepts themselves for who they are might be considered to be practicing this philosophy quite well. I’m of course no expert, so don’t take it from me. I just happen to have a few puzzle boxes which have Taoist themes!
|The TAO by Kim Klobucher|
The most recent, The TAO by Kim Klobucher, is a beautiful representation of the idea. Klobucher crafts his unique boxes from reclaimed and exotic wood species and adorns them with artistic inlays using brass and precious stone accents. His sequential movement boxes rely on a pin and groove system of mazes and at times dead ends which can be incredibly complex. Many of his creations have a “solution phrase” which assigns a letter to each moving part such that the sequence spells out a word, a set of names or a phrase. The TAO box is incredibly beautiful using cocobola with sap wood, pau ferro, tulip wood, zebra wood, wenge, gaboon ebony, and brass inlay in the shape of the Chinese character for “TAO”. Kim explains that the box, like the philosophy, has a true path and a false path. Each move might allow you to continue on the true path, or divert you to the false one. This should not upset you, though, as walking the false path will simply lead you back to the beginning, where you can start again. No one gets it right the first time, as in life, as in all worthwhile puzzles. Twenty-five moves along the correct path will reward you with a symbolic prize waiting inside.
|Which path will you travel?|
We will toast this fine philosophy with a drink, as per the custom around here. I had an initial idea for a three part cocktail along the lines of the Negroni, which has a base spirit (e.g. gin), a fortified wine (e.g. vermouth) and something bitter (e.g. Campari). What I had in mind would include Tequila (T), Aperol (A) and Oloroso (O). Aperol is a similar bitter liqueur to Campari, only a bit milder, with a more orange color and with stronger grapefruit flavors. It’s a common substitution for the bitter component. Oloroso is one of the styles of Sherry, the fortified wine from Spain’s Jerez region. There are many styles of Sherry ranging from very dry to very sweet, depending on the grapes and the process known as “flor”, which is a blanket of fermenting yeast which lies on top of the liquid. Oloroso is towards the sweeter end of the spectrum, but not the sweetest. These three ingredients technically satisfy the three parts required to make a good “Negroni” variation, and on paper they sounded potentially good together.
In fact they are not bad together, but there was something missing. If any drink needed to have proper balance, this one certainly did. All good drinks should be well balanced, of course, but I was calling this one the “TAO” for goodness sake. As fate would have it, my path led me in the right direction, where I had the fortune to chat with a few of Houston’s best creative cocktail minds. Sarah Troxell, this year’s Southwest region Speed Rack champion, suggested the initial proportions, and Lindsay Schmitt adjusted things and really made the drink fabulous with the addition of some dry vermouth and falernum, a sweet liqueur usually found in tiki drinks. That’s not too surprising, since the pair have been working on drink ideas for their upcoming new tiki bar, Toasted Coconut. But it was surprising in this drink, and allowed the nutty sherry notes to really shine. The drink finally had the balance it needed to go from interesting to amazing. Here’s to the path, let it take you where you were meant to go. Cheers!
|Tequila, Aperol and Oloroso, balanced by a few more friends|
The TAO by Steve Canfield and Lindsay Schmitt
1 ½ oz Reposado Tequila
1 oz Oloroso Sherry
¾ oz Aperol
½ oz Cocchi Americano
½ oz velvet falernum
Stir ingredients with ice and strain into a favorite glass. Garnish with an expressed orange peel, or something equally well balanced.
|This pair knows the way ...|
For prior meditations on the path see:Bittersweet
Moment of ZN