Saturday, June 22, 2019

Connecting the Dots

“Life imitates art far more than art imitates life” – Oscar Wilde, 1891

Color-colo by Yasuaki Kikuchi

Wilde was contemplating the phenomenon that what we experience in life, at times, is directly influenced by our notions of art. We see a beautifully painted sunset which evokes certain emotions, and we then experience those same emotions when viewing a real sunset. Or so the theory goes. It has larger implications in a world controlled by media, but I digress. I’m just here to talk about a puzzle box.

A new twist on an old twist

This one, the “Color-colo” by Japanese artist Yatsuaki Kikuchi of the Karakuri Creation Group, who wanted to imitate a Rubik’s Cube with his creation. That puzzle, invented in 1974 by Erno Rubik as an architectural model, is an iconic symbol known all over the world. So in this case it seems that art is imitating art. The Rubik’s Cube is not a puzzle box, of course, unless you consider this one, so Kikuchi had to take some artistic license here. His cube does not twist into over 43 quintillion combinations, like Rubik’s version. No need to repeat that feat of wonder. Kikuchi’s cube is sized to comfortably fit in the hand and crafted from walnut, maple and cherry woods. It features little multi-colored dots all around, and it lives up to the expectations created by the original that it imitates, in that the goal is indeed to align all the colors on each side, like a real Rubik’s Cube. The box turns out to be quite dynamic, and it is satisfying and fun to engage the mechanism. The name may confuse some Westerners not familiar with the many common forms of onomatopoeia in the Japanese language. They love words that sound like what they are describing. Like this one: ゴロゴロ which describes the sound of something rolling around. If you don't know Japanese, the word is pronounced like, well, "color-colo" - say it a few times fast and you'll see. It's a great pun and play on the word in Japanese, and also gives a little hint about how the box works. What a wonderfully creative homage and festive box by this clever new designer.

Singapore Sling

For the toast, I actually developed this pairing in reverse. I have wanted to feature the classic “Singapore Sling” cocktail for a while, but couldn’t decide what box would pair with it, until it struck me that this one would do quite nicely. Many will know the famous nickname for Singapore, which derived from its depiction on many world maps as simply a “little red dot”. The term is now used proudly in self reference by this thriving independent nation. The Color-colo cube has little red dots all over it (and many other colors too, of course, but life is imitating art here, ok?).

The original recipe, c. 1900 ... 

The “sling” family of cocktails arguably predates the actual “cocktail” and may have been a bridge from the popular punches of the early 1800’s in America to the cocktail itself. A sling back then was essentially a single serving of punch, made with spirit, sugar and water, but no bitters. Things got much fancier at the turn of the next century, especially at, say, the famous Raffles Hotel in Singapore. They were famous for their sling, made with gin, lemon (or lime), ice, soda water, and … other stuff. The other stuff is so mysterious because there are now so many versions of the drink and the cocktail history books are not so helpful. A modern day Singapore Sling at the Raffles includes pineapple juice, cherry brandy, Benedictine, grenadine and bitters too. But Historian David Wondrich has combed the old newspaper archives from Singapore and established what is likely to have been the true additions in the original version: red cherry brandy (the drink was historically pink), lime juice, and Benedictine (and a few dashes of bitters). I’ve chosen to make Whitechapel’s version (a modern gin joint in San Francisco) of this classic, which sticks to the original formula. It’s one of the best. Cheers!

Dots a nice pair

Singapore Sling (Whitechapel)

1 ½ oz London dry gin
¾ oz Cherry Heering
¾ oz Benedictine
1 oz lime
3 dashes Angostura Bitters
Club soda

Build the ingredients in an ice filled Collins glass, top with the club soda, and give it a stir. Garnish with a little red dot.

For more from Yasuaki Kikuchi see:
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