Saturday, August 10, 2019

Born This Way

Some ideas have existed forever, since time and consciousness alike, have always been, and some ideas are Born. It’s always fun to present a new puzzle from Jesse Born, because his name allows for so many creative expressions. Wordplay aside, his boxes are simply wonderful, full of new ideas, logic, surprise, and beauty. His creations just keep getting better, and his newest is no exception.

Jack in the Box by Jesse Born

Jack in the Box was born from an idea Jesse had for Art of Play, the innovative modern curiosity shop created by twin brothers Dan and Dave Buck in 2013. The shop curates beautiful playing cards from artists around the world (among many other puzzling curiosities). Jesse had in mind a small puzzle box which would hold a deck of cards. He felt the original design wasn’t quite right and ran out of time with Art of Play, but continued to work on it with his fried Josh Gant, a machinist who has been helping in Jesse’s workshop. Between them, with additional help from Jesse’s brother Steve who simplified the design and came up with the name, they produced the final prototype over a two month period (while Jesse was working on another, bigger, “Secret” project …).

Beautiful wood contrasts and a Yosegi Spade inlay

Jesse wanted to add a yosegi spade on top of the box as a cool design feature, which took him a while to perfect. He uses the double bevel marquetry technique, and may be the first to have ever done this using yosegi as well. The final box is really nice, crafted in rich dark Wenge wood with a contrasting Holly border. There’s also Bocote inside, and the yosegi spade is made with Cherry and Walnut. It fits perfectly in the hand and has a soft smooth finish. Overall it requires six or seven moves to access the deck of cards inside, a nice sequence with a couple of little aha moments. The box strikes a good balance between subtle trickiness and keeping you from the cards. It’s a great way to carry a deck, although probably too beautiful to use day to day. Jack in the Box was entered into the 2019 Nob Yoshigahara Puzzle Design Competition.

Joker's Wild by Thomas Waugh

For the Jack in the Box puzzle box I made a Joker’s Wild cocktail, a crazy unusual and delicious creation from one of the great mixology innovators, Thomas Waugh, who served as head bartender at New York’s famed Death and Company for many years. In this drink he used Pacharan, a liqueur from the Navarra Basque region of Spain where blackthorn sloe berries grow wild. Similar to sloe gin but made with a sweet anise liqueur base, Pacharan (Patxaran in Basque) has additional infusions of coffee and cinnamon. I made a quick homemade version with sloe gin, coffee liqueur and Arak, a Lebanese anise liqueur, but the traditional Spanish liqueur is available in specialty stores as well. 

A wild assortment of flavors

The drink is based with Pisco, the Peruvian clear grape brandy, and combines it with all the surprising flavors in Pacharan plus a little vanilla sweetness. Finally a few dashes of absinthe ties things together. Wild! I’m always amazed at drinks like this one, with such a mix of surprising flavors that would not seem to go well together but somehow create an unexpectedly delicious drink. Here’s to Jacks and Jokers – may they always be surprising and wild. Cheers!

A Straight Flush

Joker’s Wild by Thomas Waugh (2011)

½ oz Pisco
1 ½ oz Pacharan (I used 1 oz Sloe Gin, ¼ oz Arak and ¼ oz Coffee Liqueur)
2 dashes absinthe
¾ oz lemon
½ oz simple syurp
¼ oz vanilla syrup
Club soda

Shake initial ingredients with ice and strain into a favorite tall glass with ice. Top with club soda and garnish with shaker foam, or a festive card juggling Jester riding a unicycle. Cheers!

For more about Jesse Born:

For a prior cocktail by Thomas Waugh:
Moon Cocktail

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