Saturday, September 14, 2019


What’s Up, Doc? I’m dialing back into the Japanese Zodiac, all the way to 2011, the Year of the Rabbit. Currently we are in the Year of the Pig, but I promised not to make political jokes here (don’t be such a Boar). Shiro Tajima, former Karakuri Creation Group artist gone solo rogue puzzle maker, created a clever animal series of puzzle boxes based on the signs of the Japanese Zodiac. He made it through nine of the animals, some of which I have featured here before (the Rat (mouse), the Ox (cow), the Tiger, the Rabbit (this one!), the Dragon, the Snake, the Horse, the Sheep and the Monkey) and has theoretical plans to someday complete the set of the three remaining (the Rooster, the Dog and the Boar).

Magic Hat by Shiro Tajima

The Year of the Rabbit is one of Tajima’s most recognizable and adorable creations. I know it’s a fan favorite for many as there is a significant overlap between puzzle lovers and magicians, and Tajima’s “Magic Hat” bridges the two worlds nicely. It depicts the not-so-clever Baron Rabbit, who has gotten himself stuck half in and half out of the Magician’s Hat. His poor little front paws are barely sticking out, and his lower section is all but lost. At least he’s dressed appropriately, in his fine evening jacket. If you can help set him free and open the puzzle box, you might just get to see the rest of him, and be relieved that he hasn’t actually been cut in half. The puzzle is beautifully crafted from Katsura and Walnut, with what appears to be Redheart or Paduak for the jacket. It has a clever and fun mechanism which is quite dynamic and enjoyable.

Bad hair day?

To toast this magic rabbit we’ll tip our hats to the trendy new Peruvian inspired rooftop restaurant Cabra, Chicago’s new “cevicheria” where imbibers can soak in the views at the sensational bar. Lee Zaremba, the well-known Chicago mixologist and Head Bartender from Billy Sunday, helms the new bar and has come up with a summer stunner that’s just right for this pairing.

Cabra-Cada-Bra by Lee Zaremba

He does a little trick here with bourbon, which is always a great place to start, and creates a drink so delicious it will instantly disappear. The secret lies in the lip smacking fresh strawberry cordial which shines as the magician’s assistant and will misdirect you completely. To that he adds the alluring Cocchi Rosa aperitif and … abra-cadabra … the rest is simply magic. Cheers!

Strawberry delight

Cabra-Cada-Bra by Lee Zaremba

1 oz bourbon
1 oz Cocchi Rosa
¾ oz strawberry cordial
¾ oz egg white
½ oz fresh lime

Shake without ice then with to chill and strain into a favorite glass. Garnish with a few drops of aromatic bitters, or a wily rabbit in a hat.

Strawberry cordial:
1 cup fresh strawberry, tops removed, sliced. 1 cup water, 1 cup sugar, 1 lime zest. Combine ingredients and simmer over low heat until sugar has dissolved. Add lime zest and let cool. Strain through mesh and refrigerate for up to seven days.

This pair is magical

For more about Shiro Tajima see:
Monkey Business
Pooh Corner

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