Saturday, October 17, 2020

Championship Round

The Champion by Eric Stevens

I’m unlocking a new edition of “Locks and Libations” this week to feature another fantastic creation from magician and inventor Eric Stevens. You will recall just a few weeks ago I presented his “Tumbler” box, the first puzzle box I have ever seen that is made completely from playing cards. Now let’s look at another one of his unusual, innovative and original ideas – a puzzle lock made entirely from playing cards. Stevens explains the evolution of these puzzles: “Since playing card puzzles don't exist (and have never existed, at least according to my research thus far), I had no frame of reference for anything, so every mechanism and methodology had to be devised from scratch. I watched as many puzzle solving videos as I could to see how others went about crafting their creations with the aforementioned mediums of wood and metal, and did my best to adapt what I had been inspired to build in a useable form with what I had. Most of what I have made, however, has been relatively original. My process changes depending on the puzzle. Sometimes I will sketch out my concept first and then change it after I have built the prototype, while other times I will build the puzzle and then sketch what I am happy with.”

Flush with details and extras

The Champion, so named in order to give a sense of accomplishment to anyone who masters its secrets, will surprise you. This is a real puzzle lock, make no mistake, which requires at least six distinct steps of discovery and execution in order to release the shackle and solve the puzzle. Granted, it is made from playing cards, so must be handled gently, but Stevens has reinforced it well. Each Champion is thirty cards thick, in places, giving it a more solid feel than you might expect. It turns out, there are a lot of secrets one can hide inside playing cards, and some aspects seem almost like a magic trick, which is not so surprising considering the maker. Stevens spares no detail to enhance the experience, and includes a built in holder for the shackle once released, an acrylic stand to display the lock, and an elegant gift box full of supporting material and the sealed solution. He will even customize the lock with special playing cards, like these purple “Monarchs” which are fit for a king. Solving this lock will give you a royal flush.

Monarch by Douglas Ankhar

Let’s toast this special Champion with something appropriately royal, the Monarch cocktail, an elegant martini of the modern era. The cocktail was created by London mixologist Douglas Ankrah, who is notorious for another one of his inventions – the “Pornstar Martini”. A modern classic that is either loved or hated, his salacious cocktail was created for the opening menu of Townhouse, an influential London bar of the early two-thousands during the new cocktail renaissance. He thought up the drink, which contains passion fruit and vanilla vodka, and is served with a side of champagne, in an instant, as he recalls, and it has been provoking reactions ever since.

A sovereign sip

On that same opening menu he presented something quite a bit more reserved and refined. The Monarch is a gin martini, as true martinis should be, although it also veers dramatically away from the classic. The addition of lemon juice really places this cocktail outside the martini realm entirely, but at that time all gin or vodka drinks were called martinis. St. Germain, a liqueur made from delicate white elderflowers, was all the rage at the time as well, and remains a lovely nuanced way to sweeten a drink. Finally mint adds a nice touch and additional element to elevate the drink. This cocktail is sure to please just about anyone, but today we serve it to the Champion. Cheers!

This pair is one of a kind

Monarch by Douglas Ankhar c. 2003

2 oz gin

½ oz St. Germain

½ oz fresh lemon

¼ oz sugar syrup

7 mint leaves

2 dashes peach bitters

Shake ingredients with ice and strain into a favorite glass. Lemon peel garnish.


For more about Eric Stevens:

I'll Tumble for You

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