Saturday, November 28, 2020

Shaking Things Up


I’m about to shake things up here at Boxes and Booze – figuratively, literally and otherwise. Next week I’ll be launching a new site which will allow for some much needed functionality. Some folks come for the boxes, and some for the booze, so to speak, and I’ll finally be able to offer some proper hospitality around these parts. Getting the new site shipshape will take some time but I think, and hope, it will be worth the effort. I’d love your feedback and support, so once it’s live please sign up and follow along. I’ll also be launching a new series featuring something really special, so stay tuned!

Canfield-Shaker by Rocky Chiarro

What we really need in order to get ready for this celebration is something to help me with the  shake up - perhaps a cocktail shaker, don’t you think? Let’s see, I’m sure I have one around here somewhere … ah what’s this? The final installment of the Rocky Chiarro Picture Show, that’s what! After that fortuitous encounter with Jerry Slocum in 1995, Rocky began to receive request for his brass puzzles from all over the world. Twenty-five years, and over fifty unique puzzle designs later, he realized that he has misplaced many of the solutions to his puzzles. Which is to say, in this case, the designs themselves. Rocky only ever created his puzzles by starting with the solutions, and how the puzzle would work. His son helped him compile all of the solutions to his many puzzles from over the years, and they are now published in Rocky’s new book, “Puzzle Sculpture”.

this is a good sign ...

There’s one puzzle that is not in that book, however, because Rocky likes to shake things up too. I once asked him if he would ever consider making a cocktail shaker puzzle. He thought for a bit and finally asked, “well, how would it work? I need to know the solution before I can decide about making a new puzzle”. I suggested something along the lines of, “I don’t know, maybe you have to …” and I suspect you can guess what that might be, so there’s no need to spell it out! Rocky pondered and tinkered, pondered and tinkered, and at one point let me know he was having a ball just coming up with different ways to achieve that solution. At last, he presented me with the final result, the CANFIELD-SHAKER, a Brass Puzzle by Rocky that I am most proud to display.

“If you don’t like being here you will not be here that long; attitude is the key.” – Rocco Chiarro

El Morocco by Gabriel Lowe

Rocky turned ninety-one this past week, and that calls for a toast! This is one solution I’m happy to divulge, and I knew the moment I read about this cocktail whose puzzle I would be pairing it with one day. It originates with a bon vivant travel and culinary writer from the nineteen forties names Charles H. Baker, who wrote for Esquire and Gourmet magazines, and published a few notable books on the subject as well. His “The Gentleman’s Companion: Being an Exotic Drinking Book (or, Around the World with Jigger, Beaker and Flask)”, 1939, remains an amusing resource for classics but is most admired for Baker’s colorful stories and amusing writing style.

a shaker from Baker

The excerpt from the 1946 edition of his Companion reads: “This is from the field notebook of a trusted friend on a Mediterranean cruise in 1938, and dated from Tangier, North Africa. Take 1 pony each of cognac, red port wine and ripe pineapple juice, putting it in a shaker with lots of cracked ice. Flavour further with a tsp each of grenadine and orange Curacao; and make tart with 2 tsp of lime juice, strained. Shake and strain into a tall flute cocktail glass with a stem … personally we have come to omit all grenadine. The port gives it all the sweetness needed, also pretty colour.” San Francisco bartender Gabriel Lowe of the Cognac Room revamps the Baker classic with modern proportions that produce a delightfully delicious cocktail. The ruby port is there to give “pretty colour” and he keeps the grenadine, and you should too. Happy Birthday Rocky!

cocktail, shaker

El Morocco adapted by Gabriel Lowe from Charles Baker, c. 1946

1 ½ oz California Brandy

½ oz ruby port

¾ oz fresh lime

½ oz pineapple gum syrup

¼ oz grenadine

2 dashes Angostura bitters

Shake with ice and strain into a favorite glass. Lime wheel or lemon shaker garnish. Cheers!

For more about Rocco Chiarro:

Loafing Around

Brass Glass


In Bloom

1 comment:

  1. Wow, what a cool story! Happy birthday, Rocky! Nine more years to a full century!