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On Being

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Kick-ass Divas in the Land of Nod

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To CBD or not to CBD - it’s an increasingly popular topic of conversation these days. Most of us have come to believe in the efficacy of the cream for aching backs, but the jury is out on whether it can cure a whole range of afflictions from epilepsy to anxiety. The healing attributes of so many herbs and tinctures seems to ride a thin line between knowledge and faith; then again both are pretty potent integers, whether you are contemplating a cocktail or coping with daily life.

What I can offer definitively is that our two new summer drinks are trippy, for all the right ‘restorative’ reasons. Flower Child uses vodka made from a distillation of hemp seed from Humboldt Distillery, where they know a thing or two about Cannabis Sativa L. There is nothing psychotropic in the spirit, which is earthy on the nose, slightly resinous on the palate. Chappy, our wine director, who also takes great interest in our cocktail program, said from the get-go that a martini was the only way to go with the distinctive flavor of “Humboldt’s Finest,” but our bartenders, notably Terra, disagreed. By adding a hint of tarragon infused Noilly Prat vermouth, a skosh of peach bitters, muddling cucumber coins in fresh lime juice and an exuberant shake, she came forth with a truly surprising cocktail. While we may not be entering a summer of love in this country, all the more reason a little liquid joy in the glass is not amiss - which Terra has supplied in this cocktail. It’s intriguing, it’s new, and its pretty pansy and cornflower garnish comes from right here in the gardens.

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I am on record for initially turning my nose up when I heard the ingredients in our other new cocktail - I honestly thought there was no way it could work. Not only does it work, it’s one of my favorite concoctions. The artful way Alessandra has combined seemingly refractory flavors is secondary to the fact it is simply delicious, without being simple. The drink starts with a St George Chili Vodka, to which she added liquefied corn (aka corn water, puréed and strained) and Falernum, an Orgeat-like liqueur from the Caribbean with hints of ginger, lime and almonds. Lost you yet? It’s also got a Mezcal spray which lightly coats the glass before the liquid is poured, and a stellar Piment d’Ville salt rim. The Piment d’ Espelette we are using is grown and refined in Boonville by Johnny Schmidt, a friend for over forty years. You can purchase it at The Boonville Hotel in Anderson Valley or cage it online. This is a product that’s good for just about anything that ails you, and, as Alessandra proves, it makes the perfect rimmer.

Not from Kansas Anymore would have been a cool name for the drink - the creaminess of the corn water is key to the drink’s elevation of the Falernum- but that was too easy- Alessandra’s ingenuity demanded more. Then something the brilliant theoretical physicist Lisa Randall said in an interview with Krista Tippett in the always wonderful podcast On Being struck me: “we can go beyond our prejudices about things that seem obviously wrong…as they may just be obviously wrong to us.” In her new book Dark Matter and the Dinosaurs, Randall writes about what she believes is the astounding interconnectedness of the cosmos’ history and our own, fascinating, but the take away she sparked in me with this interview was that there are profound connections to be made all the time, whether we are setting about unraveling the mysteries of the universe’s hidden dimensions or just getting on with our daily lives. “The most interesting kind of creativity is constrained creativity, where you have some rules. There’s certain formulas that you have to stick to, at some level, but within that framework, can you make it interesting? Can you see how things fit together in more complex and surprising ways?” The journey I made from an initial flat reading of the ingredients in Alessandra’s drink to what she actually created was a lesson in constrained creativity, and for staying open, not letting assumptions impede passage to something interesting, revelatory, joyful. Warped Passage, the name of Alessandra’s drink, was borrowed from an earlier Lisa Randall book. Read her.

We are proud to have four distinct divas guiding our bar programs (yes, we are looking at you too, Andrew). Come in and meet them. Not dining? No problem, it’s a big bar, with a lovely garden. We will help you confound gravity.

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