Wednesday, December 16, 2020

Midnight in Drohobych

Originally, this drink, that I designed after translating Bruno Schulz's "Undula" and in honor of its release, which took place at midnight in Schulz's hometown in western Ukraine, was called the Republic of Dreams. But after the book launch, I decided Midnight in Drohobych was a better name and more of a specific reference to my work on Schulz. I've been teasing the recipe for months, often simply forgetting to post it as soon as I mention it. And it's been several weeks since I made one. But now's the time to share it with the world.

My 2020 project, thanks to a cocktail book I received last Christmas as well as to the circumstances of life in a pandemic, has been to educate myself on cocktails, liquor, and liqueurs. I've educated my palate, to say the least. I've taste-tested rums, vodkas, tequilas, and triple sec-style orange liqueur vs brandy-based orange liqueur. I've developed a taste for both sweet and dry vermouth, I've come to adore Lillet blanc, and for the first time in my life I actually like both frozen and fresh margaritas as well as other tequila-based drinks, with the right tequila, of course.

I know I hate the taste of anything with red dye, so Campari- and Aperol-based drinks are out. I know that I don't appreciate a Vesper because it's just too boozy; there's no nuance. I know Sidecars really are just too sweet for me. I now know when an inexpensive bottle is perfectly fine for a drink and when you really should splurge for something spectacular. I've tweaked the Tumbleweed recipe until its sugary sweetness has been adequately subdued by the fiery chili liqueur, which is what I appreciate more.

I've made my own simple syrups, both flavored and plain. I've made my own flavored rim salts. I regularly, as in monthly, make my own ginger syrup for Moscow Mules and Dark and Stormys. I've made my own coffee liqueur. I make my own grenadine. I will try to make my own orgeat in the next few days.

And I have most of the equipment required to run a public bar. I've learned to shake and stir like a professional. My garnish game is impressive. I can rim a glass better than your grandma. I can juice like a whiz and muddle like a motherfucker. I've even successfully converted a handful of drinks into frozen versions: the Bichon Frise and the Corpse Reviver No. 2, especially.

All this to say: I didn't just throw some shit together to make the Midnight in Drohobych.


  • 1 oz horilka, or Ukrainian or Polish vodka
  • ½ oz ginger syrup
  • ½ oz seltzer
  • ¼ oz cinnamon schnapps
  • ⅛ teaspoon absinthe


  • coat the sides of an old-fashioned/rocks/lowball glass with absinthe
  • fill glass halfway with ice (or with 1 large ice cube) and set in freezer to chill
  • add horilka (or vodka), ginger syrup and seltzer (or 1 oz of ginger beer), and schnapps to a mixing glass, fill mixing glass ¾s full with ice, stir for about 15 seconds
  • strain mixing glass contents into chilled old fashioned glass
  • pinch orange peel over drink and rub peel across the rim
  • garnish with an orange slice

With its cinnamon and ginger and hint of anise, this drink should definitely be enjoyed during the winter holidays. I like ginger beer a lot, so feel free to use less ginger syrup and more seltzer. For seltzer, I typically rely on Topo Chico, which is my favorite bubbly water. Absinthe is something you should, if you can, splurge on. I prefer Pernod, though you can replace it with any anise-based liqueur. Cinnamon schnapps--because Cinnamon Shops--can be replaced with just about any cinnamon-based liqueur; Tuaca, for example, has a cinnamon and vanilla liqueur that also works in this drink.

Sip responsibly!

Tuesday, December 15, 2020

Haunted Future

The future is haunted. It's something that I've known for a few years now. I first recognized this state of affairs while reading the English translation of Ivo Andrić's The Bridge on the Drina. I had had it on my shelves for a couple of years already before choosing it for a trip to western Germany.

The book was just so good that within the first hundred pages I felt certain that because of age and several other circumstances that it would be near impossible to read the novel a second time. It was the first time I remember being so piqued by the bittersweet closing in of time. I savored my time with the novel, knowing that it was probably not ever going to be repeated.

There actually really are few books I've read more than once. When you exclude the books I've taught or that played an important role in my research, the list becomes even scantier. Nobody cares, least of all me, now, that I read Being and Time, Martin Heidegger's analysis of human being as time, no less than three times in 2008. Yet it was the first, and only, time I read Andrić's book, which I can't even remember if it was before or after having read Being and Time, that attuned me more to the question of my own time and the shutting off of possibility. It was my reading of The Bridge on the Drina that showed me the abrupt retreat of a future that remains both unwritten and illegible.

Since then I've read other novels that have meant just as much to me if not more. And time's retreat grows ever sharper and more vivid. There are just so many hours in a day, a week, a life. And from the shit books I've read, even those I've read multiple times, I know I'll never get that time back. I can only shuffle toward the future surrounded by these ghosts from the past that are all the more ghostly for no longer showing themselves on my shelves.