April 20, 2011

Happy Hour: Good Morning Heartache

by Payman Bahmani

Good Morning Heartache

Being out of the country for nearly a month has a tendency to adjust a person’s perspective of “home.” Home has had various meanings and geographical locations in various moments in my life. Conceptually, it means numerous–and sometimes conflicting–things at one time, and all this really came to light on my recent trip to Iran. Depending on how the question is asked, for me home can either mean Iran (where I was born), Los Angeles (where I grew up), or New York City (where I now live).

In the final days of my trip, it was the lattermost of the three homes that was most on my mind. I once heard someone refer to NYC as the great Roman Carnival, a place where the spectacle is ordinary, and even if the spectacle is unsightly, it’s one you can’t walk away from. The rat on the subway track may as well be the city’s mascot, because it so neatly encapsulates the love-hate relationship many residents feel toward this city: that even those disgusted by it are unable to turn their eyes from it. Those who live, or have ever lived, in this city for a significant amount of time might understand what I’m referring to.

On my flight home I felt as if all that I loved and hated about NYC was rolled up in one great tangled ball of string. Below is my attempt at untangling that ball.

Good Morning Heartache
1 1/2 oz Gin (Beefeater 24 is ideal because of its tea botanicals)
3/4 oz fresh tangerine juice (I used honey tangerines)
1/2 oz fresh lemon juice
1/2 oz lapsang-honey syrup (see recipe below)
1/2 oz egg white (organic farm fresh eggs)
6 dashes Bar Keep Baked Apple Bitters

Garnish: small pinch lapsang souchong tea leaves, heated 20 seconds in microwave
Tools: shaker, strainer
Glass: chilled coupe or cocktail glass

Add the gin, egg white, and honey syrup to a cocktail shaker and dry shake (without ice) vigorously for 15 seconds to emulsify and froth the egg. Add the remaining ingredients along with lots of cracked ice and shake again until the drink is well mixed and chilled, about 10 seconds or so. Strain into your glass and garnish by adding atop the drink a pinch of dried lapsang souchong tea leaves that have been heated in the microwave for 20 seconds.

Lapsang-Honey Syrup
In a small pot bring one cup water to a boil. After water boils, turn off heat and add five teaspoons lapsang souchong tea leaves and allow the tea to steep for five minutes. Make sure tea leaves are submerged in the water and stir every minute or so to ensure teas give off maximum flavor. After five minutes strain out the tea leaves and discard. To the remaining tea add an equal amount of honey and stir to fully dissolve. You now have a smoky, sweet syrup that’s ready to use in the cocktail.

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Good Morning Heartache is my ode to all that is New York City–it’s good, bad, pretty, and ugly. Now judging by the way this cocktail looks and tastes, it’s clear I have more love than hate for this city. That’s because to me, even the ugly in this city is pretty, if not altogether more beautiful than the pretty itself. When I went about creating the recipe I wanted to represent that, and I tried to create something that engaged multiple senses.

This cocktail is inspired by couple of things that are unique to this city. First, it is an homage to old New York, the city we think of when we describe the great Harlem Renaissance and the Jazz Age. Those of you familiar with that era will instantly recognize that the name of the cocktail comes from a classic Billy Holiday song.

There are few people I can think of who better represent that era than Lady Day, as she lived and breathed the city in so much of her music. Although I’ve never heard the song Good Morning Heartache officially interpreted in this way, I’ve always thought it was an extended metaphor for New York City; that the lover she’s singing to in the morning, the one that she can’t stand to be apart from despite the grief he’s caused her, is the city itself. And in that sense the song was the perfect name for this drink.

I also wanted to invoke this theme by engaging the senses, and I did so via the various ingredients I used, such as the lapsang-honey syrup. Imagine if you will the sweet voice of Billie Holiday in a smoke-filled Harlem nightclub in the 1930s—that was a big inspiration for combining the smoky lapsang tea with the honey, and also why I use the heated dried tea leaves as a garnish atop the drink. Not only do you get a sweet smoky sensation on the palate, but also on the nose as the aroma wafts above the drink.

Secondly, this cocktail is inspired by a classic New York tradition, brunch. Sure other cities have brunch, but in New York brunch is a religion.  It is the city that turned the word brunch into a verb. The cocktail not only represents that in its name, but also in its ingredients. Tea, honey, tangerine juice, and egg, are all items you’d find at a traditional brunch table. This cocktail, as the sum of those parts, is also intended to be right at home on the brunch table.

Here’s to the beautiful decay that is home.

*Got a cocktail question? Hit me on twitter @paystyle, email me at payman(at)lifesacocktail(dot)com, or simply drop me a comment below.

4 Comments

  • Posted April 20, 2011 at 12:16 pm

    Beautiful!

  • Kayoko
    Posted April 20, 2011 at 2:03 pm

    This post might be my favorite Happy Hour of all time. It really hit me on different levels: my love for the Jazz Age (much of the reason why I moved to NYC), my love for the city, all while totally hating at the same time too.

    You’re right, anyone who has lived in NYC for a long time will understand these conflicting emotions brought on by NYC. It’s like an abusive relationship. It took me years to build up the courage to finally leave it. And still, I think about NYC every day.

    Billy knows exactly what I’m talking about. As do you.

    Can’t wait to try the Good Morning Heartache… sit down.

    ps: Confession: Brunch is starting to grow on me…

  • Posted April 26, 2011 at 5:22 pm

    Absolutely gorgeous
    Loved the idea of the cocktail, the writing on the recipe and the photograph as well

    Living in Madrid (spain), I don’t know if I’ll be able to find lapsang.
    Any suggestions on other tea varieties?

  • Posted April 29, 2011 at 10:36 am

    Alberto – I’m glad you enjoyed the article, and thanks for the kind words.

    I’m surprised that you wouldn’t be able to find lapsang tea in Madrid, but if you can’t, perhaps yerba mate would make an interesting substitution. I think yerba mate is available in Spain right?

    I think with mate you’ll be able to accomplish a smoky character, although the rest of the flavor profile would be different. But I still think it’s worth a shot. In fact I think I’ll try that next.

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