Welcome to Cocktail Hour, the Friday afternoon newsletter where I offer drink suggestions, book recommendations, cute critters, binge-worthy shows and even a little advice.
If you enjoy it, please consider subscribing. If you already do, please tell a friend so I can mainline my brain straight into both of your inboxes. Cheers! 🍸
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Happy Friday, y’all. We made it! So it must be time for Cocktail Hour.
I've done some top-notch Auntie-ing this week and really nailed Christmas presents for my nieces. You know what is hard to find in rural Montana? Youth art classes. But I found three artists where my nieces live who are willing to offer one-on-one lessons in glass blowing, print making and concrete face sculpting.
Meanwhile, Lovey and I are making plans to spend the holidays in Knoxville with his family and then a few days by ourselves in New Orleans. I will eat all of the po'boys.
I know I keep promising something special in Tuesday's newsletter. And many of you may have realized I haven't sent one out in a minute. I'm sorry about that.
Have you ever overthought something and gotten in your own way? That's where I'm at with this Bar\Heart experiment. I have ideas! All of the ideas! But I get crushed in the details and and second guess the vision and find myself twirling around in the forest with no idea how to get out. Everything just feels too big and a too inconsequential at the same time.
I know the answer is to just take one step forward. Or listen for the river and follow it downstream. I am trying to do that but can't quite hear the gurgle. I really want to create a space for us to talk about identity and belonging and the places/communities that nourish us -- or don't. To talk about what can bring us together. But I'm also afraid of those conversations, if I'm being honest.
Here in this space, I know we can have those good conversations. But part of this gig as a newsletter writer is being out there in public, posting on Facebook and Twitter, engaging audiences. I hadn't really thought about that when I signed up. And randos on the Internet can be mean and cruel, as we all know and I've been recently reminded. Because Facebook promotes this newsletter to new audiences, I've woken up to sex DMs and to threats of "raping your mouth shut."
I was not prepared for that, even though I know I should have been. Being a woman on the Internet is never easy. At least I have the privilege of being a cis-gender, middle-class white woman. My struggle with the public performance of my work and the work itself is nothing compared to what people in more vulnerable communities face. But it makes it hard, sometimes, to know where to start.
One thing I've found interesting is how differently I feel when my work is here versus when I write for the New York Times, for example. In that work, there is a buffer. There is an institution between me and the DMs. Here, I'm just Amy. And it feels more vulnerable.
Most of my career, I've been an editor. So I'm very clear on how to help others through this forest of self-doubt and uncertainty. But it turns out, I'm not so good at it myself. I also didn't expect that. I wasn't quite prepared for what it means to be working in isolation from an editor or newsroom. I can say that I am learning quite a bit about myself and how I like to work and where I need support.
So, all that to say, thank you for your patience as I try to figure this out and find the stories I'm trying to tell.
Thanks for listening. Now let's get to this week's Cocktail Hour!
The first time I had an Elysian Nymph, the Cocktail Goddess herself, Abigail Gullo, poured it for me at Fort Defiance bar in Brooklyn. At the time, I didn’t know I was in the presence of greatness; it was just our friend Abby at our local bar on some random night. But as I look back on that time, I can see that we were inside a moment. Our friend and our local bar would both become legends in the cocktail world. Abby has won Bartender of the Year and Difford's Guide once called her the Chanteuse of Vermouth.
We don't get to see Abby now that we're in Detroit and she's in Seattle, but The Bestie™ brings her along to every party in the form of an Elysian Nymph. And it’s the perfect cocktail for this time of year!
“They feel very holiday seasonal to me!” The Bestie™ texted me. “Sparkly, dark-ish and with more of a boozy punch than you’d expect.”
Her Elysian Nymphs were so popular with our guests at Thanksgiving that our friend Katy asked for the recipe so she could serve that at her annual Alcoholiday this year. So I figured I should share it with you all, too!
But do be careful with effervescent, holiday drinks. Like Friend Shana warned about the milk punch she made for Thanksgiving: “They don’t taste like a strong drink. You'll throw back three in an hour. An hour after that you'll be missing a shoe and uninvited from all future family gatherings.”
Nobody wants that. (Or, actually, maybe you do? I won’t tell.)
½ oz. Cognac
½ oz. Grand Marnier or other orange liqueur
Thin-cut orange wheel for garnish
Pour Cognac and Grand Marnier into mixing glass with ice
Stir gently until drink is icy
Strain into a coupe
Top with sparkling wine
Float orange slice on top
If you like the drink a tad sweeter, some recipes, like this one in Men’s Journal, call for a ½ oz. of simple syrup and ½ oz of lemon juice.
One of my favorite artifacts from the pandemic has been group texts, particular those between Lovey, me, Friend Shana and her Consort. We were just beginning to become closer friends as the world shut down, and if I scroll backward I can see the evolution of our relationship, from celebrating new jobs to photos of hot pink vultures in party hats. There's always some gem in the chat, often featuring a critter because Shana knows I love me a good critter pic. This week, we got Panda Shenanigans:
I, too, got up to some shenanigans this week, and I have no regrets.
See above. I was up to shenanigans and didn't have time to read.
A survey of more than 80,000 physicians estimated that women make 25 percent less than men over a 40-year career. Or a loss of $2 million.
1. When couples don’t agree on the vaccine. True stories from women just trying to keep it all together.
2. Climate change all but guarantees the collapse of Svalbard’s fragile splendor. I will never not look at beautiful photographs of the icy north. And we need to look now.
3. These white people is wild. If you’re watching Succession, this is a fantastic cultural analysis of the show. And even if you are not, this is worth reading. Beware: spoilers ahoy.
Remember how I can’t not look at pictures of the great icy north? Well, then, you shouldn’t be surprised that Lovey and I also love the Amazon Original show Hanna.
It might sound familiar to you. It was a 2011 movie of the same name, about a young girl raised by her ex-CIA operative father in the wilds of northern Finland. He trains her to be an assassin and avenge her mother’s death; a shady CIA dark op is trying to eliminate her. I loved it.
The first season of the TV show was, essentially, a retelling of the movie. That was the critique when Hanna came out: Same story, just eight hours instead of two. Yes, but also: Eight glorious hours.
Season 2 came out and reshuffled the narrative deck. Hanna is no longer in the woods, but back in captivity trying to rescue her friend and avenge, this time, her father.
Over Thanksgiving, the last season was released. It's a brief six episodes that takes us back into the woods and asks: What can Hanna’s future can be? Can she ever be free?
Lovey and I watched the last episode this week, not knowing it was the last episode of the season let alone of the entire show. And it was breathtaking and sad and a perfect ending to the show.
I appreciate that the director said he always envisioned Hanna as three acts and knew its arc. By not renewing for a fourth season, he trusted that vision rather than having to retread the same material with a new Big Bad for Hanna to fight. Still, I’d love to see us brought back into Hanna’s world at some point in the future and find out where that might take us and the questions we can ask about trauma, family and self-actualization.
One note: It is one of those shows that is inexplicably filmed dark, as if the producers did not have access to a large Amazon budget to buy, you know, lights.
Actually, this week, it's The Overlord, our cat.
He woke me up by using one claw to draw down my blanket and then pressing his floof paw to my mouth and staring at me murderously. Now he’s annoyed because I am extracting my revenge by disturbing his midday napping.
That’s all for this week, friends. See you next Friday for Cocktail Hour.
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Do you want to contribute to Cocktail Hour? Got a great drink with an even better back story? Book you can’t wait to recommend? A piece of advice we all need now? Something to delight us? E-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org!
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