Saturday, March 7, 2009

The Paintbrush

I got it. The name, that is.

The Paintbrush...

I became enamoured, in Cape Town, of a drink gleaned from my father's foxed, '50's cocktail book. Name to follow. It listed drinks by liquor, and I opened it at random one day in search of something new. It fell open at the recipe for the inauspiciously named Missouri Mule. Gin, cassis, lemon juice. I adore cassis, am addicted to lemons, and we had run out of vodka.

So gin was perfect, since the house was full of it. My parents have a well-stocked liquor cabinet - harking back to cocktail-mixing days, now mostly past. I air the cabinet annually. My mother had also stocked up on Grey Goose for Vince, which we drank purely out of a sense of duty, and we brought a bottle of Noilly Prat from New York, since it is no longer imported into South Africa. A sign surely, of the slippery slope towards uncivilization. Well, we drank that, too. Which was just rude. I know.

Anyway. I made the Mule, and it was delicious. We drank it in small glasses. Real martini glasses, in fact, not the birdbath-sized ones we see in bars (now...but notice what they look like in old movies). Streuth, but I cannot drink anything that size anymore. Fall off me barstool....

A few weeks later, after a hot day spent painting Selina's little flat bright pink (per her request), we were thirsty, come the golden hour of 5.30-ish or so. I liked the Mule very much but I wanted something very similar but...not. At the time I mixed the new drink, it was perfect. And we named it The Paintbrush. Then I forgot the quantities. I don't measure things when I cook and mix, see. And I reproduced a lesser version at Olifantsbos.

Tonight, after an afternoon of gardening on the little terrace and being pricked soundly by the unmerciful New Dawn whose canes I was trying to organize and prune, I got it.

So (I don't do ounces - why is it abbreviated oz when it is spelled oc?- weighing liquids is ...weird. Yes, know, I know):

For one Paintbrush:

1 measure (or part, if it's for more than One) fresh lemon juice (MUST I specify fresh? Well, yes...a certain forensic pathologist of my acquaintance, who ought to know better, puts the bottled stuff on his freshly caught lobster)
1 measure cassis
1 measure dry white vermouth, pref. Noillly Prat
2 measure gin


Shake shake shake over ice. Pour.


From Evelyn Waugh's ( I had no idea he was a Catholic convert: rather casts a pall over the delicious novel) Brideshead Revisited:

"It was during this time that I began to realize that Sebastian was a drunkard in quite a different sense to myself. I got drunk often, but through an excess of high spirits, in the love of the moment, and the wish to prolong and enhance it; Sebastian drank to escape. "

Rent the impeccable BBC Brideshead series. Beautifully executed. I can hear Jeremy Irons as Charles when I read the novel. It's my second reading and I am about to watch it again as a result. I think I've seen it twice. About the only cure for the end of Mr Watson and his Shadow Country...

It is an open-door-to-the-terrace night; new daffodils in a vase beside me, ribs for dinner.


  1. Ah Waugh. . . I think The Loved One is one of the few perfect books. Perfectly wicked. Or perhaps I read it at the perfect time.

    Are you glad to have a particular voice in your head as you read? I find it's beginning to trouble me. Too much like the Photoshop visual experience.

  2. That, my dear, was a delightful drink if I ever tasted one. I'm glad we officialised it, and even gladder you just baptized it. :-)

  3. I hardly ever dreenk, almost never dreenk cocktails, but that sure looks and sounds delish! I guess the lovely color must be from the cassis. And isn't it a glorious evening?! Have the backdoor open and the cat girls are grumpily taking turns climbing up my stepstool to look out.

  4. just a minute - - - ! !
    the receipt calls for lemons and yet the picture shows limes.
    what goes on here?

  5. Er...blush. MUST you be so observant?

    Um, so...lemons OR limes! That's it!

    Mutter mutter.

  6. I prefer limes, so I'm always on the lookout.
    But also, reviewing for content is what I do for a living. At work recently I made no friends by pointing out that the food "chain" depicted in the science book began with a day lily, a species not especially renowned as a nectar plant (at least, my butterfly garden sources don't emphasize it as such);
    proceeded to an emperor gum moth, which is native to Australia, nocturnal, and -- most astoundingly for the context -- an animal that does not eat;
    and concluded with a North American house sparrow, which is primarily a seed-eating bird, and diurnal.

    That's some "chain" but I guess it's no worse than New Yorkers getting apple juice from China.

  7. I have to agree with my croft about The Loved One ... read it for the first time when I was 14 and felt very wicked indeed for doing so!

    And that recipe looks wonderful, Marie, even though I don't drink much, but I looove creme de cassis. Another favorite -- for cold days -- is black currant tea ... yum! It's good iced in the summer, too.


  8. p.s. Is this Selina of the pink flat the one who Khedi was so anxiously waiting for to come home?

  9. Melanie - that's funny about the food chain. When Holly Hunter was asked sarcastically, in the movie Broadcast News, whether it didn't feel wonderful always to be right, she answered, stricken, NO, it's awful! :-)

    Keli'i - well, you could make a thimble-sized one...and The Loved one is next on my list. I look forward to feeling wicked. It's been a while.

    QC - yes, the same Selina. She has worked for my parents as housekeeper since I was 13 or so, and during the week she lives in a little penthouse apartment built over the garage and mini wine cellar next to the house (it's larger than mine in Brooklyn, sigh. The PH, not the cellar!). She and my mom share Kehdi. One night Kehdi goes to the PH, one night my mom gets her. Although Kehdi seems very comfortable, is eating, keeps her fur in good condition, her breathing is laboured at times, and she may not be long for this world. Her sight is very poor. She visits the vet very regularly, but my mom does not want surgical intervention at this stage of Kehdi's life.

    But Kehdi can still hold up her end of a conversation very well.


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