All classic cocktails owe their longevity to stories that reinforce their intoxicating appeal, often rooted in multiple claims of origin and ownership that evoke mystery and craftsmanship. A well-balanced cocktail is like a symphony of spirits, sugar, water and bitters (the inclusion or exclusion of elements to suit individual tastes). Each flavor should play harmoniously as wind, strings, brass and percussion, with no single instrument or component dominating.
The first-century Roman connoisseur Apicius coined the oft-uttered phrase “We eat first with our eyes,” and the same goes for the art of the cocktail.
. Glass and garnish selection is an essential component of presentation, as mixologists compete to create concoctions that look as good as they taste.
A new book, COCKTAIL, A POSSIBLE LIFE, guides us on a visual quest for the best elixirs, pairing them with custom backstories. Todd M. Casey’s meticulous still life paintings illustrate vivid stories curated by Christine Sismondo and James Waller.
The compact yet comprehensive cover serves up 60 paintings by Casey along with recipes that will engage your senses and inform your cocktail banter, on sale at Running Press for $24.
Many of the images in the book are available as original paintings at Rehs Contemporary in New York, which showcased Casey’s work across subjects, including his intoxicating depictions of fine drinks, in a 2020 solo show titled Still life art.
Some people may order an apple tart, or go for a sweeter twist on the sidecar, both variants of the Jack Rose.
The cocktail became popular when Jake Barnes, the narrator in Ernest Hemingway’s 1926 novel The Sun Also Rises, sipped a Jack Rose in the bar of the Crillon Paris Hotel while waiting on Miss Brett Ashley. Writer John Steinbeck also liked the Jack Rose, which experienced a resurgence in New York City’s early cocktail bars and restaurants as hipsters embraced applejack (which can be substituted for brandy and cognac in many cocktails) for once first.
Sismondo and Waller credit a Wall Street bar for the invention of Jack Rose around 1900 and throw a baseball spin.
Casey, who infuses many still-life paintings with literary references, depicts the luxurious pink cocktail garnished with a twist of corked lemon, tempting us in an ornate disc glass, its stem reflected in the open metal shaker. Our eye is drawn to the contrasting green lemon leaves and around the composition against the background of richly textured brushes.
Casey uses a glass of cut crystal stones to bring out the subtle color of Penicillin, giving the medicinal elixir an elegant feel. A shiny metal bulb cocktail pierces a sprig of fresh ginger, while smaller pieces frame the glass, resting on a white napkin and referencing Casey’s ubiquitous citrus leaves and reinforcing the need for lime juice. fresh.
Sismondo and Waller compare Penicillin to a cold Hot Toddy, another popular self-medication.
Whole, halved and sliced oranges appear against the lush blue background, the ruby focal point focusing our gaze. Casey plants a red and white striped straw atop an orange leaf and in front of the Aperol Spritz, garnished with what appears to be a sprig of mint leading our eye to the sliced orange reflected in the glass.
What now seems like a simple popular breakfast and drink by the pool takes some skill to pour, Sismondo and Waller advise.
A book for all seasons, you’ll learn new myths about old favorites and rediscover old-time classics that reappear decades later in chic cocktail clubs. Travel through history from Prohibition Detroit to contemporary Seattle, drinking The Last Word and taking a Paper Plane ride to New York City’s Lower East Side, a world-class destination for cocktail culture enthusiasts where grit and glam mix effortlessly. Casey’s images are timeless and recipes are ever-changing, thanks to decades of bartending rivalry and the swings of social change.