Literary and Drinking Round Table continues with E. E. Cummings
Fear No Fate - the Cocktail and a Poem
Bar Chef Laura tells us why she loves E. E. Cummings and her latest cocktail named for a line in the poem. Read the poem here.
As far as cocktails go, the fear no fate is the most personal for me. It’s about my favorite things, my favorite flavors, my heritage and my philosophy. The drink is made with my Bulleit Bourbon, a spirit I love. My favorite vermouth, Carpano Antica, has a floral essence that balances the heaviness of a balsamic vinegar and molasses syrup that is infused with cinnamon and grapefruit.
I am half German and half Italian, but I carry the last name of Bellucci, so that part of my decent tends to get noticed more often. Carpano Antica and Balsamic vinegar both have delightful flavor profiles, but I chose them as a nod to my Italian heritage. Growing up, I spent a lot of time with the Bellucci side of my family, most of whom live within an hour of one another all over Long Island. When you visit one, you end up visiting them all. Their loud, boisterous nature and nearly constant cycle of cooking and eating are a part of my soul now. And, as is often the case with Italians, food, love, and family are completely inseparable for me. One of the most familiar elements of New Orleans, for me, was the unspoken tradition of talking about what foods you have previously enjoyed, and what you plan on consuming next, while eating your current meal.
My Grandma, Anne ‘Cookie’ Bellucci, always has something on the stove, something to snack on in the meantime, and she always serves meatballs and red sauce on Mondays. She uses food as a tool to take care of every one she loves, from her cherished granddaughters to the next-door neighbors’ son who helped her paint the kitchen. This “Mangia! Mangia!” mentality of loving has worn off on me, and it influences the way I serve my cocktails, hopefully using my creations to take care of my guests, to brighten their lives while sharing something of myself.
When I can, I love to compose complex syrups with lots of ingredients on the stovetop. I’ve been cooking since I was very young, both my father and mother are amazing cooks, my Dad makes mind-blowing Italian food and my Mom, who spent her childhood moving around the south and the Midwest, is incredible at comfort food and desserts. Grandma Cookie also was adamant that I learn to cook, because for her it is also the art of cherishing others. Preparing a more complex cocktail syrup (so I supposed I can’t call it simple) is as enjoyable to me as making a robust marinara sauce or a scrumptious chicken soup. This particular one, a mix of different types of sugar, balsamic vinegar, grapefruit peels, and autumn spices, was a happy accident. I tried to make a shrub and couldn’t get it right, and ended up adding a bunch of things to try to balance it. Frustrated, I almost threw it out, but instead just indignantly tossed it in the back of the fridge. I tasted the murky concoction the next day and I think it has to be one of the best syrups I have ever made.
It follows that the name of the cocktail should also be very personal, and it is. My favorite poet is E. E. Cummings. Like me, he was New Englander, with ties to Massachusetts and New York, and we happen to share a birthday. It is Cummings’ style of poetry that resonates with me – He is incredibly well versed in classic literary structure, but he ends up pioneering this incredibly quirky, visually oriented, free-verse form. He writes beautiful sonnets, but also fragmented single-line poems that cascade down a page with all kinds of strange punctuation. As opposed to learning the classics and then tweaking them to improvement, I like the idea of learning the classics and then completely ignoring them and doing what comes naturally, however bizarre and ridiculous it may seem. I hope this comes through in my cocktails. I don’t usually start with a Manhattan and update it – I just experiment until I find something that makes me smile.
I borrowed a phrase from one of my favorites by Cummings, ‘i carry your heart,’ which is a really beautiful poem about loving someone, and carrying that joy with you wherever you go. I chose a love poem because I value, above almost anything else, connections with people. When you find people who love you for you, in all of your weird, unpredictable magnificence, life feels more livable. Having love creates a buffer for the abundant blows that life so routinely deals. We can only survive this endlessly exciting tilt-a-whirl ride with a solid cushion of love between us and the metal. When you surround yourself with good people, everything is less scary: essentially you fear no fate.
Michael Ende, who wrote one of my favorite stories of all time, The Neverending Story, has this quote: “There are many kinds of joy, but they all lead to one: the joy to be loved.” For me this describes the core of who I am: Above all else, I want to love and be loved; caring for others means the whole world to me. No matter how many wonderful people I know, I’m always trying to make a new and genuine connection, because you can never have too many of those moments. That’s why this city remains so strong; New Orleans is full of people who, no matter how bleak the world seems, keep themselves openhearted, open to the possibility of new connections. One way I channel this philosophy, probably largely due to my Italian tendency to express caring through consumable goods, is through mixing drinks, quirky drinks that take you out of the ordinary and make you smile.
Here's the cocktail:
Fear No Fate
1.5 oz Bourbon (preferably Buffalo trace)
.5 oz Balsamic shrub
.5 oz Carpano
.25 oz dolin dry
Served up with the oil of lemon peel, expressed and discarded