June 22, 2013

Summer Happy Hour: Bourbon Cures What Water Can’t


The cure for anything is salt water––tears, sweat, or the sea. –Isak Dineson

Chlorine will do, too, though lake-swimming is my favorite, especially when there’s a quarter-moon of sandy beach hugging the edge of the water. It started twenty-five years ago at Margaret Lindley with plastic buckets, shovels, tadpoles, and a sign announcing a water temperature best suited to the brave, and more recently on hot Minnesota nights, where we drove out past County Road F and felt the temperature drop through the open windows and would sneak in the water after dark. There doesn’t have to be any rule-breaking for sweet relief. Just the other weekend, my sister and I pulled into a parking spot and handed a life guard $6 for two adults to wade into a flooded quarry so cold, we dunked our heads under the surface, and ran right out. Then we sat on our wet towels and ate cold turkey sandwiches on a green sloping lawn under the shade of a tree. It was the best thing we could have done that June afternoon.

She’s taking the waters, they say in 19th century books about the sick seeking cures in healing springs. But I’ve found, for everyday ailments at least, any water will do. Even the windowless, subterranean pool at the Y, where the water splashes out from the shallow end and onto the tiles, where the politics and egos of lap swim are almost enough to keep me away. Even a bath tub will do in a pinch.

My closest and most appealing waters are around the corner about a half-mile from my parents house, in the pool my brother tucked behind the L of this house. There are two orange foam noodles, floats with drink holders, and an inflatable cooler. A plastic ladder descends into the cool water. If we run around the edges, the water swirls in a lazy river effect. There’s a view over the rail of the wood fence, past the tree line, and into a field he cleared by hand. It feels secluded back there, with a view of openness too, so that it’s secluded and still there’s a sense of expansiveness. It’s easy to float there, weightless and filled with wonder.

A dip is all I need, and then I slip my dress back on and my wet feet back into my clogs and ride back to Mom’s on my bike in a soaked swimsuit to eat a chicken and mayonnaise sandwich in the quiet of the kitchen. This is summer. I always seem to forget its idyll. Out of the city, the evening air thick with honeysuckle and mown grass, the sky a pale watercolor wash of pink and blue, and some nights too warm for more than a blanket across my legs.

Someone asked me recently if my daily routine changes in the summer. For me, the change is all about the openness of those evening hours when the sun still hangs in the sky past 8. There are no more hours in the day today than there were in February, but if I can stay away from the television and ride my bike in early evening light so bright it feels like late afternoon, the day feels longer, more expansive. It can contain a little adventure, and more lazy moments, too.

I’ve been laying off the sauce lately, but late June seems to call for cocktail hour. So after the bike ride, after the evening dip, and while I’m throwing together a meal with zucchini and basil that practically cooks itself, there is a drink. Last summer it was a classic daiquiri. This summer, it’s a slight twist on that. Lemon juice instead of lime, local raw honey instead of sugar, and bourbon in place of rum. It’s my favorite kind of drink––small and strong––and if water and bike rides haven’t taken the edge off the day, one of these will do the trick. It also makes another cure, those salty tears, much more likely to spring, seemingly out of nowhere.


Bourbon, Lemon, and Honey

Measuring doesn’t seem very summery, does it? I sort of eyeball this drink. Add more lemon if you like, and if you want to drown the flavors a bit––not everyone likes such a potent cocktail on a hot day––float some club soda on top. The room here for experimentation is great. You could serve this up in a dainty little cocktail glass, and fresh mint or thyme would be lovely additions.

I take an empty jam jar and pour in some bourbon (probably about 1 1/2 ounces). Then I stir in a rounded teaspoon of honey until it dissolves. Squeeze in the juice of half a lemon. Taste here to see if you’d like the drink sweeter or tarter and adjust accordingly. Add several ice cubes, screw on the lid, and shake. Place an ice cube or two in a small glass, pour drink over ice, and serve.

Related Posts with Thumbnails


  • Jessica: That Isak Dineson quote is so beautiful, but I agree with you that it should extend to all kinds of water…and even a little bourbon, now and then. And that jam jar shaker trick is genius! Such a perfect summer idea.2 years ago

  • Cadi: I do love a bourbon drink, any time of year. And the simpler the better. I think I need to go find me a jam jar and get to shakin’.

    And taking the waters = yes, even if it’s just a bathtub with a ledge to set said bourbon cocktail on. A swim, a soak, there’s something about that weightless fluidity that sets things right.2 years ago

  • Julie: Ooh, I love this, Sarah. A perfect ode to the expansiveness of days that we get to float into right about now. Yay for bourbon and bike rides and always taking a swim.2 years ago

  • Lana: Ohhhhhh, bourbon. How I love thee. As soon as Grace gets her cast off we will be heading to the clear lakes of Southern Illinois. Most of them are tucked into areas of dense, green trees and surrounded by white, rocky cliffs. I can’t wait! Except I sit on the edge. Lake water weirds me out. :)
    http://www.mondaysnugget.com/2 years ago

  • Stacey: Absolutely LOVELY.2 years ago

  • KD: Beautiful post. You really captured the essence of summer. Those evenings when the sun forgets to set feel like stolen hours. I’m going to have to follow your lead and make a conscious effort to cut the screen time and get outside in that glorious fading light!

    I may just have to bring my swimsuit to the gym tonight. :) Thanks for the inspiration!2 years ago

  • Lana: I thought I posted on this, but perhaps I didn’t hit enter. It’s been those kind of days, lately. :) I love bourbon and this cocktail sounds so summery and perfect. It makes me want to invite friends over for bridge (I don’t play but I’d like to learn!), listen to some old Patsy Cline and soak up the long, lazy, hot summer nights.
    Great post, Sarah!
    http://www.mondaysnugget.com/2 years ago

  • Geoff Hicks: That was lovely. I hope you make it to Dallas one of these days when it’s hot (the odds are in your favor) so I can invite you and Mr. Sarah over to try my mojito. I know I’m doing something wrong, but I can’t figure it out for the life of me. I need a cocktail doctor.2 years ago

  • Emily @ Pyrex & Pennies: I wish that you could narrate my life (including my copious bourbon and rye consumption). You make everything sound so beautiful.2 years ago

  • Heather: Sarah,
    You write so beautifully that when I receive your blog post i cannot wait to dive into the waters of your poetic prose. I have said this many times before, and i will repeat it — you are gifted !! One day i hope to read a book by you about women and feelings and how we survive the ups and downs of life and what to do with all the zucchinis our gardens give in summer. 😉
    Heather2 years ago

  • jaime @ laviejaime: beautiful post! and while i am not really a bourbon drinker, you painted a picture so lovely, i want to try this drink.2 years ago

  • Melissa @ Hilltophausfrau: Just now surfacing from a swim to chime in…Here’s to watercolour skies and bourbon!

    Happy summer to you Sarah and all the POPers too!2 years ago

  • Alice Alech: What lovely writing and good to be taken over to the other side of the pond for a few minutes.
    Taking to the waters means a trip to the blue of the Mediterranean for me but there are lots of bodies about at this time of the year.so I have to get there early.
    Zucchini and basil I have to try with lots of olive oil, mind you.
    I am happy to discover your site.2 years ago

  • Ginger: Sometimes I think my delinquent blog reading is a problem, but today, it must be meant to be that I’m so embarrassingly behind on this June entry — I’ve been craving a swim in the nearby Y’s SALTwater pool!

    And I just got brave enough to pick up some of JD’s honey whiskey to try last night, so perhaps my afternoon is shaping up!

    Add the new Civil Wars album to the mix and I’m one happy gal in August.2 years ago

  • jimmyjane: Oh! This post was just a balm to my cluttered, clutching mind! I dip in and out of your site for that very purpose, since everything you write somehow soothes my soul, whether it’s with a sunny slosh of mental bourbon or the precious knowledge that someone can articulate what I might be going through and therefore GETS IT! Thank you for all of the above.2 years ago

  • Crystal: Sarah, I am missing your voice and your perspective, your poetry of the everyday. I hope that your online absence is the result of an especially full and abundant offline summer, full of friends & family, delightful dinners and all of the other joys of living life graciously in our tech taxed modern world. I’m looking forward to seeing the world through your eyes again but hope you are feeling refreshed and renewed by your respite.2 years ago

Add a comment

If only we'd stop trying to be happy we'd have a pretty good time.
- Edith Wharton