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.