Smoked Rose Brandy
Even though I wasn't yet school age, I was an explorer, and never turned down the opportunity to accompany my dad on trips to the mall. His desire, to buy pipe tobacco, mine, to adventure in the underworld. It was a different era, when malls still felt new and exciting. Our local haunt was unlike the bright, open-air shopping malls of today. It was a labyrinth of low ceilings, winding windowless corridors, and walnut railings.
Our destination was the inner-most chamber, where we'd descend a heavy wooden staircase below the main deck. Therein lay the tobacco and knife shops, and the source of the jetting, carnival-colored fountain. It was a world below the forest, dim, and a little dangerous, the air heavy with humus and humidity. Its allure was unmistakable. I clutched the bottom of my father's jacket to gather the protection needed to enter the spellbound world. Though my knees trembled, I desperately wanted to step into the subterranean depths, the underbelly of my sunlit playtime, where the fountain mist left my skin sticky, and I certainly saw glimpses of elves and ogres.
Why is it that wind stirs such dark memories, makes you fearful as a five year old? Tonight, it blew like all holy hell, stringing raw tension in the air, and my head. As the windows and light fixtures rattled, the smell of tobacco leaves breached the cracks. Something had to give.
At 9 p.m., a neighbor knocked at the door, "is my tree in your yard?" The wind had been so violently loud that I never heard his tree get uprooted, take out the fence, and get blown into my house.
What a night. After the winds and the excitement died down, a drink seemed in order.
Smoked Rose Brandy
This drink begins with a brandy that I made last summer by infusing fresh wild rose head and twigs in brandy. The resulting brandy dreams of summer, merely hinting at pink petals and bumble bees.
If you've got it, a small twist of orange zest is a nice addition to the brandy before it is smoked.
To smoke the drink, I used the same technique I used for smoking a shrimp appetizer under a glass with embers of Ponderosa pine bark. You can click the link to that recipe to get the full explanation of the technique. The short version is that you place a large glass or bowl over your filled brandy glass and a piece of smoldering bark to trap the smoke. The smoke adds only the barest hint of mystery to the drink, and most of the pleasure comes from the sugar cookie-laced scent that greets your nose when you lift the glass from over the brandy.
Inspiration for this recipe goes to my friend, Theo. Ever since Chef Adley at the Pinyon mentioned that he had used Ponderosa pine bark to smoke whiskey, I've not been able to shake the image from my mind.