Salt Water, Fresh Water, and Fire Water


Last summer I penned an ode of sorts to Irenee du Pont, an eccentric and very wealthy gentleman who raised attack iguanas, drank rum with dictators, and advocated not paving Rehoboth’s streets. He liked to refer to Rehoboth as a perfect place for weekend parties, a town of salt water, fresh water, and fire water. I couldn’t agree more.

I’m pleased, therefore, to dedicate this list of Rehoboth-centric cocktails to Irenee and everyone else who enjoys this weird little town and who partakes in some fire water from time to time.

The Mid-Morning Manhattan

Lucius Beebe, a flamboyant gourmet, and writer, listed the Manhattan in his famed Stork Club Bar Book of 1946 as a morning drink to be drunk before noon because of its “unrivaled tonic qualities as a restorative and element for firming the moral fiber.” He’s absolutely right, though I’d never have imagined it until one of my neighbors began hosting impromptu mid-morning Manhattan parties. It’s mildly decadent, especially if there’s a goody-goody among your crowd who gasps out loud and looks at his watch when he sees a silver tray of the frothy amber cocktails appear. Something about sipping a Manhattan or two on a big screened porch shaded by the pines and hollies on a summer morning and serenaded by lazy old ceiling fans just transports you back to another era.

Here’s the recipe. It’s simple because you don’t want to fuss too much over anything in the morning. Into a Pyrex measuring cup pour Maker’s Mark bourbon and sweet vermouth in a 3:1 ratio depending on how many drinks you’re making and how big your Pyrex is. Pour into a cocktail shaker, add ice, and shake. Garnish cocktail with a lemon twist or a Maraschino cherry. I tend to go for the cherry because it’s easier to just plunk one out of the jar.

A Perfect Bloody Mary

A perfect Bloody Mary should be light and not clogged with debris. It should neither taste too much of tomato juice nor of horseradish. Clean and balanced is the key. And, whatever you do, avoid that damn celery stick – it just takes up volume better devoted to vodka.

Bloodies are best served in a red plastic go-cup, never a blue one. That way you can carry it outside when you decide to do a little gardening or to wander down the street to visit with a neighbor. My father gave me this piece of advice. He also says a Bloody Mary just looks better in a red cup. And, you know, he’s absolutely right.

Here’s my recipe, which, by the way, has been very well received by locals and visitors alike. Fill your red go-cup half full of Clamato juice. Add two shots of Rehoboth’s own Blue Hen Vodka. To this base, give two dashes of classic McIlhenny Tabasco sauce, five shakes of Old Bay seasoning, five grinds from your pepper mill, and a couple of squeezes from a lemon. Garnish with a large olive.

The Dark and Stormy

Black rum and ginger beer might be the national drink of Bermuda, but, let me tell you, it tastes pretty darn swell on a dark and stormy afternoon in Rehoboth. It supposedly received its name from some British sailors who compared its look to a summer storm. Most people make the drink with Gosslings Black Seal Bermuda Rum, but, frankly, I find that any dark rum with notes of molasses and licorice will suffice. I like Puser’s Navy Rum, more for the name than anything else.

It’s a very simple cocktail to make: 5 ounces ginger beer + 2 ounces black rum
+ 1 lime wedge. Note that the recipe calls for ginger beer, not ginger ale. There is a difference.

The Back Porch on Rehoboth Avenue serves up a particularly tasty Dark and Stormy, due in part to the fact that they brew their own ginger beer. Over the years they’ve perfected the mix, and it packs a nice punch. I mention this because super talented bartender Bee once gave me the recipe when I had the bright idea of brewing my own. Well, I failed miserably and my cottage smelled like rotten eggs for a couple of days. Too much yeast.

Yum Yum Cocktail

Remember the Yum Yum cocktail? It really caught the fancy of Rehoboth fabby boys in the early years of this new century. A couple of ‘em at happy hour and you’d swear old Irenee du Pont was on the other side of the bar licking shots of Jagermeister off the abs of a hot blonde lifeguard.

Well, I’ve dug up the recipe. Unfortunately, I don’t have the exact proportions, so you’ll have to figure it out on your own — Absolut vodka, fresh lime juice, ginger-lemon grass infusion. Garnish with a dried chili pepper.

Disclaimer: drinking in moderation not necessarily recommended.

MidSummer Musings

Here’s how things stand at midsummer. The sorrel has bolted and the musk melon has run amok. Giant golden orb spiders have begun spinning their webs and the bees and butterflies have moved on from the spent lillies to the flowering anise. The screened porch is full of sand, but the mildew, thankfully, is leaving the lampshades alone. I’ve cut my hair short and stopped wearing underwear. There’s a Judy Garland CD stuck on the stereo. And the zinnias and snapdragons are nothing less than riotous.

With temperatures now hovering in the high 90’s and a seemingly unending row of sunny days, it’s almost too dangerous to work in the garden. In this drought, everything needs way too much water and twice now while waving the hose around I’ve slipped off of my cheap Brazilian flip flops and tumbled down the steps. Honestly, there were no Bloody Marys involved.

Hot, lazy midsummer days like these are best spent safely on the beach, I think, reading and napping, punctuated by refreshing dips into the cool Atlantic. The jellies haven’t arrived yet and the prevailing easterly winds are keeping the biting flies at bay.

I don’t know about you, but I find it extraordinarily difficult to focus on anything too serious in all this heat. I’m reading three books right now, but inevitably they stay buried at the bottom of my beach bag along with a bag of stale pistachio nuts. Some half-baked story ideas are in there too, crumpled up and stained with suntan oil.

It’s much easier to drift in and out of consciousness and listen to the surf and just let your mind wander and wonder about things like what’s really beneath that bulging blue Speedo over there and how the pale fleshy guy with the sunburn frolicking down by the surf looks surprisingly like a grilled sea scallop and wouldn’t they taste good for supper tonight.

Just the other day I found myself alternately looking at two attractive men playing paddle ball and two attractive lots for sale at the end of the Boardwalk. I began fantasizing. If only I had an extra $3 million in my bank account. Why I’d buy them both – the lots, that is — and build a trophy house the likes of which Rehoboth Beach has never seen.

Yes indeed, a one-room writer’s shack.

400 square feet of ocean front living space that would shock every developer in town who thinks bigger is better and who aspires to see every inch of beachfront property developed to the max. My trophy house would extol the virtues of romance, simplicity, and creativity, rather than profit and luxury.

As I bake on the beach, I imagine a big wooden table suited for writing and for eating watermelon. I’d need a few modern conveniences, like a sink and a refrigerator and a toilet. But the shower must be outdoors. And, forget the big screen television, my trophy house needs only music and the sounds of the laughter. No air conditioning either. Fans will suffice when the ocean breezes don’t. Just one big bed. Some inviting Adirondack chairs for sitting out in the sand.

My trophy house wouldn’t be a place for fancy fundraisers and dinner parties. It’d be a space where friends would gather after the beach for conversation and cocktails. Everyone would be barefooted and wearing bathing suits or old madras shorts. When night falls we’d light the oil lamps and savor the sounds of the wind and the waves crashing onto shore. And, unlike some other property owners, I wouldn’t complain if some of the fellas at the end of the Boardwalk were to get a little frisky and howl to the moon.

I know, I know, it’s a romantic, impractical dream, the product of way too much sun and heat. Midsummer madness even. But, wouldn’t it be delightful?