Ah, cocktail hour, that wonderful moment a wee past 4 in the afternoon when accomplishments of the day may receive reward, and upcoming night toasted. In the summer, this means the classic, the ineffable gin and tonic. Our featured image by Rachel Weber, Hendrick’s Gin and Tonic with Cucumber, uses the composition of a still-life with all its attendant contemplative allusions and analogies to present spirit and food as vital markers of time, of being . Consider Mircea Eliade’s definition of sacred time from The Sacred and the Profane:
Hence sacred time is indefinitely recoverable, indefinitely repeatable. From one point of view it could be said that it does not “pass,” that it does not constitute an irreversible duration. It is ontological, Parmenidean time; it always remains equal to itself, it neither changes nor is exhausted. (69)
Sacred time does not move in a horizontal direction, does not progress and gain thereby always losing; by particular movements, use of objects, specific setting, and moment of dark and light, a beach, a cliff or a table with a glass of clear liquid may become sacred. This is a time rooted in the nature of being, an event at the heart of what it means to be in the world, to be there. It is a ritual like any in a church or at a hearth. As for Parmenides, here’s one his fragments, which most aptly applies to our sacred cocktail hour:
It is a common point from which I start; for there again and again I shall return. (Fr. 289)
There’s a rush in the blood, a glee in the air, and the perfect afternoon Mediterranean light cascading through the windows; of course, I’m in Houston, but roughly the same latitude. First things first, the right music, the one and only Nina Simone singing Summertime.
Ah yes, that’s perfect–a little joy, a little sadness; it’s the afternoon after all and we’ve weathered a day and darkness begins its fall. So, let’s choose our glasses.
Excellent. Wide-mouth glasses allowing a healthy drink, bringing the nose right into the business of botanicals as well. In the background, you can see the bible-black bottle of Hendrick’s waiting on the altar. Next, ice and one and a half ounces of Hendrick’s, measured out in a jigger.
This might be a good time for some brief words about Hendrick’s Gin.
Entertaining and possibly informative, let’s say for any gin the combination of botanicals and the distillation process equals the keymaster and the gatekeeper.
A tonic should not impart a harsh, overpowering quality to the gin, but work with those juniper berries and other gifts of nature to form a refreshing and curious drink. The curious meaning at your pleasure you seek out all the tastes subtly whisking around in your mouth.
Besides the gin and tonic, you probably also notice the green orb floating in the glass; yes, that’s a slice of fresh cucumber–
when drinking a Hendrick’s Gin and Tonic a cucumber gives a push to the flavor already there, rather than using a lime to add something that doesn’t sit right with this rose-infused spirit. Now you’re ready to drink your afternoon cocktail sitting in your front room
or maybe playing the piano
or instead, sitting in your library
and reading Raymond Carver’s short story, What We Talk About When We Talk About Love. Of course you can order the eponymous short story collection through Amazon, though since Carver’s work bites so deeply into life, I prefer the second-hand bookstore copy.
My friend Mel McGinnis was talking. Mel McGinnis is a cardiologist, and sometimes that gives him the right.
The four of us were sitting around his kitchen table drinking gin. Sunlight filled the kitchen from the big windows behind the sink. There were Mel and me and his second wife, Teresa—Terri, we called her—and my wife, Laura. We lived in Albuquerque then. But we were all from somewhere else.
There was an ice bucket on the table. The gin and the tonic water kept going around, and we somehow got on the subject of love. Mel thought real love was nothing less than spiritual love. He said he’d spent five years of his life in a seminary before quitting to go to medical school. He said he still looked back on those years in the seminary as the most important years in his life. (137-38)
I assure you, as you drain you first glass, then return to the kitchen and make a second, maybe third, your reading of Carver’s story will be enhanced by Dionysus accompanying you as two couples dissect love then wait in falling night to view the results of their messy anatomy. I suggest more Nina Simone. Sit in the dark, think about the story, and listen to Sinnerman.