In the past few weeks I’ve been to London for a week for London Cocktail Week and UK Rumfest, followed immediately by Portland (Oregon) for Portland Cocktail Week. I returned home from my trips tired, well-pickled, and with a slight cold.
I also returned to find a request from The Daily Beast. As part of their series of cocktails inspired by movies, they asked me if I would be interested in creating a cocktail for the movie The Rum Diary. After thinking about it for about 15 seconds, an idea came to my mind and I accepted. Thusly was the Look Normal born.
2 oz White Rum
.75 oz Lime Juice
.5 oz Orgeat
2 tsp Absinthe
1 tsp Maraschino
1 tsp Simple Syrup
Shake with ice (half cubed, half crushed), strain into an Old Fashioned glass over clean crushed ice. Garnish with a cherry and an orange twist.
I had the idea for this drink while sitting at my desk at my day job. Twists on daiquiris are one of my favorite groups of drinks (the Hemingway Daiquiri is one of my top ten favorite drinks), and I had been wanting to make a drink as a tribute to Constantino Ribalaigua Vert (aka El Constante Grande) – the man who created the Daiquiris #2, #3, and #4, as well as the E. Henmingway Special, more commonly known as the Hemingway Daiquiri. Thanks to this, I already had some ideas jotted down, but none of them ever felt complete to me.
Now I was tasked with coming up with a drink for a movie based on a book by Hunter S. Thompson. As a confession, I’m not a big fan of Hunter S. Thompson. I didn’t have any great knowledge about the man, but I did know that he was a big fan of both F. Scott Fitzgerald and Ernest Hemingway. Armed with that knowledge I had a bit of an epiphany: start with the Hemingway and then go in a weird direction.
The Hemingway Daiquiri is rum, grapefruit, lime, sugar, and maraschino. I took that basic idea and pulled out the grapefruit in favor of absinthe – a favorite of Hemingway’s and something that Thompson never really shied away from either (in fairness, I’m not sure there is any substance from which he did shy away). Swap orgeat for the sugar, come up with some proportions that sounded like a good starting point, and I was set.
The best part was, the drink worked perfectly on the first try. Most of the cocktails I come up with on my own are the result of weeks or even months of effort to get things just right. I went into my kitchen, made the drink from my rough sketch and never considered a single change to the drink itself. The only thing I felt was missing was maybe a twist of orange, which plays very nicely with the nose of the absinthe.
I felt energized and ready to go. Then it occurred to me that I had to name this thing. I hadn’t seen the Rum Diary movie, nor had I read the book. Coming up with a name that hooked the drink to the movie was not going to be easy in light of those facts.
I spent the next morning polling every single cocktail person I knew would be up before noon who may also have read the book and be able to help me name the drink. None of the names really appealed to me, probably because I didn’t really care about the movie or the book (I’m just being honest here).
Finally, Scott Spolverino from In With Bacchus had the idea of naming it “Look Normal” based on a line from the end of the movie trailer which is delivered while Johnny Depp drives a car (with no door) sitting on the lap of another man. It seemed to fit the movie, the book, and Hunter S. Thompson, so I went with it.
To be honest though, I’m not sure how much I love the name if the drink isn’t hitched to the movie. Camper English, one of the better-known coverers of cocktails and spirits in the media (and super nice guy), once told me that I fret far too much about drink names because, in the end, it’s just a drink. Still, something pulls at the inside of my brain, suggesting that another name – Constante Daiquiri, Writer’s Block, Third Law – would be better and more fitting.
Question of the Day:
What do you think I should do about the name of the drink?