Alcohol has become something so taboo in our society that I hesitated before writing this. It's on every medical form these days. Right underneath the question "Do you smoke?" is a question about whether or not you consume alcohol. If the answer is yes, you are further asked how many drinks you normally consume in a week. It's one of those sticky moments when even the most virtuous of us are tempted to lie. Just as there are many smokers who check the non-smoking box there are those of us who indulge in the occasional beer or cocktail and who enjoy a nice glass of wine with dinner who sit there frozen in the headlights, pen in hand, wondering how many drinks they should admit to. What exactly is an acceptable number of drinks per week? The very presence of the question indicates that alcohol is a negative. Prohibition may have ended, but public censorship of our actions remains alive and well.
In a kinder, gentler time, the cocktail hour was a daily indulgence and it still is in some parts of society. It is that time period at the end of the work day and before dinner when people come together to relax and enjoy one another's company. The slow savoring of an alcoholic beverage is part of the process. The slight sting against your tongue reminds you to sip slowly and is generally accompanied by a gentle loosening of the shoulder muscles as the tensions and petty grievances of your day slowly slip away. Of course there are those who overindulge and have three or four stiff drinks in the time generally needed for just one. But there are also those unable to pass up a buffet table or a shoe sale or a tantalizing bit of gossip. People who dabble in excess will always exist, they seem to be the reason that many of society's restrictions and taboos are created. Responsible indulgence is another thing entirely and I see no reason why I should be penalized for a neighbor's inability to know when to stop.
Let's move back to the cocktail hour. In the summertime I tend toward gimlets, usually vodka and on the rocks. In my younger days I enjoyed them in a martini glass straight up but now I appreciate the chill of the ice as well as the slow dilution that melting brings over the trendy beauty of strong spirits in a V-shaped glass. Tonight with the weather turning colder I reached for the gin. I rummaged in the fridge and found some lemon citrus olives and crafted a sharp, slightly salty, dirty martini. It was a drink that I scoffed at in my youth, dilute high quality spirits with olive brine? But again, age has had a mellowing effect and I enjoy the interplay of the soft and slightly herbal notes of a good gin with the fruity saline effects of the olive brine. The olives (3) in my glass could masquerade as a vegetable, bar snack and drink rolled into one. The slow shifting of the ice tinkles in the glass with a mellowing effect on my psyche. The sun has sunk below the horizon and the mountain landscape is outlined in deep shades of blue. With the dogs at my feet and my husband at my side the cocktail hour tonight is everything that it was meant to be and more.
1-1/2 ounces of your favorite gin or vodka
2 teaspoons of lemon citrus olive brine
3 large olive
Fill a short (rocks) glass with ice cubes. Pour the gin over the ice, follow with the brine. Drop three olives into your cocktail and swirl the glass several times in your hands. Sip slowly and enjoy.