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The Summer of the Literary Liquors

During the spring and summer of COVID lockdown 2020 I started experimenting with fresh herb and fruit infusions that I call the summer of the Literary Liquors. What is a Literary Liquor I can hear you asking? Well, it is an liquor base, (Vodka, Gin, Rum, and Saki) that I infused with flavors based on a few of my favorite works of literature and all infused with herbs and fruits found in my garden.

I was extending my experiments with infused butter and oil and since there was nothing else happening I of course turned to liquor. I should point out THIS research was entirely self-funded. Although it was technically a part of my #ProjectMartian initiative it was NOT being used for educational purposes.

It Started With The Theater

There is a theater in the city where I live (Columbus, OH, US) called Shadowbox Live. I have been a fan of this theater for 30 years. They are wildly creative, talented, and adventurous and they inspire me.

I came up with this idea for infusing alcohol, originally sake, while seeing one of their OTHER original productions, “Tenshu” which was a stage, dance and theatrical spectacle that was a synthesis of Japanese Kabuki, 19th Century Western Opera and 20th Century Rock and Roll. At the time ShadowboxLive had 20 Japanese students visiting the states to explain and model the finer points of Kabuki, and two of those students were staying at Mezzacello.

One night Rick and I and our Japanese exchange students had a lively conversation at the farm about the poetry of sake. We discussed how it can be a dove or a dragon, depending on what you infuse or ferment in the fruit. One of my favorite operas is Puccini’s “Madama Butterfly” and we sat around the fire that glorious summer discussing what about M. Butterfly would make a great sake.

The Seeds of a Great Idea

Fast forward a few years and I went to Shadowboxlive to see “Broken Whispers” a stage and dance homage to “The Great Gatsby” set in the 1920’s but with fantastic “Post-Modern Jukebox” covers of 80s pop songs — oh and Gatsby was a woman who had a lesbian affair with Daisy. Totally mind-blowing theater with stunning choreography and a live band with artfully reconfigured arrangements of 80s classic pop songs.

The Summer of the Literary Liquors
Jim Bruner | Mezzacello A still from “Desire” detailing “Gone With The Wind” and the review in the screenshot is spot on!

The final piece of this lovefest for amazing, original, and live theater was the remarkable stage performance called “Desire”. “Desire” was a collection of 12 of the greatest literary traditions of the western canon that were set to rock music and portrayed as vignettes in the imagination of two ;literary professors discussing the art of love and desire with original choreography.

“Desire” included amazing references in literature inclusing “La Morte d’Arthur” “Wuthering Heights” “Don Juan” “Gone With The Wind” The Addams Family” it was was amazing! And it was the seed that set my imagination on fire! Then we had COVID19.

Then COVID19

I was bummed out in March 2020 when the entire world closed down. No more Live theater, no more hanging out with friends on a lark; so I decided to recreate “Desire” in alcohol.

It stuns me to this day to reflect on how isolated we all of us where through that entire year. The lost year of COVID. Luckily for me I had inspiration and resources. Otherwise I might have gone mad.

That is the true story of how “Literary Liquors” even came into existence. A fantastic arts group, this vibrant arts city and my friend Jimmy Mak willed it into existence. After their lead creating a story for each infusion was second nature.

My only regret is that I never got to share this with the fabulous artists at Shadowboxlive in person. I never got to make them a perfect cocktail:

  • The List of Liquors
    • “The Great Gatsby” Vodka (Lemon, cucumber, mint, and savory) with my own quinone and water carbonated tonic water
    • “Huck Finn” Vodka (Blackberry, lemon, strawberry and peppercorns) with my own quinone and water carbonated tonic water
    • “Don Juan” Rum (Lime, passionfruit, cherry, rose, peppercorn, and almond) with water and pomegranate juice over lemon ice
    • “The Canterbury Tale” Gin (Parsley, sage, rosemary, and thyme with lemon) with my own quinone and water carbonated tonic water
    • “Porgy and Bess” Gin (Rosemary, thyme, plum, cherry, and lemon with peppercorns) served with lemonade and ice
    • “Madama Butterfly” Sake (Rose, passionfruit, plum, lime, and dragon grain) served over cold saltwater tears tea

Blessed is inspiration and the instinct to create. I have the privilege and bounty of a farm – in the city – with access to ALMOST every fresh ingredient I used in these infusions, and I spent the COVID 2020 summer exploring them. It was a labor of love to honor my beloved theater.

I do know that theater is life, and I blessed to have it — and the instinct to create something from nothing — in both my farm and in my community. I am currently infusing another line of these fabulous liquors. Maybe this summer I can share it with my ShadowboxLive friends. #Brava

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