My husband and I never exchange gifts. We stopped gifting to one another several years ago, realizing it caused more stress than it brought fun—in part this was due to the budget constraints we were facing with my new lowly grad student salary and his middle-of-the-recession-first-real-job salary.
But it was also more than that. Gift giving had kind of lost it’s luster after a decade of being together and we felt, at least for the time, that our money was better spent on experiences. Instead of jewelry, clothes, or stuff, we treated ourselves to a nice dinner out, splurging on a good bottle of wine and cozying up in dimly lit restaurant corners to spoon fight over the last bite of chocolate lava cake. Or we splurged on lobsters, caviar, and a fancy-ish bottle of champagne to cook and indulge in at home, usually in our pajamas with Bourré snoring at our feet.
I have no regrets. Those were the best possible ways to spend our precious pennies.
But this past year, as the months led up to his birthday, I found myself picking up small knickknacks here and there. I’d stash them deep in the corners of our storage unit and when I found myself with half a dozen things, I decided to surprise him with a little “scavenger hunt,” which for some reason made the gifts seem bigger, more exciting. They were little things – silly things, really – but things I’d chuckle over. Things that made me think of him: A fly swatter to help address the flood of flies that buzzed in through our open windows during the spring and summer months. A mixing vessel so that we could stop relying on our elementary yet faithful mason jar any time we wanted to shake things up. A book of cocktail recipes, which would later become like a bible for us as we began to learn the basics of mixing and shaking.
Actually, that’s not entirely true, he began to learn the basics of mixing and shaking, usually while I’d prepare dinner. And those moments have become some of my most treasured moments to date that we’ve spent in our Portland house. The two of us in the kitchen—me chopping on our butcherblock counters or stirring something on the stove; him squeezing lemons and limes, covering our floors in the sticky sweetness of simple syrup, and then passing me a glass with a simple, “Here, taste this. What do you think? More citrus?”
And so when I met the always adorable, master-of-haute-Hawaiian-cuisine Alana and her partner Moses earlier this year at the Saveur Blog Awards (where she took home Readers’ Choice!) and discovered they, too, relied on the same Death and Co book, as their personal cocktail bible, I was certain we were meant to be friends. Alana and Moses came out to Portland last week and we had all kinds of fun mixing up beertails, eating pimento cheese (which they’d never had before!), and devouring everything, including far too much horseradish vodka, at Kachka. The recipe I’m posting today comes from that cocktail book we both love so much and, as you might have guessed by now, it features a touch of good bitter, spicy beer, which pairs well with the sweetness of the pineapple juice, the tart of the lemon, and the versatility of its main spirit–gin.
I’m not sure if Barrett and I will ever exchange gifts again–this book has kind of been an unexpected gift for both of us. But if our next decade is filled with as many good friends, belly laughs, and backyard beertails as this past weekend was, what else could we really want?
Be sure to head over to Alana’s post to see more photos of all the fun and for a gorgeous panzanella salad recipe to pair with your beertail!
- 2 ounces of gin (we used Tanqueray No. 10)
- ¾ ounces of velvet falernum
- 1 ounce of pineapple juice
- ½ ounce of lemon juice
- A bitter, spicy IPA, for topping (the book recommends Green Flash IPA, which we've used and loved, but we opted for a local Bridgeport IPA, which was just a good.)
- Crush ice using a lewis bag and mallet, or if you don't have one, use a large ziplock bag and a mallet or other hammer-like tool. Add ice to glass, filling almost all the way to the top, and then set aside while you mix the cocktails.
- Pour the gin, velvet falernum, pineapple juice, and lemon juice into a mixing vessel filled with 3 cubes of ice, shake until chilled, and strain into ice-filled glass. Top with IPA and garnish with mint.