Aside from “Jabberwocky,” the only poem I ever committed to memory was written by Roger McGough, a British Beat poet from Liverpool who is still around, writing poetry for kids as well as for adults.
I first heard of him when he was a member of a musical comedy trio known as Scaffold back in the 1960s. They recorded songs such as “Lily the Pink,” a salute to Lydia Pinkham, who marketed an alcoholic “medicinal compound” to women in the 1800s.
John Gorman and Mike McGear were the other two members of Scaffold, McGear’s real name being Peter Michael McCartney. Yes, he was Paul’s younger brother, and he had a pretty successful career in music and the arts, being a photographer as well as a musician. Scaffold was a very interesting band.
I’m not sure if the poem I know has a title, but I think of it as being the London Times Crossword Puzzle Poem. It’s short enough, I think, for me to bring it to you here:
Got up this morning,
Had a shave,
Did the Times crossword puzzle,
Had another shave.
If you recite this verse for your friends, please remember that it’s important to pause between the third and fourth lines. This gives a little more punch to the punch line, I think.
The verse above probably doesn’t give you a good idea about McGough’s talent, so I should probably add that he has won enough poetry awards to fill a bathtub, and Her Royal Highness, Queen Elizabeth II, awarded him an Order of the British Empire in 1997.
Phoebe Esmon, a bartender who works at the Farmers’ Cabinet in Philadelphia, is a little more sophisticated than me in the poetry department – she took the name of one of her recent cocktail creations straight from Robert Browning’s “Paracelsus,” a work with which I’m totally unfamiliar. The particular verse in question: “Autumn wins you best by this/ its mute appeal to sympathy for its decay.”
Phoebe’s a darned good bartender with lots of style, too. She’s one of those women who look as if they’ve just traveled in from another era, though it’s difficult to pinpoint which decade she might call home.
Her formula for the Mute Appeal, her Browning-related drink, made me think that the drink was going to be right up my alley, and I was correct on that front. The base, an aged apple brandy, dances nicely with a sturdy ginger liqueur as Amaro Averna and Pimm’s Cup accompany the couple on cellos. They’re doing the foxtrot, I think. Unless it’s the bossa nova. Dance is another area in which I could use a little tuition.
The Mute Appeal
Makes 1 drink
Adapted from a recipe by Phoebe Esmon of the Farmers’ Cabinet in Philadelphia.
Instructions: Stir all the ingredients, except the garnish, over ice; strain into a chilled coupe. Flame the twist over the drink, then add as garnish.
The Cocktailian is reprinted with the kind permission of The San Francisco Chronicle. Gary Regan, aka gaz regan, is the author of The Joy of Mixology, and he hosts gazregan.com. You can reach him at [email protected].