Winter break has arrived here at the lovely University of Illinois, meaning that the bars are finally free of undergrads and guaranteeing me easy access to all the Natty Light I can drink.  My cup truly runneth over.  Along with the general absence of students, however, comes the general lack of urgency associated with my boss and labmates all leaving for several weeks.  The instruments are gloriously open for my use, but all I want to do is put off doing anything until I absolutely have to.  Which, unfortunately, appears to include updating this chronicle of libationous exploits.

So, in honor of the occasion, I have developed a cocktail, thus killing two birds (three, if you include sobriety) with one stone.

The Writer’s Block

  • 2 oz rye whiskey
  • 1 oz dry vermouth
  • 1/2 oz pineapple juice
  • 1/2 oz tamarind juice
  • 1-2 dashes Angostura bitters
    Combine all ingredients in a shaker with ice.  Shake well and strain into a cocktail glass.

To be fair, this is a revision of the Arawak Cocktail, a Gary Regan creation that in turn was a variation of the venerable Algonquin Cocktail.  His main innovation is to add the tamarind juice, which he claims “can overpower the drink”, and so recommends only a dash.  Maybe my palate has been damaged by years of spicy food and Warheads (very probably), or maybe he is in fact using instead some kind of concentrate, rather than the ubiquitous Goya brand, but I couldn’t taste a single dash of tamarind juice when put up against that much whiskey (he also recommended bourbon, but I decided arbitrarily to take the cocktail back to its roots).  I also returned the drink to its original 2:1:1 ratio of base spirit to vermouth and juice, because I felt that his suffered from faddish over-dryness.

Interestingly, there are a number of other Arawak Cocktails, all dissimilar.  The term Arawak was used for a number of related Caribbean peoples encountered by the Spanish in the West Indies.  Never having thought I’d need to bring the whole peoples-used-as-mascots debate into cocktail making (luckily for us “Tiki” is a made-up word), I’m glad to opportunistically rename my preferred version of this drink the Writer’s Block.  And, as writers from time immemorial have known, it’s active ingredients are the perfect cure to the affliction it’s named after (although I can’t guarantee it won’t have a detrimental effect on quality).