For my current story—6 Days to Valentine—I drew directly on an experience I had while attending the 2012 Gay Romance Literary Retreat that was held in Albuquerque, New Mexico at the Hard Rock Hotel and Casino.
That trip was magic for so many reasons I won’t go into here, but key among them was meeting one of their bartenders—a man who had apprenticed under a nationally recognized master mixologist.
The master had taken our bartender through every bottle of liquor on the shelves, one by one and they tasted them over time, and our bartender came to understand the nuances and flavor profiles of each one—and how they could be combined together in an infinite number of ways to make unexpected and magical concoctions.
He described the first original drink he ever made—inspired by his girlfriend—each ingredient reflected an element of their relationship or her personality. It included honey for her sweetness and fresh blackberries “for the darkness in every woman’s soul.” I’m sorry I wasn’t recording him in that moment, because his whole recipe read like an epic love poem.
He asked me what I wanted to drink, and I’m certain I rolled my eyes when he suggested rum. My palate runs to dry martini’s, straight distilled spirits without a lot of fillers. If I want sweet I head to the margarita end of the spectrum. Rum drinks make me shudder so I was a challenge for him—even he couldn’t make a rum drink I’d like. I recall he practically glowed and began weaving his magic as he pulled a tall, skinny green bottle off the shelf of cachaça—a white Brazilian rum.
I was fascinating as he narrated his steps. He muddled Serrano chilies and lime in the bottom of a pint glass, adding the cachaça and ice before shaking it. He strained it into a glass, dropped in fresh limes, and slid it across to me with a grin on his face. Before I even took a sip he knew he had me.
It was spicy and refreshing and tasted more like a highly elevated margarita than any rum drink I’d ever had. It was fantastic. And for the rest of the weekend he created new drinks for me, drawing on my personality and preferences he we went along.
When I returned home to the San Francisco Bay Area, I started writing 6 Days to Valentine, basing my character of Nick on my Albuquerque bartender, writing about a man, a mixologist too busy running a bar and socializing to have a life for himself. Though unlike the real-life bartender, Nick hasn’t found the perfect someone to invent his own drink for. In fact, I’m thinking he needs a man who will create one for him.
The following is a recipe from this class of cocktail—a close cousin to the actual drink he made me, shown in the photograph below. If you order it at a trendy bar by the name below you should get something very close to what I had in Albuquerque.
I hope you try this drink, and when the warmth slides across your tongue, you’ll think of a red desert at sunset and the heat of a kiss that only comes from true passion.
Jalapeño Caipirinha CocktailServing Size: 1 cocktail
1/2-3/4 lime, quartered
1/2 fresh jalapeno, seeded
1 tablespoon sugar
3 ounces cachaça (sugarcane rum)
1. In a cocktail shaker or pint beer glass, muddle the jalapeño pepper with the sugar and lime. Removing the jalapeño ribs and seeds will reduce the heat some, but what would be the fun in that?
2. Fill the glass with ice, then fill the glass with cachaça and stir up from the bottom or shake to mix.
How to "muddle" ingredients for a cocktail:
If using the glass, wrap a towel around it, in case it breaks. Using a muddler or back of a wooden spoon, crush ingredients against the sides and bottom. Don’t be shy. Mix so all ingredients are well married. Proceed with step 2 of cocktail directions. The goal here is to release the oils from the lime and chili – which means flavor.
LE Franks writes gay romance with a twist. Her books include Prodigal Wolf, co-written with Sara York, Snow Globe, and coming this spring, Can This Be True. Her current book, 6 Days to Valentine, releases on January 29th from Wilde City Press.
In Nick's perfect world, Valentine’s Day would be struck from the calendar. Nick’s dreams of a Happily Ever After were shredded long ago and the last thing he and his customers need is a bunch of happy loving couples rubbing it in their faces.
Bouncer Fat Boy Newman is willing to bet he knows Nick's heart better than he does. He has just six days to change Nick’s mind about romance and the holiday and the perfect man to do it.
Too bad it’s not him.
Too bad Nick's not going down without a fight.
Too bad Nick cheats.
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