Here our writer relies on her sense of smell to create a sweet cocktail tribute to her grandmother… and provides you with a lovely, spirited addition to any Mother’s Day festivities you have planned.
I’m not the first person to discover how to bring the dead back to life. Arguably the most famous person to do so was Proust. The smell of a cookie did it, transporting him to childhood. More evocative than food or sex, one’s sense of smell travels time and awakens the dead.
The importance of a trademark scent was innate to my grandmother. She wore Chanel No. 5 in the day and Lanvin My Sin at night. The two scents are similar in the middle notes (they both rely on roses for the body of their odors) but their top notes are as different as night and day. Chanel is much spicier initially, while Lanvin is softer, with a delicate entrance that grows subtly spiced as it fades into the fabric of its wearer.
Both of these perfumes have changed over the years in formula. Chanel No. 5 uses less of a preciously-expensive rose, grown just for the company in the South of France, and Lanvin My Sin is no longer made in its original form at all. The right to the name My Sin was sold in 1988 to Long Lost Perfumes by Irma Shorell Inc., but its formula, developed by a famous French “nose,” or perfume creator, in the 1920s was never part of the sale (noses for big perfume houses have gone the way of the tussy-mussy). That original recipe remains a memory, one that can be found in dusty black lacquered boxes of My Sin soap or within the bulbous atomizers of the parfum found at estate sales.
I have such a thing, a box of My Sin soap scavenged from eBay that dates from the 1940s. It has never been used. About once a week I open its lid (adorned with the golden silhouette of a mother and daughter dressing for a costume ball) and inhale the sensory-image of my grandmother’s shoulders. I bring her back. I think about her sitting at a dressing table dusting her shoulders with this scent before leaving for the evening, or, how she would spray a cotton ball with the perfume and tuck it into her bra, in order to keep the aromas of carnation, iris, bergamot, sandalwood, and roses close to her heart.
This is a drink in memory of my Grandmother Eve. It is woodsy, floral and packs a wallop, unexpectedly of course. Just like my grandmother’s wit, style and embrace, most of the time I miss it sneaking up on me.
Most of the time, I just miss it.
My Sin Cocktail
- 2 large jiggers of Citadel Gin (a slightly spicy, boldly herbal gin)
- 1 small jigger of Rose Liqueur or Rose Water (available at a gourmet grocery)
- Large orange
- Fresh Rosemary Stick (to garnish)
The day before, or the morning of, if you forget to plan ahead like me, stud a fresh, heavy orange with cloves and refrigerate. To make the cocktail, pour the gin over ice in a cocktail shaker and stir. Add juice from 1/4 of the orange, then the rose liquor or rose water. Stir once more and strain into a cocktail glass. Remove a large piece of the orange peel, take out the cloves, and twist the peel, holding it over the surface of the drink while lighting the outside (orange part) of the peel with a wooden match. You want to ignite the peel briefly to release its oil, not the bitterness of its pith. See the oil from the orange on the surface of the drink after it atomizes from the lit peel? Good.
Garnish with a twig of rosemary, which doubles as a stir stick and launches an herbal attack while you sip. Make two if you’re drinking with your mother, three if you’re not.