LOST Magazine
December 2008 / January 2009 – No. 29

Subscribe Now

Liquid Assets

by Mark Kingwell

"Economics" comes from oikos, the Greek word for dwelling, which is why the phrase "home economics" belongs in the Department of Redundancy Department. But there is an insight buried underneath the confusion, because every aspect of what Carlyle labeled "the dismal science" sooner or later has some impact on your personal gross domestic product. Macro always governs micro, even if household management is, for you, a matter of wine in a bottle versus wine in a box.

How about diversifying your economy with money-inflected drinks? The of all cocktails is that inexpensive ingredients can be made to stretch without breaking the bank. This writer is not in the business of recommending cheap gin, but if it's all your budget committee can requisition, feel confident that a well-composed mix will cover a multitude of fiscal sins. Not for your sudden devaluations (a.k.a. Empty Wallet Syndrome) or embarrassing bailouts by the Fed (i.e. your dad). No! With cocktails, the local fun-market is bullish! You are posting quarterly profits with every sip! Here are the rules to drink by:

1. Start with lots of Greenbacks. That's four parts gin, two parts crème de menthe, and two parts fresh lemon juice, all shaken over cracked ice and strained into an old-fashioned glass with a few ice cubes. You don't need a mint to turn out as many of these as you like; and speaking of which, don't worry, the fresh lemon will cut the cloy of crème de menthe, leaving just enough depth and a snazzy greenish hue.

2. All returns are subject to tax. Well, unless they're capital gains, corporate profit splits, or massive transfers of wealth from the super-rich to their children. But never mind, thoughts of social injustice will slip from view after an Income Tax Cocktail. Combine four parts gin and three parts fresh orange juice with a tablespoon each of dry and sweet vermouth, plus three dashes of Angostura bitters. Shake with cracked ice and strain into a chilled cocktail glass. Drinking that fast will net you a 40 percent loss in coherence, compounded hourly.

3. Don't overspend. In Alan Hollinghurst's novel The Line of Beauty (2004), a group of friends dines in a fashionable London restaurant, Gusto, right after the 1987 market tumble. The resident bartender, Humphrey, late of the Queen Mary, has concocted an apposite tipple called the Black Monday. "Well, it's, what is it?" one of the friends muses. "It's dark rum, and cherry brandy, and sambuca. And loads of lemon juice. It tastes like a really old-fashioned laxative." "I can't drink any more, "another responds, "but when I hear that, I don't mind."

Precisely. You don't want a cocktail so odd it makes you ill, especially when you already feel sick about falling stock. A more palatable response to the market's ups and downs, the Leviathan Cocktail, possibly so-called because it trades fear for security by surrendering all sovereign power. If that makes no sense, keep drinking until it does. Mix four parts scotch with two parts each orange and lemon juice, and add a tablespoon of simple syrup. Shake it all up with cracked ice, strain into a chilled cocktail glass, and take a big appetitive sip.

4. Look out for Number One. Hobbes wasn't the only one to conclude that self-interest makes an economy go. Bernard Mandeville's 1723 doggerel satire The Fable of the Bees, wherein a hive of complaining bees manage to cooperate through competition, famously argues that "private vices are public benefits" — something both Adam Smith and your thirst will eventually second. History is silent on whether the Mandeville Cocktail is in fact a homage to said Bernard, but we do know it is four parts dark rum, four parts light, a tablespoon each of Pernod and lemon juice, plus a glug of grenadine and a big splash of cola. Combine and shake with cracked ice, then strain into an old-fashioned glass with ice cubes. A rum-and-coke variant, in a way, but far more interesting. Long live vice.

It's not really related, but if you're feeling funny, switch that up with a Bee's Knees Cocktail. A better drink, it adds four parts gold rum to one each of fresh orange and lime juice, plus a teaspoon of simple syrup and a few dashes of white curacao. Mix, shake, strain; garnish the glass with orange peel. That makes for a sweet and sweet-looking drink, something to take your mind off the rate of return.

5. Don't neglect Transcendentalism. Yes, that's right. It was Thoreau who set up a celebrated off-the-grid personal economy at Walden Pond, but it was his pal Emerson — also as it happens, friend and lifelong correspondent of Carlyle — who penned the essay "Self-Reliance," arguing that the best part of humankind was found in non-material pursuits, the economy of the soul, not the dollar. Eponymous or not, the Emerson Cocktail takes four parts gin, two parts sweet vermouth, one part fresh lime juice, a teaspoon of maraschino liqueur and gives it all a good shake with ice. Then through the strainer and into a chilled cocktail glass.

And finally:  6. Charity begins at home. "All sensible people and selfish." Emerson wrote, "and nature is tugging at every contract to make the terms of it fair." Maybe, but most of the time it also takes sympathy and goodwill — not to mention law enforcement. The truth is, pure selfishness eventually self-defeats, and every contract is a reminder that we can't self-rely.  All successful markets are really cooperatives, because my wealth depends on luck and your agreement to recognize it. Think it over — and, wealthy or not, give back 10 percent.

Bottom line? It'll do your soul good.

Excerpted from Classic Cocktails:  A Modern Shake by Mark Kingwell. Copyright © 2007 by the author and reprinted by permission of Thomas Dunne Books, an imprint of St. Martin's Press, LLC.

$ $ $ $ $ $ $ $ $ $ $ $ $ $ $ $ $ $ $ $ $ $ $ $ $ $ $ $ $ $ $ $ $ $ $ $ $ $ $ $ $ $ $ $ $ $ $ $ $ $ $ $ $ $ $ $ $ $


Mark Kingwell is a Professor of Philosophy at the University of Toronto, a contributing editor of Harper's Magazine, and the author of nine books of political and cultural theory. He also publishes widely on art, film, architecture, and design. Classic Cocktails is based on his award-winning drinks column in Toro Magazine.

Buy Mark Kingwell's books through Amazon at the LOST Store.

Articles in this Issue

Economics, by Robert Sullivan
A Nation Cannot Grow Rich by Fighting, by Henry Loomis Nelson
Bad Money, Bursting Bubble, by Kevin Phillips
Liquid Assets, by Mark Kingwell
What's in the Bank These Days?, by Bunny Crumpacker
The Cost of Counterfeiting, by Dana Thomas
How to Profit from the Coming Rapture, by Steve and Evie Levy
Auntie Blessy and Yamashita's Treasure, by Robin Hemley