“The booze!” roared Rose, whose gravelly voice might have intimidated pimps, whores and dissatisfied tourists but not Smyth, who smiled his deadly smile and continued.
“I have made these martinis with gins created for higher, more sensitive pallets than those assembled here…oh ye’ whose taste buds rival those of mountain gorillas. I pity your poor state and hope to improve your lot.” He started to pour, then stopped yet again—a collective groan rose from his guests. “This is too poignant a moment to let pass without some ceremonial approbation,” Smyth pontificated. “Rabbi Ginsberg, don’t you Jews have a prayer before imbibing? Kindly do us the honor.”
Nathan Ginsberg shrugged. Since retiring, the Reform rabbi had dedicated himself to destroying any image of Jewish males as teetotalers. Though he had come to drinking rather late in life, he found his conversion from ceremonial wine and occasional schnapps to martinis a swift and enlightening journey.
His alcoholic ride followed rapidly after the death of his wife Beth, who had shared his life for thirty-four years. She fought an all too brief battle against cancer. He still had three adult children whose busy lives left little room for a father who they saw as supremely and conveniently independent. He had sought solace first in prayer, then in good works, then in lonely drinking. He finally found it in the congeniality of The Martini Club. The members shared not only his love for the beneficent beverage, but for the accompanying intellectual discussions of matters both grave and frivolous. He saw the gathering—with its banter, laughter, raised voices and even shouting—as the natural progression from the minyan, the traditional Jewish gathering for communal ritual.
“Say the damn prayer,” Smyth ordered, “before we all die of thirst.”
The rabbi nodded. “Baruch atah Adonai, Eloheinu melech ha-olam, bore p’ri hagafen,” he proclaimed in Hebrew. He repeated the prayer in English. “We praise you Eternal God, King of the Universe who created the fruit of the vine and the grain that gives forth booze. That’s not an exact translation, but Amen. Let’s drink.”
Smyth savored his beverage, holding it up to the light streaming in from a nearby window. “I am offering you two of the world’s finest gins gentlemen,” he began. “Todd Morgan’s Gin is a product of Girvan, Scotland. You will note that it is crystal clear, yet with a tinge of oily smoothness at the surface. After straining through various botanicals, the alcohol was given just the essence of cucumber and rose petal—a delight in aroma as well as taste. Delicious, but perhaps not for all. Let us turn our attention to its brave comrade, Iceland Cold Gin. It restores the dominance of juniper with a hint of orange and lemon peel, coriander, licorice, cinnamon, cassia, nutmeg, angelica and orris root, known not only for its aroma but also for its aphrodisiac qualities. The piece de resistance is its water content. The glacial water that dilutes this spirit to its consumable level comes from Iceland, where you find the purest, softest water on earth. I recommend you taste both brands. You will conclude there is no best between them, only a passage from one beautiful venue to another.”
The club members brought their martini glasses to their lips—and sipped. The first sip was always the most telling—the receptors of the tongue and nose not yet numbed by the icy anesthetic, the eyes clear, the brain alert in anticipation. Half the group had received the Todd Morgan; half the Iceland Cold. All concluded that they had tasted ambrosia. A few more sips and they would be as wise and witty as the gods.
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