For a while there, I was afraid of getting on the ski lift. I don’t fear falling off the chair or have acrophobia (although there’s that puckerish stretch on the Summit chair at Solitude that gives me the heebs. Every. Time.) Nope, the thing that had me squirming was the inevitability of hearing some Really Bad News from a girlfriend.
It began innocuously enough. Usually a casual “hey, do you have a half-day open this week to get some turns in?” invitation prompted our outing. I’d meet up with my girlfriend and we’d make a warm up run or two. Then it would happen: I’d hear those dreaded words, “So… I don’t know if you’ve heard yet, but…”
Two divorces. One separation (with the ugly cheating-spouse details). Another friend struggled with understanding her child’s recently-diagnosed learning disabilities. A scarily inconclusive mammogram. After a long decline with Alzheimer’s, a friend’s mother passed away. My girlfriend Cherry Heering’s husband did some Very Naughty Things on the interwebs and was facing criminal prosecution (amazingly, she’s not one of the ones who got divorced. You are a far more forgiving person than I, Cherry).
I started packing extra tissues, and my cheeks were chapped from tears collecting under the lower edge of my goggles and freezing on my face. I wondered if therapists along the Wasatch had started prescribing the ski date as the perfect opportunity to practice talking about bad news.
And at the end of the day, after the cheating bastards were soundly trashed, the injustices of life questioned and pondered, and our friendship reaffirmed with fresh air, exercise, and swaying teary hugs shared at the parking lot, I’d go pick up my kids from school. I’d remind them how awesome I think they are, and hug them until they squirmed. Tell my husband I loved him. And I’d make myself a stiff cocktail. And count my blessings, high among them my amazing, strong, and resilient friends.
Needless to say, I’m looking forward to spring.
I made up this cocktail when I wasn’t in the mood for either a Manhattan or an Old Fashioned, and knocking back two fingers of bourbon seemed a little too ironic (even for me) after a day spent skiing with a friend who’d been looking into rehab facilities for her husband. It’s a gorgeous ruby color, and the sugar/cayenne rim adds a nice balance to the sweetness of the cherry heering and bite of the rye.
2-3 cherries (fresh, or from your home made cherry booze)
1 tsp. granulated sugar
1/8 tsp. ground cayenne pepper
Two dashes Angostura bitters
1 oz. Cherry Heering*
1 ½ oz. rye whiskey
1 oz. club soda (optional)
In a shallow saucer, combine sugar and cayenne. Rub the rim of a highball glass with a cherry to coat with juice. Dip the glass rim into the pepper-sugar mixture. Add bitters to the glass, and swirl to coat the interior of the glass. In a cocktail shaker, add 3-4 cubes ice, the cherry heering, and whiskey. Shake for 10 seconds or so, and then pour everything into the highball glass. Garnish with cherries, and top with a little club soda, if desired.
BOOZEMONGERING: Cherry Heering
* Cherry Heering is a (duh) cherry-based liqueur available at most liquor stores. After my eponymous friend gave me a pint of her home made version –old cherry trees like hers are everywhere in our fair city—I’ve been making my own, too. Here’s the super easy two ingredient recipe:
To a clean glass quart jar, add 2 cups washed & pitted sweet cherries. Pour enough vodka to cover cherries (about 3 cups). Let stand in a cool, dark place for at least 1 week and up to 1 year.