by Ed Sikov
Dan and I opened our house in Fire Island Pines in March, when it was still frigid. We drank Jamesons for a few weeks, no ice. (You know it’s cold when Dan drinks anything stronger than an aperitif.)
Our housemates began showing up the last weekend in April, when Dan had to be in Dallas for yet another neuroscience conference. So it was just Craig, the plump paralegal; Paolo, the sharp-as-a-razor marketing executive who grew up in Milan and L.A.; and cute little baby hunk Kyle, one of “the puppies.” His equally buff playmate, Robbie, had to go to a family event somewhere across the Hudson. (Iowa? Indiana? Idaho? Nobody was sure.) And me.
The little gourmet grocery in the Pines had just opened and many of the shelves were still empty. The cramped but well stocked liquor store, on the other hand, offered everything – the owner knew his market. Still, I decided to open the season with the freshest, juiciest and simplest of all mixed drinks – the screwdriver. With only two ingredients (not counting the ice), the screwdriver lends a nutritious aura to what is basically an easy-to-take vehicle for vodka. It was with screwdrivers that I started my now-medicinally-indispensable journey into DrinkieLand back in high school; now on the downhill slope of middle age, we often served them at brunch. And yet a bitter groan of disappointment rang out from the housemates when I announced le cocktail du weekend. I countered that with me as the driver, this was a screw they’d never forget. The groans turned into derisive snorts.
“How many cocktails are named after tools?” Paolo asked, shifting the subject mercifully away.
“ The Rusty Nail!” Kyle shouted as though he’d just found gold in California.
“A nail is not a tool. It’s a fastener,” I crassly informed him.
“How about ‘getting hammered’?” Craig suggested.
“That’s not a tool either,” Paolo said. “It’s your autobiography.”
“Boys, boys, settle down,” I said over the laughter. “Who wants to learn the historical origins of the screwdriver?”
Paolo suddenly had a cell phone call to place from the outside deck. Craig said, “I’ve got laundry going” and left, shaking the house to its pilings as he made his way out the sliding doors. “I do,” Kyle said sweetly. “Good boy,” I answered as though he was a dachshund. My cheeks reddened. Oh, God – I was training him!
“The legend is, there were these American construction workers in the late 1940s who went to the Middle East to build stuff for the shah or the sheik or the sultan or somebody. Muslims don’t drink alcohol, so the Americans furtively spiked their canned orange juice with vodka and stirred it in with their screwdrivers.”
“Wow,” said Kyle. “I had a Comfortable Screw once back home in Tulsa.”
“I bet you did,” I thought with an evil inner leer. What I actually said was, “Yeah – Southern Comfort and orange juice. Too sweet for me. Besides, the only person who could get away with drinking that swill was Janis Joplin, and she did it by drinking it straight from the bottle.”
Paolo and Craig reappeared the instant I tap-tapped the pitcher of vodka-laden OJ. Rooting around the liquor cabinet, Craig found a forgotten, almost empty bottle of Orange Curacao and dumped it in the pitcher before I could stop him. I must admit, it wasn’t bad. Cointreau and Grand Marnier would work, too. But go easy.
3 parts fresh-squeezed orange juice – it’s worth the higher price for this cocktail.
1 part Absolut
1/4 part or less orange liqueur
Ice. Pitcher. Glasses, preferably tall.