Make This Cocktail to Commemorate the Perfect Peach
Peaches are a great source of horror for me. I am convinced that the last good peach I ate was eaten as a child, in 2001 or 2002, somewhere in the Kisela Voda area in Skopje, Macedonia. Most likely, it was the one that I plucked from a neighbor’s tree on the way from one grandmother’s house to the house – it was kissed by the sun, warm and fluffy. I would wipe the fluff off my shirt, learning from my own experience that the fluff will be prickly if I don’t. (So enveloped in the softness of my very first peach and twig, I pressed my face against it only to meet the burn of the trichomes that prickle my cheek.) I doubt I was thinking about the impending disappearing fruit. I nibbled on the lush velvet skin, savoring the symphony of taste buds as I walked on, the juice dripping down my chin and hands.
At that time, the perfect peach was not uncommon. Despite the fact that my family lived in the capital of the city, our area was more fruitful than metropolitan, and in the summer the dirt roads that turned into the streets were often strewn with stone fruits of varying degrees of decomposition. It seemed to me that the only people who actually bought peaches in the market were usually friends who lived in high-rise buildings, or those who were tasked with bringing groceries to old pensioner Baba, who was too crippled with arthritis to travel to Zelen Pazar himself.
I don’t know what happened to the peaches. I don’t know if this was the emergence of a Western-style supermarket serving a newly capitalized (and capitalist) workforce in need of convenience. Perhaps it was a series of neighbors who began to cut down their fruit trees, preferring lawns over groves, flower bushes over food. My dad spent years trying to create his own manicured emerald Gatsby Lawn, all with cherries, apricots, and wild roses that have survived decades in the front yard of a small business. This is how my favorite peaches of my childhood were nowhere to be found. Nevertheless, I remained hopeful.
Hope continued until the summer of 2018 when I finally returned to Skopje. I booked a room in the city center, a stone’s throw from the market. Due to jet lag, I went and bought peaches – from several different vendors, just in case – and brought them to my grandmother’s barrack. The scones of each batch were laid out to taste, but not these peaches. They were pale, watery and dull. “It was raining too much this year,” my grandmother said, shaking her head and clicking as she turned her attention to a Turkish soap opera on TV. It was easier for her to move on – she had decades of good peaches.
From Ontario orchards to Obor Market in Bucharest, from organic food at Whole Foods and back to Skopje. Nothing comes close to my memory in full saturation. The perfect peach, with its halo of scent, its lanugo coat, its freshly reddened shade, is now an elusive and illusory realm.
Longing for gone peaches is often intensified not so much by their absence as by facsimiles that come every season to take their place. For now, I have given up on finding the perfect peach. I can’t stand another anemia and agony disappointment. Instead, when desire arises, I create my own holograms. I know this is not the real thing, but it still somehow seems closer.
This week’s cocktail is an ode to my memory of peaches. Seasonal peaches form the basis of this witchcraft, and mezcal brings salinity to my tears (laughs). Heating is optional, but necessary if you want a bite that resembles a trichome bite. To pay tribute, you will need:
- 3-5 peach slices (I use peach donuts, but all ripe and so)
- 3/4 ounce lemon juice (fresh)
- Ounces of honey syrup *
- 2 ounces mezcal (less smoky variety) or blanco tequila
- Optional: A couple of drops of habanero bitter or just tabasco will do.
Place peach wedges and a couple of drops of hot sauce in a shaker and stir until almost puree. Add lemon, honey syrup and mezcal. Fill a shaker with ice and shake quickly; a count of eight is enough. Strain into a chilled glass with ice; the fresher and drier the better. One large ice cube is ideal, but work with what you have.
(Feel free to treat this as a template for the riffs. Play with different modifiers and different spirits. Gene, for example, almost always plays well.)