I remember my first drink.
I wore a vintage green one-piece, a large, abstract yellow flower splashed against my side. I may or may not have had sunglasses.
I think at that point, I wore my hair short, otherwise it would have been up in a knot at the top of my head, little whispers brushing against my forehead – baby hairs that have always refused to grow and splay about me like some sort of fuzzy halo or miniature lion’s mane.
I remember the hot sun beating against my back and the tinkling laughter of the others on the boat. I remember the smell of salt water and the way it tickled my skin. I remember being nervous. Not for the drink, but for the water that was to come after. The open sea.
I remember my mom warning me as she took her first sip, “Strong.”
I remember looking through the impossibly small door leading to the back (stern?) of the boat and seeing kids not much older than myself pouring juices and rum and fruit into large buckets.
I remember the sticky sweet smell. The pineapple and the orange, the mango and the Sprite, the coconut of the rum. The smooth surface of the plastic cup and the clunk of ice cubes against the side.
I remember taking a small sip. It was strong. The rum warmed my mouth and the Sprite’s carbonation danced down my throat as I swallowed. I looked at my mom and she smiled as she sipped her drink again. I remember fishing out a piece of pineapple and sucking on it – rum soaked and acidic.
I remember I didn’t finish my drink. About half-way through I set it to the side and forgot it was there. I’m sure it was kicked over as people made their way into the sea.
For ten years, rum was my drink. I drank it with cola or pineapple juice or plain. White or dark, spiced or coconut.
My first gin was in a small bar with my college ex. A mutual friend offered me a sip of his gin and tonic. One sip was all it took to turn me off Gin for years.
Eight years later – only this year – I had my next gin.
I was on the outside patio with girlfriends. A jazz band was playing too loud and cigar smoke was curling through the night. I don’t know what made me order it. I knew I didn’t enjoy gin. I knew.
But then it happened: I heard myself say, “the gin cocktail.”
It was gin and cucumbers with muddled mint and lime juice. I sat in my seat, nervous, as I waited for the gin to come. And when it finally arrived, I stalled some more. Went to the bathroom, texted a friend. I Stared at the offensive drink that I just had to order. And it was seven dollars. I ordered a seven dollar gin cocktail.
But then something happened.
I liked it. I like gin.
Eight years wasted because, as it turns out, I don’t like tonic water.
Cucumber Infused Gin
700 ml good gin – one that you would ordinarily enjoy drinking (I used Beefeater gin)
1 medium cucumber
Begin by thoroughly peeling the cucumber. Slice it in half lengthwise and scoop out all the seeds. Discard the seeds and peel. Chop the peeled and seeded cucumber into 1 inch squares and add to a quart-size mason jar or other sealable jar. Top the cucumber chunks with the gin and keep in a cold, dark place (like the refrigerator) for 1 to 2 weeks, shaking the jar each day to agitate the mixture.
After one to two weeks, strain the gin using several layers of cheesecloth into a clean container (one you can close if you’re not going to drink all the gin in one night). Discard the cucumbers.
Store the cucumber gin in a sealed container in the refrigerator.
Cucumber Gin cocktail
Club soda, cold
1 lime, sliced thin
Mix 2-3 parts club soda to 1 part cucumber infused gin with slices of lime, to taste. Enjoy cold.