As a child, if your best friend’s mother speaks to you, some completely uncontrollable set of neurons fires off and turns you into the world’s most polite child.
When you grow up you discover a whole new set of neurons firing about the time the love of your life finishes saying, “And these are my parents.”
The great thing about in-laws is they present a nonstop series of minor social dilemmas. Having won the heart of their precious daughter, a task you thought was a climb-it-once-and-you’re-done sort of expedition, you find yourself faced with winning over the in-laws, two people who have nothing to gain from your presence in the world except the possibility of grandchildren.
Or, in my case, four people. Two sets of in-laws. You probably envy me.
One of the fathers-in-law has a penchant for gin, which, until I became the daughter stealer, I had pretty much eschewed in favor of bourbon. Walk in the door and it’s happy hour, a perfectly chilled glass produced from the freezer, olives, a twist, or whatever you like in your martini already at hand. It is always a martini; Jim’s Place is not gin-and-tonic land.
That first happy hour years ago was minor social dilemma No. 1: Dive in with the martini or ask for a Manhattan? Critical decisions are sometimes made in a nanosecond. I’d love a martini.
Jim, the star bartender at Jim’s Place, is unlikely to settle for a mediocre martini, being that he’s something of a connoisseur. Really, if there were sommeliers for gin, he would belong to the Court of Masters. I discovered that worked to my benefit on the next visit because he had discovered a new favorite: Hendrick’s. He introduced it with all the enthusiasm of a wine steward, eloquently extolling its small batch creation and its delicate cucumber and rose petal infusion. The recipe for a Hendrick’s martini is simple: Chill the glass. Put some Hendrick’s in a shaker and shake it. Pour it into the glass. Garnish with a cucumber slice.
You’ll want to write that down because it’s the world’s finest martini and sooner or later you’ll encounter some tutti-frutti-flavored-vodka-drinking bartender who wants to mess it up with vermouth. Do not let him.
That first Hendrick’s martini was heaven in a glass. Or possibly purgatory, because it might have been the second one that was the most heavenly.
Still not satisfied that he had found the perfect gin, he continued to experiment, neighbor Dale and me as enthusiastic guinea pigs. Citadelle was an excellent runner-up, but it wasn’t as good as Hendrick’s.
One day, Jim and Dale set out to find the World’s Greatest Gin and put their rudimentary Google skills to the test. They found Williams Chase, which topped all the lists in the magazines, universally outranking Hendrick’s. Unfortunately, at the time, it was not available in the United States. Undeterred, they called a liquor store in London, which had 11 bottles on hand and was willing to ship them to Missouri at the case-discount price, which was 10 percent off of Holy Cow! That is some pricey gin! But there’s a price tag for the World’s Best.
Generous to a fault, Jim sent some my way, the Union Jack bow tie still around the bottle’s neck. Effudi. Ego cadis. Adeptus: I poured. I sipped. I enjoyed. But truthfully, it wasn’t as good as Hendrick’s.
That led to the next minor social dilemma, which occurred on the next visit to Jim’s Place.
“What did you think of the Williams Chase?”
Oh, hell. Tick. Tick. Tick.
“Uh, it was very good.”
“Yeah,” he said. “But it’s not as good as Hendrick’s.”
So we had one of those. It’s nice when you get along with the in-laws.