Cocktail Chatter: 'The Escondido Surprise'

by Ed Sikov

I never hear from readers - the folks Norma Desmond describes in "Sunset Boulevard" as "those wonderful people out there in the dark." So I was glad to get a message from "Joey from Denver." Here's his note, quoted with his permission:

Dear Ed: I love your column, even though I think you're a crud for cheating on Dan. How can you risk throwing away a good man for an asshole (literally!)? Anyway, I'm not writing to scold but rather to share a recipe. I call it 'the Escondido Surprise.' It's basically a gimlet with emotional problems.

I'm an IT guy for a financial company in Denver, where I grew up. Fifteen or so years ago, my parents retired to Escondido, California. Escondido's website describes the place as follows: "Settled in a valley in the coastal mountains of Southern California, Escondido - which means hidden in Spanish - lies 18 miles inland and 100 miles south of Los Angeles. Surrounded by avocado and citrus groves, Escondido is a vibrant community with just the right mix of small town friendliness and big-city buzz.' I describe it as 'hell on earth, with a stinking mix of deadly heat and Reagan-worshipping cretins," but anyway....

I just moved my parents out of their trailer. Neither of them is in good health anymore, and my older sister, Julie, found them a "retirement apartment," which is to say a one-stop-shopping residence that will see them through daily check-ins by nurses' aides to hospice care. The Escondido Surprise is the concoction I mixed after shipping my parents along with 12 boxes of clothes, horrible tchotchkes (note: Yiddish for "worthless crap") and diabetes supplies to Seattle in Julie's SUV. It sounds dire, but it's actually a huge relief to know they'll have emergency pull-cords in every room.

In the back of a cabinet was a bottle of Beefeater with enough left for one drink. I found a yellow lime on the ground on the side of the trailer, and as I picked it up, I heard Phyl, the newly lonely next-door neighbor, bark, "Take 'em all, I don't care!" I grabbed three more and squeezed the juice into a glass with the gin. The stone-like sugar at the bottom of an ancient box wouldn't kill me, so I smashed it on the counter with my shoe (hygienically wrapped in an unused trash bag) and randomly poured some in the glass. I pried some brownish ice chips off bottom of the freezer and gave it all a couple rounds with my index finger. Surprise! It was delicious - the perfect cocktail with which to say good riddance to Escondido and hello to the next phase of my family's life.

I don't know if this is funny or pathetic, but you can use it in your column if you want.

- Your faithful reader, Joey

Well, Joey, New York supermarket limes are green, our icemaker produces clear ice, and our sugar isn't clumped, but otherwise I duplicated your recipe, and it was terrific. Here's to you and your folks, Joey. Having gone through this myself, I can tell you: it isn't pathetic. It's an act of love.

The Escondido Surprise

Beefeater gin

Fresh or bottled lime juice, to taste

Sugar to taste

Ice, any color

Pour gin over possibly funky ice, add lime juice and sugar, stir with your index finger and drink while pondering your own journey to the grave.

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