Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Cocktail of the Week - Leaving Manhattan


We were in quite a rush before we left for Asturias, Cantabria & Galicia on the northern coast of Spain, so we failed to mention our lovely bon voyage party. Asim Tuttle, who lives down the hall, hosted the fete & his story is an interesting one. His Austrian father, a Jewish horticulturalist, wound up stranded in Morocco fleeing from the Second World War & there met an utterly charming Arab woman named Ahlam. They fell in love & produced our evening's host & hero. Unfortunately, the mother died giving birth & new father Turtelbaum & his son were whisked away to the United States the next day by North Africa's heroic underground.  Asim swears he has no idea how the family name went from Turtelbaum to Tuttle, but Tuttle's Floristry & Ornament on Orchard Street in Manhattan became very popular, specializing in floral arrangements for grand European-style funerals in New York City & doing a few arrangements for the movies when his Old World clients & cinema intersected. 

Asim's father contracted consumption in 1952 & spent his remaining days at the Adirondack Cottage Sanitarium while his handsome young son made the flower shop his own, decorating the prosceniums of our city's theaters & nightclubs with elaborate floral ornaments. Howard Barnes, of the New York Herald Tribune, once wrote that Asim's exquisite arrangements were much wittier than the plays themselves. Even the famous Tuttle funerals became the stuff of legend, often looking more like elegiac parade floats than the dour wreathery we normally associate with these rituals. The first people to notice Asim's morbid flair belonged to the local Black Hand & for years our friend provided the American Cosa Nostra with the finest, most garish funerals money could buy, creating magnificent carnation horseshoes, dahlia sub-machine guns & lattices of lilies, reflecting an obviously damned soul's ascent to paradise. Soon after, Asim caught the eye of Hollywood & he moved to Los Angeles & began designing & advising on funeral arrangements for films, sketching out Gothic floral dreams for Billy Wilder's monkey funeral in Sunset Boulevard & a hundred other famous movies. Though he nearly always missed having his name in the opening credits because his work relegated him to being assistant to a production or set designer, Minnie & I always recognize his work when we see it & if we don't, Asim is there to bark, "Those wreaths? They're mine" or "That casket spray? Surely you can see that's my work!". And he's not a hollow braggart, the Asim Tuttle Touch is as apparent as the directorial flamboyance of a great auteur. His extravagant funereal arrangements in The Loved One  (an adaptation of the novel by our dearly-departed friend, Evelyn Waugh) is the finest floral work I've yet to see in a movie.

Asim Tuttle's Father decorated the casket for vaudeville actress Mirena Shed

Asim's father's work on the film Three Doorways to Love, 1944

While we were out shopping for the miscellaneous items one needs on a long trip, Asim cajoled Mr. Niklas into giving him our key & letting him decorate our apartment in an array of Spanish flowers & our favorite purplish blossoms so that we quite literally gasped when we returned to the apartment. Not only had he created the most ornate scenes from the Spanish Inquisition in Petrea Volubilis, Gorse Thicket, Black Rockrose, Armeria & Perpetua, but he'd provided the most elegant cocktail I've yet to experience & named it the Leaving Manhattan. All of our friends attended & the cocktail -- though not an easy one to mix -- remained in circulation the entire evening, thanks primarily to Asim's young assistants Bulag & Stephen who carried Russian brass teapots of the stuff from guest to guest with such silence & stealth one can be assured they led a secret life as Hashisin. We retired early, but there were still a few people discussing Leo Taxil in the living room when we called for our taxi & left the Bramford for Spain.

Here is the recipe for this wondrous drink, so you can brew it before you make your own heretical pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela:

2 oz Bourbon, preferably Woodford Reserve
1/2 oz Punt e Mes (dark brown Italian vermouth)
1/4 oz Dark Creme de Cacao
1/4 oz Lapsang Smoked Tea Syrup (make a pitcher -- 1/2 superfine sugar/4 oz strong-brewed Lapsang souchong tea)
2 dashes Orange Bitters
An Orange or Pomegranate Twist for garnish. 

We're glad to be home & Minnie & I can't wait to continue blogging for you.

Hail Satan!

The Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela

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