I met with Dr. Troy Parsons in the President’s Club Lounge during his two-hour layover at Denver International Airport.
He’d just arrived from Houston where he’d secured enough financing to complete development of what he claims will be hailed as the Ultimate Cocktail. Fiftyish, white-haired, bespectacled and slightly rattled, he wore the mien of a man who’d just ventured into a den of lions — and came back wearing their pelts.
Modern Drunkard: In your press release you say you are on the verge of creating the “ultimate cocktail,” as it were.
Troy Parsons: Absolutely.
MD: And you refer to yourself a cocktail scientist.
TP: I am a cocktail scientist.
MD: No mere mixologist, but an actual cocktail scientist.
TP: That’s right. The difference being, I’m not just pouring together some liquors and mixers you might find in a typical bar. I research and discover new botanicals. I’ve traveled the world seeking out new liquors. Even if that means going into the jungle or across the tundra. And I’ve an advanced degree in chemistry.
MD: And what did you find in the jungle, Dr. Parsons?
TP: An amazing abundance of herbs the Western world isn’t even aware of. And some very intriguing native alcoholic drinks. For example, the Karowai, the tree people of Indonesia, have developed an extraordinary beverage called riopa, fermented from Sago palms, red pandanae fruit and beetles, among other things.
MD: Beetles, you say?
TP: Capricorn beetles. Lends an exquisite protein base to the drink. I had to spend three weeks camped below their tree huts before they invited me up to have a drink.
MD: Are you certain they weren’t playing a joke on you? You know, the old “Let’s get the gringo to drink beetle juice.”
TP: Oh, no. These are very serious people. Not too long ago they were headhunters, cannibals. Some say they still are. When the urge strikes them.
MD: Good thing you behaved yourself. Do you know that there are monkeys in Borneo who make their own wine?
TP: I’ve read about that.
MD: The local natives call it Monkey Shine. They say one drink makes you drunk for a week.
TP: That’s unlikely. Expecting monkeys to create the ultimate cocktail is like, well, expecting monkeys to build a rocket ship out of bamboo and bananas.
MD: Right you are. Personally, I’d keep an eye on the hairy little brutes. Don’t trust them, quite frankly. Never have. Did you know the artist known as Shag enjoys drinking with monkeys?
TP: Can’t say I did.
MD: Did you read about the Amazon Expedition of the Oxford Men’s Tippling Club?
TP: Yes. I know the legend they were pursuing. I have thought about taking that trip myself.
MD: Truly? I hope you keep me in mind when assembling your team. I was supposed to be on the previous expedition, you know.
TP: Apparently it was a lucky thing you didn’t.
MD: I should say. Perhaps we’ll run into the chaps on our expedition.
TP: Or at least the men who ate them.
MD: That would be rather uncomfortable, wouldn’t it? Now, I don’t mean to steal your thunder, Doctor, but I believe I’ve imbibed the ultimate cocktail. A Sahara Glowing Heart Cocktail imbibed while overlooking the moonstruck Great Pyramid of Ghizeh.
TP: I can’t speak to the view, but I’ve tested several variations of that venerable libation. It did score rather high on the Rosamorte Scale, but, ah, let’s just say it falls quite short of the mark.
MD: Rosemorte Scale?
TP: Victor Rosemorte was a French cataloguist who ranked cocktails on a definitive scale. I am but one of three individuals on the planet who have access to his extensive works.
MD: Huh! But isn’t it true, Doctor, that one man’s ultimate cocktail is another man’s gut wrencher?
TP: I believe mine will appeal to nearly everyone. And it has properties no other cocktail possesses.
MD: Such as?
TP: First, it will taste like blue skies and golden sunshine, if I may wax poetic. Also, it will take you to that perfect moment of euphoria and let you stay there for much longer than normal. And no more hangovers.
MD: Truly? How can that be?
TP: I’m employing botanicals that help your body process the toxins that are a byproduct of breaking down alcohol. It also speeds up the metabolism, moving the alcohol through your system much more efficiently, allowing you to drink more and longer. Your body never gets overloaded with toxins and alcohol and there your are, lingering within the golden circle.
MD: I must confess I am intrigued. Can you give us a hint as to what we’ll find in this perfect cocktail?
TP: Well, let’s just say it’s one part tropical sunset, one part happy hour laughter, a healthy dash of barmaid’s smile, a—
MD: Come now. One can’t very well walk into a liquor store and secure such items.
TP: Well, I couldn’t very well tell you the actual ingredients, could I? You’d rip me off.
MD: Without question. How close are you to perfecting the recipe?
TP: Very close. But with this sort of thing, it could be days, it could be a year. Perhaps longer.
MD: Seems I’ve read about a German chap who also endeavors to create a so-called ultimate cocktail.
TP: Ah, my worthy rival, Dr. Van Troutmann. I wish the good doctor all the luck in the world.
MD: Very gracious of you. Considering the fact that whoever arrives at the recipe first would most likely become a billionaire overnight. I mean, drunks the world over will beat a path to your Tiki bar.
TP: Believe me, I know. He’s utterly off track, of course, but God bless the man.
MD: It also seems to me, what with the millions of bartenders and amateur cocktailologists out there, that nearly every possible variation has been mixed.
TP: Not so. As I said earlier, I’m using ingredients that are not available to your average bartender. And I’ve done a great deal of research into matters scientific, esoteric and archaic.
MD: Still, I think every drunk bartender has felt that that he created the ultimate cocktail at least once in his life.
TP: True. Even before the idea of a proper “cocktail” existed, there was a lot of talk about perfect wines and beers, usually involving psychoactive herbs and religious trappings. All the way back to the Egyptians. A noteworthy example is what I like to call the Unholy Brew of the Black Monks.
MD: The who?
TP: Near the beginning of the 14th century, illuminated documents briefly circulated in what is now Poland, describing a new beverage that, if you drank enough, you would get a glimpse of Heaven itself.
MD: You are, of course, talking about absinthe.
TP: No, this was long before absinthe was invented.. It was put together by a splinter order of monks who called themselves the Brothers of Bacchanalia.
TP: The Brothers were later vilified as black monks and slaughtered wholesale as heretics by the Knights Templar. Under orders from Pope Clement V.
MD: But weren’t the Templars themselves known to be great drunkards?
TP: Yes, there was even an old saying along the lines of being “Drunk as a Templar.” Which was very drunk indeed. Legend has it, in fact, that the Templars tortured the recipe from the monks before murdering them.
MD: Weren’t the Knights Templar themselves eventually crushed by the Vatican?
TP: Only a few years later. By the French monarchy, under orders from the Pope. For worshiping Baphomet among other crimes. Perhaps the Templars learned something from the Brothers they shouldn’t have. Perhaps the knowledge corrupted them. See, the Pope had the monks killed because they were supposed to have gotten in league with Lucifer, and Old Scratch was teaching them evil things.
MD: Like the recipe for a magical liquor.
MD: Have you have a copy of the Black Monks’ document?
TP: I possess an extensive library of archaic drinking literature.
MD: May I examine this document?
MD: Does it contain the actual recipe?
TP: Not per se. The meat of the document is a forty-two line quatrain that alludes to the recipe. Say one of the botanicals involved was crushed Calamus, aka Sweet Flag. They might refer to it as the “the trodden banner of the Sugar King” hence, crushed Sweet Flag. A sort of fanciful medieval code.
MD: Is Sweet Flag one of the ingredients?
TP: No. I made that up as an example.
MD: Rather tight lipped, aren’t you? So Satan-controlled monks gleaned the ultimate cocktail and circulated the recipe in the form of a code. Why would they do that?
TP: Nostradamus did the same thing. He wanted to get the word out about his prophecies, but he didn’t wish to be burned as a heretic. So he coded and scrambled them.
MD: And you cracked the code.
TP: I believe so, yes.
MD: And that is your recipe.
TP: No. The monks merely laid the groundwork. Philosophically they were dead on, but they lacked modern ingredients, advanced distillation techniques and the Mojo Machine.
MD: The, uh—
TP: Mojo Machine. It’s my pet name for the world’s first cocktail anti-centrifuge. I have a patent pending.
MD: This is a bit off subject, but you’re not in contact with the aliens or anything like that, are you?
TP: Yes, I must sound nuts. I’ve heard it all before.
MD: Not at all, I was just curious. What does the anti-centrifuge do?
TP: Using magnetic fields and shifting gravity, it combines substances of different densities on nearly a molecular level, utterly changing their properties.
MD: Couldn’t you just use a blender?
TP: No. Some of the ingredients don’t naturally get along. You have to force them to hold hands and the effect is temporal. Until I can come up with some stronger bonding agents, my ultimate cocktail will only be viable for about eight hours after creation.
MD: What happens then?
TP: The ingredients have a rather nasty break up. It becomes something even the gentlemen of the alley wouldn’t touch.
MD: Oh, you might be surprised. That will make distribution difficult at best. It’s the Guinness curse. You’d have to put a Mojo Machine in every bar.
TP: Which will be expensive, at least at first.
MD: Now, Doctor, I, and our readers, understand your motivations completely. But there are some misguided souls out there who will question why a brilliant man such as yourself would dedicate his life to refining an alcoholic drink, instead of throwing himself at the cure for cancer, say.
TP: There are untold thousands working on cancer. But how many men of learning are working in my field, struggling to bring a little more light in the world? It’s human nature to seek out the best the world has to offer. Humanity deserves the ultimate cocktail. Considering how much stress there is in this modern world, it desperately needs the relief the ultimate cocktail would bring—please don’t do that.
MD: Now, for the sake of our readers, who won’t know what just happened, I attempted to take your picture and you rather violently put your hand over my camera’s lens. Why so shy, Doctor?
TP: No insult to you, but I’d rather not. Nothing ever good comes out of it. For example, I lived in Marseilles for two years and, during an interview with a local paper, I made the mistake of letting them take my picture. From that point on I couldn’t walk into a local bar or cafe without drunks and bartenders demanding to know the secrets of my cocktail. Some tried to assault me. And there’s the other element to worry about.
MD: Other element?
TP: I’ve had a number of threats made against my life. Especially lately.
MD: I noticed you travel with what appears to be bodyguards. Who threatens you, Doctor?
TP: We’re not exactly sure. But think about it. Who would have reason to squash the release of the ultimate cocktail?
MD: Well, right off hand, I would say MADD. And the lads at AA. Any number of temperance groups. Muslims. The loony left, the religious right, the distilleries, the breweries, the wineries. Drug cartels. The Federal Government.
TP: So you see.
MD: Great God! Come to think of it, everyone except drinkers and bars that could afford your Mojo Machine would be against it.
TP: That’s right. Beyond their threats, they haven’t attempted to actually kill me yet, not as far as I know. Strangers follow me, however. I’ve run into strangers in bars I’ve never been to before and these men know my name and have some unpleasant things to say. I think they don’t entirely take me seriously yet, but when they do—
MD: A MADD death squad bursts through the door with machine-pistols spitting lead and death!
TP: Well, I don’t know about MADD, but—
MD: I wouldn’t put it past them. Have you ever met a MADD honcho? I’m not talking about the housewives at the rallies, I’m talking about the salaried upper-echelon goons. They’re vicious. Then there’s the IOR. They’re probably the one’s putting the arm on you.
TP: The who?
MD: Independent Order of Rechabites. It’s a secret society formed along the lines of the Freemasons, except they’re fanatical prohibitionists. Been around for 200 years or so. They were supposed to have dissolved in the 1920s, but they merely went underground. They abandoned their lodges for highly-mobile cells controlled by a single central committee. They’re the clandestine muscle of the neo-prohibitionist movement.
TP: Whew! And I though I was paranoid.
MD: I haven’t even mentioned the Sons of Temperance, the Improved Order of Red Men, the Templars of Temperance, the Knights of Jericho and the Total Abstinence Union. All prohibitionist secret societies, all active. Any one of them would love to have your scalp on their belt.
MD: MDM’s editor is doing a big exposé of the “enemies of alcohol” next issue. He’s certain to be assassinated.
MD: I’m giving him a bullet-proof vest for Christmas. Least I can do. You might want to get one yourself. If I were you I’d go completely underground, I’d lock myself in a impregnable bunker until I perfected the cocktail.
TP: Perhaps you’re right. I suddenly feel a bit endangered.
MD: Then I’d make a deal with Shriners for sole distribution rights. They’re conducting a secret war against the Rechabites anyway. Let their brutes deal with the apocalyptic battle that will surely follow the release of your cocktail. They could shuttle you between their lodges until the national media got interested, then it would be too late for for the Drys. They’d have to let you live. For a little while at least.
TP: That’s good to know.
MD: And of course you can count on us. We’ve highly-trained operatives all over the world. If you ever find yourself in sudden need of a safehouse, give us a ring. We’ll put you so deep underground they’d need a bloody nuclear weapon to blast you out.
TP: I’ll keep that in mind.
MD: You should. Now, I see you’ve brought an unmarked, rather mysterious looking thermos with you. As a gentleman journalist I’ve been waiting for you to bring it up, but I can’t bite my tongue any longer.
TP: What you see before you is a prototype of my cocktail.
MD: Would you be so perfectly kind as to lend me a taste of this coctel ultimato?
TP: That’s why I brought it. Keep in mind this is a prototype.
MD: There are no beetles in there, are there?
TP: Oh no. No beetles.
MD: Thank you, sir! Very generous pour. Well, one small sip for a drunkard, one huge lap for drunkardkind!
TP: What do you think?
MD: Well. Very effervescent, I must say.
TP: The carbonation aids in the absorbtion of certain elements.
MD: A tad rough around the edges. May need just a tad more tropical sunset. The taste is certainly unique. And toothsome.
TP: Thank you.
MD: I say, the second taste hit me better. If I had to describe it, I’d say a champagne mouth, with a very mellow cream undertone. Obviously a tropical taste as well. Yet that doesn’t describe it all. One of the most unique things I’ve ever tasted. Does anything taste like this?
TP: No. Nothing.
MD: And it won’t give me a hangover?
TP: If you drank only this, and nothing else, no hangover.
MD: And I could ride the euphoric wave all night?
TP: As long as you’d want to.
MD: Just a tad rough around the edges.
TP: As I said, it’s still in the prototype stages. It’s quite high-proof, you know.
MD: I can taste the alcohol, which I like, but its edge is very polished, very civilized. How many cocktail variations have you tried before you arrived at this version?
TP: Thousands. Sometimes up to ten a day.
MD: Bully for you. Your whole venture sounds like an excellent excuse for a lifelong bender.
TP: My convictions are much more noble than that.
MD: As are mine. I assure you we at Modern Drunkard rally our motivations under the same honorable banner. But don’t you sometimes wake up in the morning with doubts, and think to yourself, “Good God, old boy, I believe this entire venture is just an excuse to stay drunk.”
TP: I enjoy my work, let’s put it that way.
MD: I should say. Does Van Troutmann have his own version of the Mojo Machine?
TP: I wouldn’t worry about him. Let me put it this way: the monkeys of Borneo have a better chance at the ultimate cocktail then that fucking hack.
MD: Please, sir! You are a gentleman scientist. Behave as such. You are the shining light which drunkards look to for inspiration and comfort. A constant in a universe of dastards and savages.
TP: Sorry about that.
MD: Also, a gentleman never refuses a guest a drink, under any circumstances.
TP: Well, this is all I brought on the plane. I—
MD: Sir! You see before you a gentleman with an empty glass, and you have a half full thermos of liquor. What is your first instinct? As a gentleman?
TP: All right.
MD: Well done! Where’s your next stop?
TP: Home base.
MD: Where’s that?
TP: Rather not say.
MD: Understood. One last question: What will you call your ultimate cocktail?
TP: That’s for the marketing guys to figure out. For now, I call it Parsons’ Folly.
Postscript: After concluding my interview with Mr. Parsons, I repaired to the Denver Press Club to sort out my notes and a bottle of gin, and I must admit, even though I’d only drank two of Dr. Parsons’ cocktail, I felt a definite effect. A strange blue cheer that floated above the wave of Tanqueray. I did have a bit of a hangover in the morning, but that was probably the gin.