Saturday, November 18, 2017

Doing a Good Ternary

I lived in New York at one point in my life.  Everyone had a triple lock on their apartment.  There was the regular lock, for the key, but inside there was also the deadbolt, and the chain.  Some people had even more elaborate affairs.  If you wanted entry, you had to navigate all those locks.  It would have been even more puzzling if the key only opened the lock every so often.  There would have to be a repeatable pattern, for sure, but it wouldn’t be obvious and turning the key wouldn’t always have the expected outcome.  I’m pretty sure if Robert Yarger had designed it, that’s how it would work.

Stickman No. 8 Puzzle Box (3-Lock Box) by Robert Yarger
The Stickman No. 8 Puzzle Box is known as the “3-Lock Box”, and you probably get the idea.  Sliding certain panels seldom seem to have the same effect each time they are moved.  Initially one or two panels might move a bit, but after some experimentation (trying the same thing you just tried, which normally has everyone quoting Einstein’s theory of insanity at you, but in this case has you pointing out this box to those hecklers) suddenly another panel just might move.  Whoops, now it won’t move anymore.  There are multiple layers of security going on here, with at least three “locks” which need to be opened, which in turn each require multiple repeated moves (perhaps three?) to achieve.  Keeping in mind that all the movements are integrated together, so that a single moving panel may be functioning in multiple ways at once, and you have a brilliantly confusing puzzle on your hands.  Miss one step in sequence and you pay the price of repeating multiple steps over again.  If that wasn’t enough, there is a logical but very clever hidden move required at one point which will keep the best of thieves locked out of the secret drawer.  

The mechanism inside the box is based on a ternary calculating machine which Rob had crafted with no specific purpose in mind, until its use in this box materialized in his brain.  It sat in his “maybe later” drawer for over a year, and even other puzzle makers could find no use for it, which is just as well, since he ultimately came up with this incredible puzzle.  The box is strikingly beautiful, covered in glossy Wenge with bold ribbons of Purpleheart and Maple wrapping it up like a present.
This is truly one of the more unusual puzzle boxes due to the changing nature of what appears to be the same exact move each time.  

Rob has added a challenge to the solver, in the instruction manual, which also makes the box unique in his series.   Because one false step can send the solver back to the beginning for certain moves, there are levels to the efficiency of movement possible, and it remains quite a challenge to determine how to open it from the starting locked position in the least possible number of moves, even after you know how.  The solver is awarded a certain “status” (e.g. novice, expert) depending on how efficiently this can be accomplished.

Wrapped up like a beautiful present

Something about a triple-locked box must be especially compelling to human nature.  Around the same time that Robert Yarger’s 3-Lock Box was being produced, Eric Fuller was also producing his own Triple Lock Box.  Eric pointed out that although Rob claimed the name for his box came from a popular Jimmi Hendrix song (as well as the mechanism), the song was actually by Sammy Hagar.  Rob insisted it was Hendrix, and to this day still retains that description of the puzzle on his website. Even though Eric was right!

One more nice touch here is a little known back door into the box.  Once the box is solved and its mechanism understood well enough, it can be manipulated in a certain way to allow the lid to slide completely free so the fascinating internal mechanism can be admired.

A toast to this trifecta of puzzle box locks comes in the form of a classic cocktail triple play as well.  The storied Negroni is one of my favorites, in all its forms and flavors, as evidenced by its many appearances on these pages.  It may be the cocktail that I have featured more than any other.  I suppose it’s appropriate to be using one to toast another Stickman box, whose work I have probably featured more than any other.  The original Negroni, to refresh your memory, is a combination of gin, sweet vermouth and Campari, and was likely invented in the early 1900’s in Florence, although maybe not.  For the full semi-factual and fun filled story you can read my prior history of the drink when you need to procrastinate about something.  

This drink is on lock-down

For the 3-Lock Box I was feeling like a fall Negroni was in order, both because the cooling weather calls for fall spirits and because the rich dark woods on the box feel appropriate for the season.  I’ve therefore swapped out the gin for a fall favorite – Laird’s Apple Brandy, from America’s oldest distiller.  Aged and complex, it can be substituted for bourbon or cognac wherever those may be called for – and wherever else too!  Instead of Campari, I used a different amaro which is lighter, with more citrus and spice.  I’d like to make a disclaimer here, that unlike solving the 3-Lock Box, enjoying this drink does not require imbibing three of them in a row.  Although if you do, please leave a comment, as we’d all love to hear what you have to say at that point.  Here’s three cheers to the things in life that keep us guessing, and that aren’t always what they seem, or at least not all the time.  Cheers, cheers, cheers!

Autumnal Equilocks - a fall flavored Negroni

Autumnal Equilocks

1 oz Laird’s Apple Brandy
1 oz Carpano Antica Formula Vermouth
1 oz Amaro Montenegro
Stir ingredients together with ice and strain into a favorite glass.  Garnish with 3 locks.

A pair of triples

For more about Robert Yarger:

For prior Negroni variations see:

Saturday, November 11, 2017

Natural Born

Every time I review one of this craftsman’s boxes, I feel “born again”.  It’s a great feeling so I’m always glad to get the chance.  Jesse Born is a talented young fellow from Rome, New York with the knack for making great puzzles, the skill for making beautiful woodwork, and the desire to perfectly merge the two together.  His prior puzzle boxes have all been gorgeous and enjoyable, and his skill simply keeps improving.  He is constantly driven to learn new methods in production, precision, and technique.   For his “Yosegi Pattern Box”, his primary goal was to produce a beautiful “standard” type of box, at least in shape and size, which he has certainly achieved. He was inspired by traditional Japanese boxes and the work of master Ninomiya.  Like all of his creations, Jesse poured his heart into this one.  Each box required over one hundred cuts with his table saw, and he went through numerous batches of yosegi while learning and perfecting his vision for the box. The secondary goal, according to Jesse, was to incorporate a unique puzzle element not seen on any other puzzle box.  He has achieved that goal as well, and the result is a delight to behold. 

Yosegi Pattern Box by Jesse Born

The box is a hefty square affair made from either shimmering light Maple or dark Mexican Ebony on the base, with the complimentary wood found in contrast on the lid.  The top is also adorned with strips of yosegi, the traditional Japanese marquetry technique which Jesse has experimented with in different wood types and patterns.  Along the sides of the box are abstract zig-zag like patterns which add another nice dimension and overall aesthetic touch to the piece.  Inside, the box has a chamber made from beautiful Purple Heart wood, but you won’t get to appreciate that for a while.  The lid is firmly fixed in place.  There’s a lot of rattling going on inside the box, and sometimes it even seems to be repeatable.  Perhaps there’s a method to this madness?  The box requires a few steps to open, and is immensely satisfying to solve.  I enjoy all sorts of puzzle boxes, but the ones that employ hidden movements which can’t be seen, requiring something inside to move here or there just right, often leave me feeling ambivalent.  I prefer to deduce the solution, or discover something which has been very cleverly hidden in plain sight.  Which is why I love this box.  It fooled me into thinking it was something else entirely, when in fact it’s completely logical, with a wonderfully surprising and unique mechanism.  Everything is waiting in plain sight for you to discover, if only you are as clever as the designer.  The box provides just the right amount of misdirection, is instantly understandable once the AHA moment hits, and rewards the solver with a beautiful interior to complement the beautiful exterior.  Like other Bornwood designs, once inside the mechanics and mystery are all revealed, which is a nice touch.  All of his boxes have been great, but this is his best yet.

Interesting yosegi inlay adorns the top

The patterns on the sides of the Yosegi Pattern Box made me think of the “Zig-Zag CafĂ©” in Seattle, former home of famed bartender Murray Stenson who in 2004 resurrected a pre-prohibition cocktail classic known as the Last Word.  The story of that cocktail dates back to the Detroit Athletic Club in 1915, where it was the drink of choice for a celebrated stand-up comic of the day who was known to always have one (the last word) – on stage and in the bar.  It’s incredibly versatile and easy to make, with equal parts gin, lime, chartreuse and maraschino liqueur, and it lit up the cocktail scene during the recent renaissance.  It’s been described as cocktail “lasagna” – meaning there are scores of different recipes which tweak the ingredients, but as long as the basic formula remains the same the drink is always good.  

Born Yesterday

Here’s a delicious variation apropos for the season which I call, “Born Yesterday”.  Ironically, it features apple brandy from America’s oldest distillery, Laird and Company.  Their classic Applejack is also fantastic this time of year.  In addition to swapping the gin for apple brandy, the maraschino is exchanged for another incredible seasonal treat from a newer American craft distillery, St. George Spirits Spiced Pear liqueur.  This magical fruit brandy liqueur tastes like a freshly pressed Bartlett pear sprinkled with cinnamon and clove.  The combination of fall flavors blends effortlessly and you might be fooled into thinking this is an inspired new creation when, in fact, it’s merely the latest word. But you weren’t born yesterday – cheers!

Treat yourself to some natural born delights

Born Yesterday

¾ oz Laird’s Old Apple Brandy
¾ oz lemon
¾ oz Yellow Chartreuse
¾ oz St. George Spirits Spiced Pear Liqueur

Stir together with ice and strain into a favorite glass.  Garnish with a twist.

For more about Jesse Born:

For prior Last Word variations:

Saturday, November 4, 2017


“Once upon a midnight dreary, as I pondered, weak and weary …” – Poe

Ah yes, this indeed describes my sentiments well as I attempted to open yet another fine puzzle padlock.  Welcome back to “Locks and Libations”, the erstwhile scribblings of a box collector who finds himself in possession of something distinctly … not a box … yet wishes to share the wonderful prize with the world, nonetheless.  Plus I love to highlight the brilliant work of my friend Shane Hales, that master of wood and metal, and many other fancy titles which sound quite impressive.  Shane’s puzzle lock series was inevitable, since he is a master locksmith, a puzzle lock collector, and an admirer of the inner workings of locks in general, both old and new.  Add his penchant for puzzles and viola, the Haleslock was born.  Following up on the Haleslock 1 and Haleslock 2 (which I have also featured here – Shane, when are you going to make a puzzle lock puzzle box so I can stop pretending these are boxes? I’m becoming the opposite of puzzlemad …) is the surprisingly named Haleslock 3, which debuted as Peter Hajek’s exchange puzzle during IPP 37 in Paris. 

Haleslock 3 by Shane Hales

“Let my heart be still a moment and this mystery explore...” - Poe 

This lock certainly stands out from a crowd, with its unusual shape and style.  A key is attached to a chain, which is shackled to the … shackle.  There is a much more prominent lock plate on the front of this padlock, with a pleasant little door which slides open to allow the key entry.  Not that it does any good.  I feel like I say that a lot with these locks. Haleslock 3 is a modified old English lever lock, and according to Shane it’s one of the oldest types of its kind still in production, with little change to the inner workings in 200 years – that is, until Shane got a hold of one. There’s definitely something moving around inside, and a certain move seemed to be reproducible, which is not the same thing as seemed to help, but that’s about all I could discover.  I stared into the keyhole, looking for clues, for a long, long time ….

“Deep into that darkness peering, long I stood there wondering, fearing …” - Poe


I should learn my lesson with these puzzling locks, and listen to the raven (“Nevermore”).  But there’s something so appealing about a secret lock which doesn’t open like it should – I suppose it’s the same something that draws me to boxes that don’t open the way they should, and hidden mechanisms in general.  So I’ll ignore the raven, and raise a toast to it, and this fine installment in the Haleslock series, instead.  

The Raven - a brooding, melancholy drink

The “Raven” cocktail is my take on a recipe from “Alison’s Wonderland Recipes”, a delightful blog whose author’s creations are all based on works of literature.  I took the liberty of increasing the atmospheric melancholy and funk, if you will, by using an agricole rhum, which is made from pure sugarcane rather than molasses.  The resulting “rhum” is incredibly moody and delicious.  Plus a special dose of dark rum to really set the tone – Poe is rather dark, after all. Finally my version needed a little amaro, that bitter Italian herbal potion, to capture the bittersweet depths of despair evoked in the poem … fine, and the lock, too.  Thanks Shane, and cheers!

Locking at my chamber door

The Raven – adapted from Alison’s Wonderland Recipes

1 ½ oz white rhum agricole
½ oz Plantation OFTD
1 oz fresh lime
½ oz pomegranate juice
½ oz simple syrup
¼ oz Averna
3 blackberries

Muddle the berries with the syrup and add the remaining ingredients.  Shake with ice and double strain into a favorite glass.  Garnish with something apro-Poe …

For more about Shane Hales:

N.B. Special thanks to Jeff Aurand for reminding me about this great poem …

Saturday, October 28, 2017

Wolves at the Door

Ready for a spooky tale of harrowing horror, just in time for Halloween? Well, I suppose this tale won’t terrify, but it is from a collection of one of the original horror stories – Grimm’s Fairytales.  If you’ve actually read any of the originals, you’ll agree – most of these “children’s” stories are quite grotesque and some are downright horrifying. 

The Wolf from Grimm by Osamu Kasho

For their “Story” themed exhibition, Osamu Kasho of the Karakuri Creation Group tapped into these tales and made a box called “The Wolf from Grimm”.  Kasho tends to create whimsical boxes with soft curves and almost cartoon like features.  I love his playful style and craftsmanship.  This one is no exception, rendering the Big Bad Wolf from the fairytale in contrasting walnut and maple, laying on his back fast asleep.  Admittedly, I imagined that this was the wolf from the Little Red Riding Hood story, of which I am more familiar.  Kasho mentions in his description of the box that the wolf has a big belly, and wonders what could be inside.  Indeed, there is something rattling around in there.  I thought I might find Granny, freshly devoured, inside the wolf’s cavernous stomach.  But there is another tale which stars the wolf as well, “The Wolf and the Seven Young Kids”, in which he devours a family of young goats by tricking them in a few clever ways.  We find the evidence of his treachery inside the belly of Kasho’s wolf.  So the next time someone knocks at your door, perhaps wearing a disguise, beware – especially if he or she says, “Trick or Treat!”  He might just want to eat you!

One too many, Mr. Wolf?  Of what, is the question ...

For Halloween and to continue the Big Bad Wolf theme I made a late night cocktail perfect for sipping on a crisp autumn All Hallow’s eve.  Created by innovative New York mixologist Jason Walsh, the “Grannies Nightcap” is a boozy bourbon surprise.  It starts out as a traditional Manhattan, with rye and sweet vermouth, but adds layers of flavor and depth with the addition of the intensely bitter Fernet Branca, which is balanced with the honey sweet scotch liqueur Drambuie.  I can see Granny in the forest now, taking perfectly good care of herself by offering the wolf this potent nightcap, then watching him pass out by her fireside.  Trick or Treat, everyone.  Cheers!

Granny's Nightcap by Jason Walsh

Grannies Nightcap by Jason Walsh

1 oz Rittenhouse Rye
1 ½ oz Sweet Vermouth (such as Noilly Pratt, but not Carpano)
½ oz Fernet Branca
½ oz Drambuie

Stir with ice and strain into a favorite glass.  Express lemon peel oil over the drink and garnish with a terrifying grin.

Trick or Treat!

For more about Osamu Kasho see:

Saturday, October 21, 2017

Autumn Keys

The only problem with spending many weeks focused on a rare and mythical masterpiece (i.e. the Apothecary Chest) is deciding what to do once the series has wrapped. Fortunately I feel like all the fine puzzle boxes are masterpieces, and indeed they all bring something new to discover.  Let’s step back and admire our old friend and champion of the modern day puzzle box, Japanese master Akio Kamei. His original works have graced these pages time and again and I suspect will continue to do so for as long as I keep this up.  He has crafted some of the most timeless designs and invented the mechanisms which made them legendary.  He is well known to enjoy making people think outside the box – a saying which takes on new poetry when considering the medium in which he works. 

The Box with a Key by Akio Kamei

Another one of his many classics is “The Box with a Key”, a lovely little chest of walnut with decorative miter splines and functional wooden hinges.  The box has a keyhole on the front and comes with a clover headed key.  As if it weren’t obvious, Kamei teases the solver with the statement that usually, the key is turned in the lock to open such a box.  But not in this case! Try as you might, turning the key has absolutely no effect.  Which is why it is truly madness that you keep trying.  The solution, known to many, is a revelation of design brilliance and one that unfailingly puts a smile on your face the first time you experience it.  Kamei knows the key to a great puzzle, and we are forever in his debt.

The solution hinges on the unexpected ...

This time of year is always perfect for an Old Fashioned cocktail, with the seasonal flavors of fall stirred into the mix.  For this classic, old fashioned puzzle from Kamei, I’ve turned the key to another old fashioned, the classic drink of spirit, sugar and bitters.  The “Black Key” is a richly satisfying rum old fashioned which was originally created for Mount Gay Black Barrel rum, a dark rum blend which is finished in bourbon barrels.  Maple syrup for the sugar really hits the right notes for the fall.  I’ve kicked up the autumn notes in my version with the use of Besamim, a delicious liqueur full of seasonal spice flavors including cinnamon, nutmeg and clove.  Angostura and orange bitters grace the original, but I’ve also played with those as well by using Black Cloud Black and White Bitters, which bring flavors of chocolate and vanilla to the party.  The key here, if it isn’t obvious, is to stir things up as you see fit, and turn them in a new way.  Here’s to playing with the recipe.  Cheers!

Autumn Old Fashioned

The Black Key (original)                          The Autumn Old Fashioned

2 oz blended dark rum                               2 oz aged rum
1⁄2 oz pure maple syrup                             ½ oz Besamim
1 dash Angostura bitters                            2 dashes Black and White bitters
1 dash orange bitters

Stir ingredients with ice and strain into a favorite glass. Garnish with orange peel and puzzle over something new.

Box and Booze with the keys to autumn cheer

For more about Akio Kamei see:

Saturday, October 14, 2017

Puzzling Appreciations - Apothecary Part VII

“Give me an ounce of civet, good apothecary, to sweeten my imagination.” – William Shakespeare

Perhaps.  Although I’d much prefer a puzzle for that purpose, than the musky secretions of a wild cat.  Nonetheless, the role of the ancient apothecary is clear here, a purveyor of potions to aid the body, mind and soul.  Robert Yarger is a modern day puzzle box apothecary, producing the equivalent of such enrichment in wood.  This assessment is not as far-fetched as it may sound.  The Stickman logo which is branded or drawn onto each limited edition piece Rob creates, was originally created from an amalgamation of ancient alchemy symbols.  The final installment of the Apothecary Chest series is about the chest itself, the chassis which keeps all the individual puzzle box drawers in place, which Rob designed and created to hold all of those fine ingredients.  It’s also a tribute to this talented apothecary.

The Apothecary Chest by Robert Yarger et al.

The Apothecary Chest project was launched in late 2009 as a collaborative celebration of some of the best puzzle box artists in the world at that time.  Robert Yarger and all of these craftsmen had been working with each other, relying on each other, and supporting one another during this heyday of puzzle box development.  He envisioned a tribute to his friends which would literally bring everyone together in a single, epic creation.  Over the next four years, he eventually saw the project to completion, producing fifteen copies of the chest and nearly going bankrupt in the process.  Most of the chests are now held by the artists who contributed the puzzle box drawers, and a few have found their way into the hands of private collectors.  The Apothecary Chest Series published on these pages over the past many weeks owes a debt of thanks to Robert Yarger himself, whose personal chest has been featured in all of the photographs.

There were very few restrictions or instructions that Rob gave to the contributors.  Each puzzle box “drawer” had to conform to the 3”x3”x4” dimensions of the cavity planned to house them, but other than that, the craftsmen were given free reign and encouraged to create something which exemplified their unique style and personality.  This is why for example, according to Rob, he allowed Stephen Chin to include a cylindrical puzzle which was wrapped up in a sock, although he did make Stephen put it inside an actual box for the drawer mechanism.  Another notable result of this “restriction” is the drawer from Mark McCallum, who normally makes geometric style puzzles and not puzzle boxes.  Mark rose to the challenge and produced a fantastic puzzle box which houses his geometric puzzle.  Keeping in mind that the majority of contributors were not professional puzzle makers, one of the nicest reflections Rob has about the chest is how the quality of design and finish from these “hobbyists” exceeded what he would expect from the professionals.

Many discoveries await inside and out ...

The chest itself is a marvelous container, with beautiful exotic wood color accents and finely carved details.  It is, of course, also a puzzle, and at its core is a mechanical machine which moves the drawers in and out or locks them in place.  This is achieved via a unique cam lever and piston system, with arms extending into each drawer space that hook and lock the drawer in place until it is properly released.  Pushing on one drawer will make another pop out, and the mechanism can be unpredictable, surprising, and quite fun to observe.  The drawers are grouped into sections, and each section remains locked until secrets on and in the chest are discovered and properly activated. To achieve this, items and tools discovered inside the puzzle box drawers are used as well.  The idea was to ensure that the artists who contributed and thus received a copy of the chest would need to work their way through each other’s puzzles, to properly appreciate and admire the individual ideas while working toward the ending.  Again, rather than put any restrictions on the artists, Rob adapted the hidden tools and items to the boxes afterwards, placing what would fit here and there and modifying the chest as needed based on the final drawer configurations he received.   As Rob states, “the main purpose of the chest was to build bonds of friendship between puzzle makers, and that it certainly accomplished.  We are all a lot closer now having done this together.

Tippling Bros. Magical Pain Extractor by Wayne Curtis

To toast this epic achievement I wanted to stick to the apothecary theme.  Apothecaries, after all, were the original bartenders, and created the very first cocktails.  Each proprietor (what we would now call a pharmacist or druggist), would develop his own concoction from bitter herbs and roots, then serve it neat or mixed with a bit of water, sugar, and often brandy or gin as a medicinal cure all, no matter the malady.  The practice started in England, centuries ago, when it was common to add a few drops of these bitters into “Canary wine”.   Apothecary bitters really took off in colonial America and grew in prominence right up until Prohibition, when they all but disappeared.  Perhaps this was just as well, as many were sold as “miracle elixirs”, those guaranteed fixers, which certainly did not.  

Full to the brim with fruits, herbs, and bitters - it'll cure what ails ya

But the apothecary bitters, and bitter liqueurs, are back now, and these old time recipes are often celebrated in new inventive modern ways.  A particularly fun, festive and tasty tipple with which to toast the Apothecary Chest was created by spirits writer Wayne Curtis.  It’s full of fruit, herbs, spices and, of course, bitters, but has no other base spirit, making it a perfectly delicious way to appreciate the history of the Apothecary.  Here’s to many amazing individuals coming together to create a uniquely balanced whole which is so much more than the sum of its parts. Cheers!

Special thanks to Robert Yarger for the loan of his chest and his many insights into the history of the project.

This prescription comes with twelve refills

Tippling Bros. Magical Pain Extractor by Wayne Curtis

1 oz amaro (bitter liqueur such as Averna or Montenegro)
2 tsps chopped peeled green apple
3 rosemary sprigs
1 tsp sugar
6 mint leaves
1 egg white
3 dashes Angostura bitters
4 oz chilled tonic water
Cayenne pepper

Muddle the apple, rosemary, and sugar together, then gently muddle in the mint.  Add the amaro, egg white and bitters and “dry” shake, followed by a “wet” shake with ice.  Strain into an old fashioned glass (filled with ice if you like) and top with tonic water.  Garnish with rosemary, cayenne, and the cure for what ails you.

For more about Robert Yarger:

For the prior Apothecary Chest puzzles see:

Saturday, October 7, 2017

Medieval Magic - Apothecary Part VI

At last we come to the final two drawers of the Apothecary Chest.  As with many stages of the journey, the chest and the drawers are interlinked and interdependent up to the end.  The final two drawers both require elements which must be discovered along the way to open.  First we will explore the magical box known as “Abracadabra”.  The box has a few nice details including accented splines and a central dimple on the front, surrounded by inlayed wooden dots.  The lid, of course, does not come off. Without giving too much away I’ll just say that you’ll need to do a little magic to make this box reveal its secrets.  It really lives up to its name.  

Abracadabra by Matt Dawson and Kelly Snache
The box was designed by Matthew Dawson, a fellow Houstonian puzzle collector and designer who worked with Canadian artist Kelly Snache to bring this idea to life.  Kelly also created the Parameter Motion box which was encountered earlier in the chest. The mechanism for Abracadabra utilizes a little “magic” which reminds me of another design from Matt Dawson, the Ambidextrous Hexduos which was an IPP 30 puzzle exchange.  Matt worked with Robert Yarger on that design as well.  So brush off your spell books, break out the hocus pocus, and perform a little abracadabra on this puzzle box.

The Magic Hour by Tom Macy

We’ll toast the Abracadabra box with a magical cocktail full of sparkle and mischief.  Created by New York mixologist Tom Macy, the “Magic Hour” is a magically modified mimosa in disguise. This is not your ordinary brunch cocktail.  Tom Macy is the creator of, a hands on resource for aspiring culinary cocktail makers everywhere, and the head bartender at Clover Club, a Brooklyn landmark.  In the Magic Hour, he exchanges the classic orange juice for grapefruit, adds depth with the aperitif Lillet Rose (I used Cocchi Americano Rosa which was also wonderful), and finally stirs things up even further with a little Yellow Chartreuse.  The result is a delicious grapefruit twist on the classic which might just make you believe in magic.

A magical pair

Magic Hour by Tom Macy

1 ½ oz Lillet Rose
½ oz fresh grapefruit
¼ oz simple syrup
1 tsp Yellow Chartreuse
Sparkling wine

Shake all ingredients except sparkling wine together with ice and strain into a flute.  Add sparkles on top and garnish with some magic.

Knight vs. Dragon Box by Robert Yarger

Finally we come to the drawer which was created by the very man who envisioned and produced the entire chest, Robert Yarger.  His “contribution” to the chest, in quotations since he also built the entire chest as well which hardly makes the puzzle box his only contribution, is the magnificent Stickman No. 21 Puzzle Box, The Knight vs. Dragon Box.  Like all the other drawers, limited by the constraints of the chest, the external appearance belies the complexity of the puzzle.  Even so, the box manages to have a distinctive appearance, crafted from Mahogany and Jatoba with wood inlay dot accents.  

White Knight with Dragon

The internal mechanism is a brilliantly executed marvel to behold, but the action all plays out on the top of the box, enacted by the main characters, the Knight and the Dragon.  These are nicely rendered pewter figurines which are magnetically held in place.   As the box is navigated, the players must be moved in strategic ways to advance.  At other times, the pieces actually move by themselves, in a magical dance of parry and retreat.  To solve the box and allow it to open completely the Knight and Dragon must be maneuvered together, to face each other at last, so the Dragon may be slayed. The box can then be reset back to the beginning quite easily, or with a more difficult setting of moves if desired.  Once opened you can admire the mechanism, and understand how the magic is accomplished.  It’s a classic Stickman Box which improves upon a certain type of puzzle mechanism and adds new elements, and it’s a perfect ending to the incredible Apothecary journey.

The Difford's Guide version, with NOLA coffee liqueur

The Knight vs. Dragon Box is like the dessert at the end of an incredible chef’s tasting menu.  In that spirit I’ve paired it with a delicious drink called the White Knight.  Not only is it an after dinner drink, rich, creamy and decadent, but it also features coffee liqueur, perhaps making it the ultimate after dinner drink for this extravagant meal.  All I can tell you is that there are quite a number of White Knight cocktails, but this is the best of the bunch.  I discovered it in Difford’s Guide, the incredible and comprehensive spirits resource for enthusiasts and professionals alike created by Simon Difford.  There isn’t any additional information about it, but perhaps that is fitting, like a lost legend from the time of dragons.  I’ve used St. George Spirits incredible NOLA coffee liqueur, which, like the coffee from its namesake city, is created with Yirgacheffe coffee and chicory root, and sweetened with Madagascar vanilla.  It’s one of the best coffee liqueurs available, from one of the best American craft distillers.  Only the best would do to toast this extraordinary conclusion to the Apothecary Chest. 

Here’s to magic, to spellbinding wonders, to fantasy, and dragons, and white knights, and the imaginations which bring them to life for us.  Cheers!

This quest to slay the dragon is incredible

White Knight

¾ oz aged blended Scotch (such as Monkey Shoulder)
¾ oz Coffee liqueur (such as St. George Spirits NOLA)
¾ oz Drambuie liqueur
¾ oz milk
¾ oz half and half cream

Shake ingredients together with ice and strain into a favorite glass.  Sprinkle with the sparks from a freshly forged sword (or grated nutmeg) and garnish with a citrus peel, fire-breathing dragon – one of my finer creations, don’t you think?

For more about Robert Yarger see:

For the prior Apothecary Chest drawers see:

Stay tuned for the final installment of the Apothecary Chest series next week.