Wednesday Music and Cocktails: Autumn Dance

In 1972 Neil Young released the album Harvest and although the initial critical reviews of it were mixed, “Heart of Gold” became a number one hit that threw him suddenly into the limelight. Startled and uncomfortable, Young backpedaled and would later say in one of his most quoted lines that the record “put me in the middle of the road. Traveling there soon became a bore so I headed for the ditch. A rougher ride but I saw more interesting people there… when people start asking you to do the same thing over and over again, that’s when you know you’re way too close to something that you don’t want to be near.” It took almost twenty years for Young to release Harvest Moon, which many fans and critics viewed as the acoustic sequel for which they’d been waiting. What’s really interesting is that although the two albums are alike in the way they sound and they share similar subject matter, there’s one very remarkable difference. At the time of Harvest Young was 26, but was singing of being in the autumn of life in a way that was well beyond his years. There was depressing finality to many of the songs on the album, summed up by the line “and you’re getting old” that ends each verse in “Heart of Gold.” Harvest Moon is a totally different matter. It’s a celebration of the maturity and wisdom that come with getting older. With hindsight being 20/20, we can approach this period in life with the benefit of all that we’ve learned in the years that have come before it. Young talked about it in an interview with uncut.com shortly after Harvest Moon was released: “The idea is that I sang about the same subject matter with 20 years more experience… Harvest Moon is about continuance, about trying to keep the flame burning. It’s about the feeling that you don’t have to be young to be young.”

Of all the songs on the album, the title track is my favorite and I’ve always considered it to be one of the most romantic songs ever written. Its lyrics are simple and sweet, but convey such depth of emotion and a world of meaning in much the same way as the haiku poetry from Monday’s post. I also love the fact that Young’s reference to the moon has great meaning for him. In a 2005 interview with Harp, he explained: “Before there was organized religion, there was the moon. The Indians knew about the moon. Pagans followed the moon. I’ve followed it for as long as I can remember, and that’s just my religion. I’m not a practicing anything, I don’t have a book that I have to read.” The significance of the harvest moon is something that Young would have understood, but many of us often allow to pass by unnoticed. This year’s harvest moon was on September 24th. I was aware of it, but I definitely didn’t take the time to consider its importance. Historically speaking, the harvest moon was the harbinger of the coming winter, even though it generally occurred around the time of the autumn equinox. It’s what told the farmers that they needed to begin their harvest and prepare for the long, dark months ahead. It was always a race against time. Despite the fact that modern farming methods remove the need to rely on things like the harvest moon, it still remains a universal symbol of transformation, comfort, and gratefulness. If we view the lyrics for Harvest Moon with this idea in mind we can see it in the way Young intended. It becomes the celebration of the appreciation we feel for love when it’s preceded by a lifetime of experience. We could sleep the night away like children, but we know it’s time to go find the moon… and dance.

For today’s cocktail, my thought was to capture the depth of the song’s meaning by layering a number of ingredients. I knew that I wanted to use Dogfish Head Punkin’ Ale, but I needed to figure out what base spirit would work best with it. I decided on Scotch whisky and added Drambuie, which is made from the same base but with the addition of heathered honey and things like vanilla, cloves, and cinnamon. I added Licor 43 next, which has a subtle bitter orange flavor and more fall spices. Tippleman’s cola syrup intensified the vanilla and and shared the responsibility for bringing  sweetness to the drink with just a tiny bit of pumpkin butter from a local farm market. Orange juice balanced out the sweetness. All of these ingredients were a perfect match for the Dogfish Head, whose flavor profile includes cinnamon, allspice, brown sugar, and pumpkin. This cocktail is rich, layered, and full of wonderful things. I think it’s just like the danceworthy love Neil Young is talking about in Harvest Moon. Cheers everyone. Happy Wednesday!

Autumn Dance

2 oz Dewars White Label
½ oz Drambuie
¼ Licor 43
¾ oz orange juice
¼ oz Tippleman’s Cola syrup
1 tsp pumpkin butter
3 oz Dogfish Head Punkin’ Ale

Add all the ingredients to a shaker tin with ice and shake until cold. Release the tins every 10 seconds or so to release the pressure from the beer. Strain into your roundest glass and garnish with a big orange wheel. Enjoy!

[listen here with lyrics]

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