A new song, a capital S Song that persists through your life, is magic. It’s not so much like having a new dish or drink and more analogous to discovering a new color or flavor. My sight feels altered permanently, things are recontextualized.
The story goes that a few years ago my friend, Kaveri Nair, a painter in Los Angeles, heard “Luna Negra” by Los Cojolites on the radio on her way home from work. She was gripped by it and kept driving through all 10:24 of its length. She called Vanessa that night to report this event and we looked it up and were entranced in turn.
Some instinct for synaesthesia, or perhaps the abiding hold the song had on my brain, led me to then make a cocktail with the same name. I figured it should be dark, and with a blanco tequila, because I like to keep base spirits simple and un-fussy. I chose root beer as the mixer, as best I can tell no one has ever made this drink. Root beer is distinctly Yankee, and the literature suggests that cocktails made with it are fucking gross. They often feature Jagermeister or spiced rum, and are created in fraternities when these people should be doing homework.
The Song lures you in with a stark but insinuating guitar line, a plaintive verse about going off to a failed revolution, and before you know it the music is charging ahead and you’re in it, on a ten minute guinda through time. The incantations in Spanish, black moon, black, black moon, the color of your mother, punctuate the empty spaces. There are nods to a beastly oppressor, to resistance, but this campesino anthem does its work obliquely, with mentions of a pearl and a sirena and always the mother color.
Is the drink any good? In a way it’s a cousin to a cuba libre, but with totally different ingredients. I’ve served it to people of refined palates and they were baffled with satisfaction. It is a mysterious taste, deep but refreshing. I was cornered in the kitchen for half of a party churning them out until we ran out of root beer. On the other hand, I made one for my neighbor and the next time we met she pointedly gave me a 1980s cocktail manual for further study.
Los Cojolites are from Veracruz, they play Son Jarocho music, an Afro-Mexican regional genre that is meant to be danced to. I can tease out the intent behind the words, but there will be always be a febrile tension between the song’s indigenous meaning and the place it has in my own life. There is a clarity and persistence to the drink, I make it and feel a bit of courage.
- Over ice in an Old Fashioned glass mix:
- 3 oz blanco tequila 100% agave
- 3 dashes of orange bitters (Angostura’s Orange is good)
- squeeze ¼ of a juicy lime
- Root beer to fill (a brand made with real sugar, from a bottle. Dad’s is good)
Give a light stir and enjoy