When She Comes Back by Ronit Plank
Ronit Plank was born on a kibbutz in Israel, where she enjoyed freedom, comfort, and stability. When her parents moved the family back to the States, things began to fall apart. Soon, her father left. A year later, her mother sent Ronit and her sister to live with him. Meanwhile, she headed off to India to join the infamous cult of Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh. In her memoir, Ronit loses her mother not just once, but over and over, leaving this child to wonder, who should she be to make her mother want to stay?
Those born in Israel are called “sabras,” which means prickly pear, prompting me to include prickly pear syrup in this booktail. The saffron is a nod to India and the yellow garb of the sannyasins, Bhagwan’s followers. Saffron is also a unique flavor that has a way of dominating if it’s not well balanced. The sour lemon, a symbol of the pains of life, helps temper and complement the saffron and makes space for the prickly pear to step forward. The chai bitters (also Indian but ubiquitous in America now) are a great complement to all. Lastly, I employed seltzer, which is German originally, to represent NYC's melting pot.
When presenting this cocktail, I chose to separate the ingredients into layers for the visual effect. For best results, I recommend mixing the layers before drinking.
Once your saffron syrup is cool, build the cocktail in a clean martini glass. To achieve a layered effect, gently pour in each ingredient from a measuring cup—or other vessel with a spout—over the back of a long spoon. You may allow the spoon to rest against the side of the glass but don’t dip it into the liquid.
First, pour in the prickly pear syrup. Next, slowly add the vodka, then the lemon juice. Once the juice settles, add the saffron syrup, which will sink to the bottom, though the lemon juice will keep it from altering the colors. Lastly, carefully top with the seltzer and add a few drops of the bitters.
Using a spoon, gently mix the layers before enjoying in order to get the full effect of the complex flavor palate. It’ll turn raspberry when you do, another transformation.
Saffron Syrup Recipe
To make the syrup, stir together the ingredients in a small saucepan, cover, and bring to a boil. Lower heat and allow to simmer for 20 minutes uncovered. Then remove from heat and cool to room temperature. Strain into a clean jar and keep refrigerated.