by Nicole Gerszberg
Clink. The ice cube falls into the Moroccan drinking glass with precision. With another two in its wake, they form a melody noticed only by my 11-year-old ears. I may only be the bartender’s apprentice, aiming to please my dad and his amateur bartending skills, but I take my job seriously as I slide the glass over and fill the next one with three more cubes. Clink. Clink. Clink. After filling four of the seven glasses on the counter, I begin to lose interest and gaze out the window to where my grandmother sets the table. She moves gracefully like the ballerina she once was, sipping her glass of wine, folding napkins, then sipping again. The white wine vanishes from her glass by the time I’m back on task.
There’s something wonderful about being an 11-year-old bartender-in-training. Wine bottles and liquor are not yet a route to rebellion, a thirst quencher or tempting escape from life’s trivial (or not so trivial) problems. For me, the tall, lean bottles are like any other, filling glasses and then thrown in the trash alongside the orange juice container and dirty plastic cups. Clink.
My role as junior bartender offers a tempting reward–a cocktail of my very own consisting primarily of that one ingredient an 11-year-old simply cannot resist: sugar. I pay little attention to the castoff limes strewn across the kitchen counter or the big bottle of cachaça (sugar cane liquor) my father pours generously into each glass except mine. Instead, I focus intently on the massive sugar container in its utmost glory, filled to the brim with white, granulated specks of heaven. Just looking it at makes me feel buzzed. This is what a caipirinha is all about, right? Making life a little bit sweeter.
My grandmother glides into the kitchen, the smell of musky French perfume pours in after her, oozing over to the counter where she looks closely at our creations. I cannot recall how her face may have looked as she read the label on the cachaça bottle. Thirsty? Maybe.
Clink. All I have to do is plop a few more ice cubes into the last glass and I can finally claim my prize: the perfect combination of fresh, pulpy lime juice, a dash of water, and several small mounds of sugar. This caipirinha is special, without a doubt. Topped off with a couple extra sugar spoonfuls and a lime slice on the rim, it is served to me in a “grown-up” drinking glass embellished in a deep purple and gold motif. It rests on the tray along with the less sweet, liquor-filled drinks, clinking with the other glasses just the same as during our family toast.
We celebrate life with tiny tastes from Moroccan glasses. I eagerly sip, savoring the sweet aftertaste, enjoying it just as much, if not more, than the adults around the table. Once each ice cube melts away and every last morsel of sugar is avidly slurped, I place my glass down, perfectly content. My sweet tooth fulfilled–all else goes unnoticed, even the sweet smell of my grandmother’s perfume as she returns inside for another drink to satisfy her insatiable thirst. If only sugar were enough to make her life the slightest bit sweeter.
Nicole Gerszberg is a sophomore at Wesleyan University.