As the coronavirus shows no signs of slowing down in the U.S., closures, lockdowns and self-quarantines continue. The travel industry has been ravaged and “tripophobia” — fear of not having any trips planned — is rampant at the peak of the summer travel season.
A U.S. passport has turned into one of the more useless items of 2020. Once among the most powerful passports of all, the blue book has seen its value plummet like Niagara Falls. Americans have gone from having access to most of the world to being banned from it. At least as far as the above-mentioned majestic waterfalls go, they are still visible from the New York side. But traveling within the states has also become worrisome, with new COVID-19 clusters popping up all over.
In these desperate times, even an alien abduction would be a welcome vacation!
Whether or not a “forced holiday” of this type would include beaches, luxury accommodations, museums, shopping and cocktails is unclear. However, I can personally attest to enjoying the last item aboard a UFO last summer, hovering high above a European capital.
No, I wasn’t actually abducted by aliens, dreaming or under the influence of psychedelic substances. In the city of Bratislava, the Most SNP (Bridge of the Slovak National Uprising) straddles the Danube river. At the tippy top of its suspension tower sits the UFO observatory. This flying saucer-shaped bar and restaurant, spotted from all over the city, provides incredible views from its outdoor deck.
The spacecraft can be reached via an elevator from the bike/pedestrian path on the bridge — or by climbing a daunting 430 stairs. The interior is futuristic yet elegant, with a 360-degree panoramic vista from the windows.
Most important, the UFO had a quality cocktail list of classic drinks and regional spirits. I expected some kitschy, space-themed elixirs but found none. When I inquired if there was anything uniquely tied to the establishment, I was directed to a drink called Hanson the Heartbreaker.
I was understandably cautious about anything promising a broken heart, but when I read the ingredients, I decided to reach for the stars. The base liquor was Four Roses whiskey, a vintage American brand that has become one of the top-selling bourbons in Europe and Japan. The other elements were elderflower liqueur, the ever-so-trendy Aperol and lemon.
How did the drink’s moniker come about? It was created by a bartender named Hanson, nicknamed “Handsome,” who is extremely popular with the UFO’s female clientele. He wasn’t onboard the day I visited, so I was safe from his irresistible charm.
Even the legend of how Four Roses got its name implies a bit of heartache. According to the bourbon’s website, founder Paul Jones Jr. fell in love with a woman and sent her a proposal. She replied “that if her answer were ‘Yes,’ she would wear a corsage of roses on her gown to the upcoming grand ball … when she arrived in her beautiful gown, she wore a corsage of four red roses. He later named his Bourbon ‘Four Roses’ as a symbol of his devout passion for the lovely belle.” But the fact is that Jones never married, so if this story is true, there must have been some woe and heartsickness involved.
Nevertheless, I was quickly enamored with this bewitching drink. It was a far-out concoction with four distinctively different components that somehow managed to mingle together in interspace harmony. The honeysuckle notes from the elderflower and the jam-like flavor of the Aperol elevated the heaviness of the bourbon to a summer-y treat. The lemon balanced out what could have become a cloying cocktail. I could definitely see myself having an intergalactic affair with this tipple.
The only heartbreak now is that Americans are barred from traveling to Europe, so another interstellar encounter won’t be in the stars. Until this horrible pandemic passes, I’ll be anxiously waiting for Scotty to beam me up. In the meantime, your own personal Hanson the Heartbreaker can be easily made at home.
Hanson the Heartbreaker
20 ml Four Roses bourbon
20 ml St. Germain elderflower liqueur
30 ml Aperol
30 ml fresh lemon juice
Combine all ingredients in a cocktail shaker. Serve over ice and garnish with a candied orange slice.