Cocktail Chatter: Oh, Mary? Meet My Family!

by Ed Sikov

Some of us are so gay-centric that we have no close straight friends and leave our families in Anamoose, N.D., or Chloride, Ariz., and never look back. But if you're like me, you love your friends, straight or gay, and you love your family, too. Still, we tend not to mix our friends with our families. We prefer to lead double lives. Your straight brother doesn't know you've been licking some guy's balls for the last few weeks, and the guy whose balls you've been licking never, ever hears stories about when you were five.

But inevitably comes the dreaded day when our two worlds collide. Mine came last weekend. There were extra rooms in the beach house, so I invited my big sister, Barbara, who for a brief period in 1966 dropped the second "a" from her name; my nephew, Luke, a 6-foot-5 former skateboarder who's now 32 and teaches elementary school science; my niece, Laurel, who at the age of 12 drove her friends around town in her mother's car and is now an executive at the world's most famous soup company; and Ken, her hunky new husband, who at 18 was a nationally-ranked diver and is now a management consultant built like a middleweight wrestler.

Our two housemates last weekend are cut from decidedly different cloth. Ian and Frankie each manage top-notch restaurants in Manhattan. Ian is low key and gentle. Frankie is a flaming whirl of activity and talk, all performed as though he was auditioning for a happy-ending remake of "The Boys in the Band." "Oh, Mary!" Frankie says witheringly; "Louise!" figures prominently, too. "Ladies!," Frankie says. "Forget making sandwiches. The lunchmeat is poo-sniggles." He's a hoot - to us. How Ken and Luke would handle him was my concern. Then worry. Then barf-quality terror.

As it turned out, my family was way cooler than I imagined. Luke and Frankie barbecued lamb together; Frankie's nickname for Luke ("Cuteness on Stilts") actually flattered the designee. Barbara and I spent our time ripping some distant relatives to shreds, while Dan, Laurel and Ian baked cookies and made salads while listening to Laurel's iPod on the sound system. (I caught Dan in the kitchen bouncing to the beat of Death Cab For Cutie.)

And le cocktail du weekend? I thought Negronis would be nice. Well, duh? Luke and Ken wanted beer, Dan his Pernod; Barbara only drinks Scotch; Laurel brought a six-pack of V8 and drank highly vegetabled Bloody Marys; and Ian and Frankie had gin and tonics.

I made Negronis anyway - for me. "Oh, Louise!," Frankie sang out. "So much fuss! (Look at her! She's measuring!) Dollface! Just dump it in a glass and come join us! We're playing 'If you were a drag queen, what would your name be?' Ken wants to be LaJolla Jacksonville. I'm Her Majesty LaFrancine, the OxyQueen. Who the hell are you?"

The Negroni (original recipe)

1-oz Beefeater gin

1-oz Campari

3/4-oz sweet vermouth

Mix the three liquors in a shaker filled with ice. Shake, and then strain into a pre-chilled martini glass.

The Negroni (my way)

1-part Beefeater gin

1-part Campari

a splash of sweet vermouth

Follow the same mixing instructions as above. But I like to taste gin and Campari more than sweet vermouth, so I drastically reduce the vermouth. Try the original recipe first, then play around.

Ed Sikov is the author of "Dark Victory: The Life of Bette Davis" and other books about films and filmmakers.
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