The elusive Leap Day Cocktail hides its clever, mischievous self in the shadows for years at a time, before pouncing on unsuspecting imbibers and shouting, “It’s my day now!”
This year though, I was completely caught off guard. I knew that Leap Day was coming, but for some reason, I didn’t care. However, there are those in this world who really do care—especially those who were born on February 29th, so of course, they should celebrate. We should all celebrate in solidarity with them.
Oh, if only I had planned better! Nate and I were stuck at one of Alex’s swim meets all day—and we were timing because it’s mandatory—along with all of our money—and the deed to the house. (We may be talked into a “swim team” timeshare at some point—I don’t know. It’s very hard to get out of swim commitments. Very hard. Your name gets put on a list, you black out for a while, and then you wake up in Wenatchee with a stop watch wrapped around your neck.)
In any case, we were attending the timer’s meeting before the meet (also mandatory), and the official who was running the timer’s meeting said, “Sometimes the kids get very excited.” That’s when I turned to Nate and said, “Bulls in Pamplona are excited. This is a whole other thing.” And then, I remembered that it was Leap Day, and I was sad that we didn’t have anything planned.
At that moment, instead of listening to the rules for timing—which I’ve heard a million times before—I got Nate to look up the Leap Year Cocktail on his phone. This cocktail was invented in 1928 by Harry Craddock, a bartender who invented famous drinks at the Savoy Hotel in London. He wrote The Savoy Cocktail Book, which was published in 1930, and I wanted to try the drink he invented for the Leap Year that arrived three years after he took over the bar in the Savoy Hotel.
“Okay—so what’s in the drink?” I asked Nate. (We had to keep our voices low so that the official running the timer’s meeting wouldn’t think that we were plotting to do a cannon ball into the pool right during the first event.)
“Grand Marnier, sweet vermouth, gin, and lemon juice,” Nate replied.
“We’ve got all of that, right? We’ve got all of that in our liquor cabinet/pantry?” I asked.
“No—no we do not. We would have to buy all of that and it’s expensive—and when will we drink Grand Marnier, sweet vermouth, and gin? What we have is vodka, rum, cinnamon schnapps, a bottle or two of wine, some beer, curaçao, apple flavored liquor, orange bitters, and grenadine syrup,” Nate said.
“Right. I don’t want to spend a bunch of money on a Leap Year Cocktail. We’d only drink it once every four years or so. I’ll just have to figure out something else.”
Soon, we were let out into the onslaught of the swim meet and forced to stand for 4 ½ hours while our feet got soaking wet. We smiled when swimmers stole my Gatorade—which was my only source of fuel for 4 ½ hours. We tried really, really hard to not beat a parent and his kids over the head with a chair after they took our coats and threw them on the floor for no apparent reason at all. We bit our tongues when competitors, jacked up on Olympic Dreams Jitters, slammed into us while making windmills with their arms in a space that’s only about a foot wide.
So, you can understand why, when we got home, I tore into the liquor cabinet shouting, “Leap Year, here I come!”
The first potential drink-making ingredient I found was actually in the refrigerator: some limeade. Then, because I’m not very tall, the first bottle of alcohol that I was able to reach on the third shelf of the pantry was the vodka bottle. I decided to just stop there, and I’m glad I did. A quick and “cheap” vodka and limeade mixture, is the perfect way to jump into Leap Year without skipping a beat.
Here’s what I did:
–I poured ¼ cup of limeade into a clean coffee travel mug because I’m too short to reach the cocktail shaker, which is on the fourth shelf of the pantry.
–Then, I poured about an ounce of vodka into the limeade in the travel mug.
–Next, I shook the whole thing really well (after securing the lid on the travel mug, of course).
–Finally, I poured the drink into a martini glass.
The first sip was a little strong, so I topped off the drink with about a tablespoon more of the limeade. It also needed some kind of decoration, so I found a paper souvenir drink umbrella from our trip to Hawaii last year—and stuck it on the rim. Ahh, much better!
And now, I’m dreaming about how, when the next Leap Year arrives, I will no longer be asked to time swim meets, and that might make me sad. Just a little—mostly because it’s hard to let go when a child outgrows his Speedos and uses his land legs to run like crazy towards the first college campus he sees. Oh, how I hate to keep the time! It slips through my fingers like water. In just a few years though, I’ll be able to pour a Leap Day Cocktail for Alex–and tell him about my wild days as a timer for swim meets.
Your Turn: Did you celebrate Leap Year? If so, how?