“The brain is a muscle that can move the world.” – Stephen King, Firestarter

Shane Hales has been busy. He started his own locksmithing company this past year, Haleslocks LTD, and if you are fortunate enough to live within a five mile radius or so of him, you should probably avail yourself of his services. I can’t imagine anyone better to secure your home and valuables. At the same time, somehow, he has continued to pursue his puzzling hobby as well. Over the years Shane has created a number of devious and mysterious wooden puzzles, and more recently, a series of puzzle locks. He loves to restore old and vintage locks, and knows the fascinating history of his craft. It’s no wonder he comes up with such intriguing and clever mechanisms.

IMG_9108.jpg HalesLock 5 "Firestarter" by Shane Hales
HalesLock 5 also has a special name, the “Fire Starter”. This is no accident, for a few reasons. One of them, according to Shane, can be blamed on Allard Walker, who introduced Shane's HalesLock 4 to the world by saying that "Shane had made a HalesLock 1, 2, and 3, so this new one must be called ...." Shane was determined his next would have a proper name. I imagined the Fire Starter would be made from ferrocerium, an iron metal alloy known for producing showers of hot sparks used to ignite a fire. (I didn’t really, but that would have been cool.) In reality it’s just as cool, an unusual cylindrical “TOTEM” lock from the Italian company Viro. It seems appropriate to have made a puzzle lock from one of these, since the very name of the company, Vi.Ro., is itself a puzzling acronym of the founder’s name, Vincenzo Rossetti.

The central idea for the Fire Starter came to Shane in a moment of cosmic inspiration, like the apple falling on Newton's head. The cylindrical lock literally rolled off of his workbench one day and smashed him on the foot. Eureka! Apparently, Shane enjoys pain. The lock fits nicely in the hand and is made from solid tempered steel with a nickel plating finish. There is another cool feature, a rotating “burglar-resistant” anti-drill plate which only allows access to the keyhole at certain rotations. Unlike prior Hales Locks, which merely beg to be unlocked, there is more to this one. There are actually two sections to this lock, and each must be opened to fully solve the puzzle, release the trapped ring, and find Shane’s signature. He’s tricky, which we love, but he’s also a really nice guy, which we also love. He has provided some hints for solving, if you are paying attention and can interpret them. Firestarter is immensely satisfying because it progresses in stages, giving up one secret at a time and revealing more as it develops. In fact, this is a sequential discovery puzzle lock. I’m not alone in saying it’s the best Hales Lock yet.

IMG_9110.jpg It will start a fire in your brain
Now for something smooth and sophisticated to sip on. We want to keep our wits about us with this one, so we’ll rely on an industry secret, the bartender’s late night last call, a “low ABV” cocktail. Low ABV, or “alcohol by volume”, refers to a cocktail with low alcohol content. It’s a perfect idea when you’ve had enough already, want to keep things mellow, or have a particularly tricky puzzle to solve. To achieve this the drink usually foregoes the typical base spirit, such as bourbon or gin, which often start out at 40% ABV (80 proof) and can be even higher. Instead, such drinks rely on lower proof spirits like fortified wines, Amaris, and liqueurs, which clock in at 16-20% ABV.

IMG_9112.jpg Sure Fire by Michael McCollum
This toast comes from one of the more storied bars in modern times, in a roundabout way. It starts in a tiny, hidden bar tucked away in the East Village of New York City which opened on January 1, 2000. The bar, Milk and Honey, and it’s celebrated owner Sasha Petraske, had twenty seats, an obscure reservations only system, and launched a cocktail renaissance around the world. In 2012 the bar changed hands and became Attaboy, run by Sam Ross and Michael McIlroy from Milk and Honey. Attaboy has had it’s own share of fame, and now has a second location in Nashville, Tennessee, where our story concludes. There are no menus at these bars, a style the Attaboy folks retained from the original Milk and Honey. Ask for a low ABV cocktail with amaro, and you might just receive, as I did at Attaboy Nashville, the Sure Fire, which includes the incredibly satisfying combination of Nardini, a chocolatey, citrusy Italian amaro, Punt E Mes (a bittersweet vermouth), and amontillado sherry.
IMG_9098.jpg Low ABV, high flavor and satisfaction
I couldn’t find the elusive Nardini so adapted with the similarly flavored Averna and tweaked the chocolate notes with a little Tempis Fugit Crème de Cacao. I used Carpano Antica sweet vermouth, another subtle modification. Sherry is another fortified wine which was historically relegated to the cheap seats but has taken on a new life lately with lots of interest in the cocktail scene. There are many, many varieties. Amontillado is more robust and aged longer than the typically drier fino style, but is not a sweet style like Pedro Ximenez. It works perfectly in this drink. Here’s to slow burning fires of creativity and the imagination. Cheers!

IMG_9103.jpg This pair is sure to spark your interest
Sure Fire by Michael McCollum

1 oz Amaro Nardini (or sub ¾ oz Averna and ¼ oz Crème de Cacao)

1 oz Punt E Mes vermouth

1 oz Amontillado sherry

Stir ingredients together with ice and strain into a favorite glass. Garnish with an orange peel flame and enjoy … slowly.

For more about Shane Hales:

HalesLocks LTD
Hales Puzzles
Locks and Libations
Cabinet of Wonders