“Give me an ounce of civet, good apothecary, to sweeten my imagination.” – William Shakespeare

Perhaps. Although I’d much prefer a cocktail and a puzzle for that purpose, than the musky secretions of a wild cat. Nonetheless, the role of the ancient apothecary is clear here, a purveyor of potions to aid the body, mind and soul. Robert Yarger is a modern day puzzle box apothecary, producing the equivalent of such enrichment in wood. His Apothecary Chest is an epic collaboration of twelve international puzzle box makers all housed inside a beautiful puzzle chest. Rob states, “the main purpose of the chest was to build bonds of friendship between puzzle makers, and that it certainly accomplished. We are all a lot closer now having done this together.” To toast this epic achievement I wanted to stick to the apothecary theme. Apothecaries, after all, were the original bartenders, and created the very first cocktails. Each proprietor (what we would now call a pharmacist or druggist), would develop his own concoction from bitter herbs and roots, then serve it neat or mixed with a bit of water, sugar, and often brandy or gin as a medicinal cure all, no matter the malady. The practice started in England, centuries ago, when it was common to add a few drops of these bitters into “Canary wine”. Apothecary bitters really took off in colonial America and grew in prominence right up until Prohibition, when they all but disappeared. Perhaps this was just as well, as many were sold as “miracle elixirs”, those guaranteed fixers, which certainly did not. But the apothecary bitters, and bitter liqueurs, are back now, and these old time recipes are often celebrated in new inventive modern ways. A particularly fun, festive and tasty tipple with which to toast the Apothecary Chest was created by spirits writer Wayne Curtis. It’s full of fruit, herbs, spices and, of course, bitters, but has no other base spirit, making it a perfectly delicious way to appreciate the history of the Apothecary. Here’s to many amazing individuals coming together to create a uniquely balanced whole which is so much more than the sum of its parts. Cheers!


Tippling Bros. Magical Pain Extractor by Wayne Curtis

1 oz amaro (bitter liqueur such as Averna or Montenegro)

2 tsps chopped peeled green apple

3 rosemary sprigs

1 tsp sugar

6 mint leaves

1 egg white

3 dashes Angostura bitters

4 oz chilled tonic water

Cayenne pepper

Muddle the apple, rosemary, and sugar together, then gently muddle in the mint. Add the amaro, egg white and bitters and “dry” shake, followed by a “wet” shake with ice. Strain into an old fashioned glass (filled with ice if you like) and top with tonic water. Garnish with rosemary, cayenne, and the cure for what ails you.


For more about the legendary Apothecary Chest see:

Boxes and Booze: Puzzling Appreciations