With the hurricane force winds currently whipping parts of the US and many more storms brewing off the coast, it feels like the earth is spinning too fast and going topsy turvey. I’m turning upside down with this post as well and channeling my friendly dentist from down under, that madman of mechanical mischief, the Leonardo with a lathe, puzzle maker Stephen Chin.

Drunken Dancing Fraulein by Stephen Chin

Beloved for his wood turned tops and spheres, he has mastered the ability to turn complex interlocking puzzles into rounded forms. He has also created a number of beautifully turned vase-like puzzles with clever hidden mechanisms. And he’s never satisfied with merely producing a puzzle – he almost always tries to add little extras such as incorporating a whistle, or a top, into the design, and sometimes both! He hates to waste wood, so many of these extras evolve as a way to salvage what would have otherwise been literally turned to dust during the lathe process. His “Drunken Dancing Fraulein” is just such a puzzle, created in 2011 for the IPP 31 Design Competition and puzzle exchange. The puzzle is as expected, beautifully turned from either Rosewood or Osage Orange wood and resembles a jolly fat maiden. Give her a spin and she wobbles precariously about, jingling her impossible trapped wooden rings merrily. Her head doubles as a whistle, although its tune is a bit off. The goal is to sober her up a bit, get her steady on her feet, and find the little diamond tucked away safely in its secret compartment. The whistle will also sound a clear note in the end. The puzzle has just the right balance of misdirection and a well hidden secret to keep you mystified for a little while but not forever. Combine that with its elegant form, fun entertainment factor and beautiful craftsmanship and it’s no wonder it garnered a top ten award at the competition.

She's actually quite thin, she's just wearing a billowing skirt

To toast this tipsy turner I found a tasty tipple which was too ironic to pass up. It appears our heroine had a tragic downfall in the second act. Mixologist “Max” from Los Angeles originally hails from Germany and hosts an incredibly stylish and innovative cocktail account known as “BarMaxLA”. For this creative number with a catchy name, “The Downfall of Fraulein Birnbaum”, he was inspired by a well known story from his homeland. It recounts the rise and fall of an infamous woman from a small German village whose last name was Birnbaum, which translates to “Pear Tree”. Naturally, the drink features the pear flavor prominently. It’s perfect for the fall season as well, and is so delicious it just might be your downfall as well. Cheers!

The Downfall of Fraulein Birnbaum

The Downfall of Fraulein Birnbaum by BarMaxLA

2 oz cognac

2 oz pear liqueur

1 oz apricot liqueur

½ oz fresh lemon

2 dashes orange bitters

Flaming absinthe mist (I opted for an absinthe rinse)

Shake ingredients together and strain into an absinthe rinsed glass (or flame the mist over the drink if you have no fear of burning down your house). Garnish with a brandied pear or German beer stein lemon peel.

These Frauleins make a great pear

For more from Stephen Chin see: