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Add an Egg

We seemed to be very different people. CJ was tall and broad, a Midwesterner from a city named after lakes. I was slim, gay, and wore mostly primaries. CJ told me he liked things in gray. His shirt read “Cus’s Catskill Gym” and had a picture of Mike Tyson. This wasn’t in reference to the actual gym, but a song from a rock band I’d never heard.

We gathered in our kitchen for one thing: CJ’s perfect whiskey sour. 1 oz. simple syrup, 2 oz. bourbon, 1 oz. freshly squeezed lemon juice, and an egg white. Made with a jigger, lemon juicer, and weighted Koriko® shaker tins—austere mixing cans with an air of superiority.

CJ was the opposite of these tins. In basketball shorts, he’d say, “I’m too messy to be a real bartender,” while mopping up spilled egg. But this wasn’t true. CJ was an expert bartender. He’d go to fancy bars, and bartenders would offer him jobs on the spot. Despite his clumsiness, he had an eye for detail and a knowledge of the past.

For example, the egg. Generic bars would whisk a whiskey sour with bourbon, sweet and sour syrup, and maybe some lemon juice. We were home alone, late at night and wearing pajamas, but CJ painstakingly dry-shook an egg until the drink had his ideal meringue texture. This wasn’t necessary. I would have smiled and thanked him, even if he’d presented the most basic of basic whiskey sours. But that wasn’t his style.

CJ was a self-taught gentleman. I unpacked his books when he moved into the house—a book on manners, a book on the art of Japanese bartending. He had every style of glassware for every style of drink, and next to his bedside table, was always a pitcher of water (7/8 water, 1/8 gin) and four emerald glasses. He said he liked when people took care of him, but the real caretaker was CJ.

He handed me the whiskey sour, the top thick like a dessert. The flavor wasn’t lemon or whiskey, egg or syrup. Instead, the drink had a complete, rich taste. It left a foam mustache like milk, but the feeling was warm and more familiar to adulthood. We sat together, drinking the drink. We’d do this again and again, over months and seasons, an unlikely duo bound together by an added egg.

CHASE BURNS is a writer + performer based in Minneapolis, Minnesota. He loves mochi, summer walks on the Mississippi, and watching people behave badly. His writing has been published on Minnesota Playlist and Talking Soup, and he routinely reads work at Intermedia’s Queer Voices.

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