Shaken & Stirred: Strawberry Margarita, the Red and the Black, Spring’s Arrow—and PREDESTINATION

by Michael Cecconi

Here there be spoilers.

If we start talking about time travel—jotting little notes on cocktail napkins and trying to visualize what must be a clusterfuck of a temporal highway interchange—then we’ll never get anything done. You see, time is a river that flows in one direction. Sure, thanks to Einstein maybe we can remove ourselves from the timeline for a bit, take a little light-speed vacation, end up younger yet many years in the future. But as I understand it—and all of my credentials begin and end with the fact that I live near Stanford and there are smart people there—you’ll be quite a few light-years away from where you would want to be. So the return trip kind of burns any advantage you might have thought to gain. Confusing. And that’s not even trying to understand the ever-darkening logic and screen

PredestinationKoreanPosterSo what if time travel were possible? What if there was an agency that oversaw this awesome power? And what if it wasn’t Jean-Claude Van Damme, but Ethan Hawke who was the agent? I feel that suddenly we might be in for a headier and more emotional experience. In Predestination the whole of time is a done deal, it is a fait accompli, and we are but pawns experiencing what has already been fated anew yet helpless to change it. Bummer, right?

What unfolds is a conspiracy story wrapped up in the coolest paradox/mind trip ever. The main character is intersex, and she (and then he) is clearly seen in four distinct stages. And so unfolds a love story wherein a man is given a chance to woo himself as a woman (thanks, time travel!) all under the guidance of the same man but older (thanks again, time travel!). So, in a nutshell, man pimps himself out to himself, only to be driven mad with the time shenanigans but not before becoming a terrorist and getting shot by himself. And so could there possibly be another level to this movie? Yes! The man impregnates himself so he is his own parents. Drop mic.

So this is the perfect time loop. So closed and so clean. The existence of this loop serves a purpose towards codifying time travel and bolstering the agency meant to oversee it. But now imagine yourself in it … it will repeat forever with no hope of escape, no happy ending waking up next to Andie MacDowell, no avoiding judgment day with the Sarah Connor clan, and no putting Biff in his place and coming home to the coolest dad ever: Crispin Glover (in any timeline, Crispin is the best). Is this anymore dispiriting than the Euclidean lines our own lives inevitably travel? Or is this just a one-way ticket to existential overload?

Predestination is inevitably optimistic. How many times do we get to change? I think that no matter how backtracking our lives might be, it is the thought that we can grow and change that gives me hope, that makes yesterday different from today, that makes the mistakes I’ve made in the past a foundation for growth and not a rut in which I’ll forever wallow. I am smitten with the romance of this optimistic view of self-refinement as well as the romance of a person loving themselves through eternity. Getting kind of dusty in here, excuse me.

Predestination1So I was hired to work seasonally at Peter Hoffman’s Savoy, one of the first farm-to-table restaurants on the East Coast. And you must understand the strawberries in New York from the farmers market are the best things in the world. Getting my bearings I went simple and arbitrary, a strawberry margarita. A year later, a year more comfortable, I lost the orange liqueur, added black pepper simple syrup and a black pepper rim for the glass. The name came by way of an erudite regular, and the fact that writers tend to be better with words than barkeeps … The Red & the Black was born. I had grown, changed, and was able to translate a culinary treat into a liquid delight. After selling literally thousands of them it came time for me to use strawberries on the West Coast, where the growing season never really ends. We don’t muddle at Two Sisters, and constrictions always allowing for greater creativity and problem solving, I went with a shrub, which not only obviated muddling, but also added another layer of flavor in white wine vinegar. More change, more flavor, more tools under my belt. Now I wasn’t by any means changing as radically as the protagonist in the movie (or Bruce Jenner, for a real world stand-in), but I grew. And that is what this one-way trip allows us: we will end it in a different place than we began it, so make the most of it.

Let the seasons be the seasons. Food tastes best when it is grown in its natural setting, and eaten as close to that setting both in terms of space and time. In the middle of winter don’t buy strawberries, and in the middle of summer don’t buy pomegranate. Great tasting food/drink with friends is one of the best markers of the passing year: Enjoy it.


  • StrawberryMargaritaRocks glass
  • 2 oz 100% agave plata tequila
  • 1 oz fresh lime
  • ½ oz orange liqueur
  • ½ oz simple syrup
  • 2-6 strawberries

In tin/pint glass muddle strawberries. Add tequila, lime, orange liqueur, simple syrup, and ice. Shake and pour into rocks glass.

Minus the strawberries, this is my go-to margarita recipe.

Predestination2THE RED AND THE BLACK

  • Rocks glass
  • 2 oz 100% agave plata tequila
  • 1 oz lime
  • 1 oz black pepper simple syrup*
  • 2-6 strawberries


  • Spice-rimmed glass*

RedandtheBlackPrepare spice-rimmed glass. Muddle 2-4 strawberries in pint glass. Add tequila, lime juice, black pepper simple syrup, and ice. Shake and pour from mixing tin into spice-rimmed rocks glass.

Black Pepper Simple Syrup:

  • 3 T black peppercorns
  • 3 c water
  • 3 c sugar

Coarse grind peppercorns, and in pot combine sugar, peppercorns, and water. Bring to boil, let cool, then strain through fine mesh strainer or chinoise.

*Spice mixture:

  • 4 parts sugar
  • 1 part kosher salt
  • 1 part black pepper, freshly ground

Stir to combine all parts.

Predestination3SPRING’S ARROW

  • SpringsArrowRocks glass
  • 2 oz 100% agave plata tequila
  • ¾ oz fresh lime
  • 1 oz strawberry shrub*
  • 9 drops black pepper tincture**
  • Salt/sugar/pepper-spiced rim***

Rim rocks glass with spice mixture (simple syrup works as a great glue). In tin combine tequila, fresh lime, shrub, tincture, and ice. Shake & strain into spice-rimmed glass, and add fresh ice.

*Strawberry Shrub

  • 1 qt strawberry
  • 1 pint white wine vinegar
  • 1 cup water
  • 3 cups sugar

Combine, immersion blend until sugar dissolved, strain through chinoise. Ratio—4 strawberry : 2 white wine vinegar: 1 water : 3 sugar.

**Black pepper tincture

  • 1 oz fresh ground black pepper
  • 1 pint everclear

Combine, let steep for 48 hours, strain and store in a bottle with eye dropper attached.

***Spice rim

  • 4 parts sugar
  • 1 part kosher salt
  • 1 part black pepper, freshly ground
  • Stir to combine all parts

When spicing a rim, simple syrup works as the best adhesive. Cover the bottom of a small plate with syrup, dip the glass rim in the syrup, shake off excess and then dip into spice mixture. Shake lightly to remove loose spice.

When putting spice on a rim, as in margarita and sidecar, cover only half the rim… give your guest the option. BUT, when you make a spice rim that is intrinsic to the drink experience go ahead and coat the whole rim.

Tequila has a great green pepper/vegetal flavor to it, thanks to the distillate: the agave cactus. The classic savory preparation of strawberry and black pepper is here made liquid.

Horizontal Rule

MichaelCecconiMichael likes all things drink related. Michael likes movies. And, in an odd twist of fate, Michael loves words about movies. These three facts combine to make a perfect storm of sensibility, ability, and inebriation needed to fulfill duties at EatDrinkFilms. When not rhapsodizing about film, Michael tends the bar at Two Sisters Bar and Books in San Francisco. He teaches mixology in San Francisco and New York. And lately, he’s been trying to capture the magic of what he does in a bottle so he can spread his tasty libations across the land. Please feel free to contact him at with all queries.

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