Stitch in the Ditch: An “original” cocktail

Friends, I present to you: the Stitch in the Ditch.

The name came first. The recipe later.

The story of the name is pretty straightforward. When she wasn’t cooking or baking or singing virtually with Siskiyou Singers, Chef Sin spent the better part of the pandemic sewing. Shirts, pants, pillows, doggie neckties, pencil pouches for choir members, and poop-bag pouches for pooch-walkers. Sewing and sewing. So much sewing, she wore out her old sewing machine and had to buy a new one.

As she was unpacking it, she announced proudly that the new machine came with a “stitch-in-the-ditch” foot.

I had no idea what that was. But I replied, “That would be a good name for a cocktail.”

stitch in the ditch (n.): A sewing term used to describe the method of stitching along existing seams in quilting, attaching waistbands, and finishing binding.

The story of the recipe is a little more involved.

First, I wanted to try something that utilizes pear brandy. The Rogue Valley of Southern Oregon, home of Harry & David, is one of the top pear-growing regions in the country. Clear Creek Distillery in Hood River, in Oregon’s biggest fruit-crop region, has won international awards for its pear eau de vie.

At the same time, I’ve been eager to try Becherovka, a Czech liqueur. Bartender Kyle Linden Webster of Expatriate in Portland, Ore., named it as the most underrated spirit of 2021; I reasoned that its autumnal herbal undercurrents of allspice, cinnamon, and clove would pair nicely with the pear brandy.

From there, I used the “Magic Cocktail Formula” developed by Alie Ward and Georgia Hardstark of The Cooking Channel, adding citrus juice and simple syrup, modifying the proportions somewhat, and finishing with a couple of dashes of bitters.

Eventually, I floated a dried Northwest pear chip from Sisters Fruit Company on the cocktail as a garnish. Because it just seemed right.

And there it is: the Stitch in the Ditch. An “original” cocktail.

Why the quotation marks?

Because I recognize that there are no new cocktails. Only variations on old ones.

I did a pretty thorough internet search and found nothing resembling my pear-brandy-and-Becherovka concoction. But some bartender somewhere surely tried it before I did.

Likewise, I couldn’t locate any reference to a cocktail called a Stitch in the Ditch. But I’ve never seen mention of the Mr. Dawson’s One-Eye Open, either, except on the photocopied recipe I got from its inventor, Pat Carden. So somebody somewhere might have used the name first.

Think of this cocktail, like its namesake, as some stitching along an existing seam. But it also reflects where my wife and I have been during the pandemic. And that makes it an original.

As Ursula K. Le Guin wrote in The Dispossessed (1974):

They say there is nothing new under any sun. But if each life is not new, each single life, then why are we born?

Stitch in the Ditch 

1.5 ounces pear brandy
1.5 ounces Becherovka liqueur
1 ounce lemon juice
1/2 ounce simple syrup
2 dashes orange bitters
Orange twist and/or dried pear chip for garnish

Combine all ingredients in a shaker with ice. Shake vigorously for 30 seconds. Pour into a chilled cocktail glass. Garnish with orange twist, or float a dried pear chip on top. Or do both.

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