Herstory Finalist Jordan Ricasa Pays Tribute to a NYC Activist

His cocktail is an homage to journalist Jane Jacobs, who helped save the Big Apple's neighborhoods.
The Crazy Dame cocktail draws inspiration from activist Jane Jacobs.
The Crazy Dame cocktail draws inspiration from activist Jane Jacobs.

When you first saw the Marie Brizard Herstory competition, did you immediately know which iconic woman you were going to base your drink on? Was it tough to choose just one?

Yes. She immediately came to mind. I'm fascinated by the narrative of the battle for Lower Manhattan between [Jane Jacobs], a journalist and grassroots activist, and Robert "Master Builder" Moses, the most influential urban planner of the 20th century.

How did you first learn about Jane Jacobs, the woman you paid tribute to?

Like most transplants, I was enamoured with New York City upon moving here. It wasn't too long after I settled in, I was recommended the eight-part New York documentary directed by Ric Burns. Though the entire documentary was very informative, the segment about the controversy regarding the modernization of the city's infrastructure was what I found most fascinating. Preferring highways over public transportation, urban planner Robert Moses was systematically clearing out neighborhoods for the sake of the automobile. Sometime during the 1950's, Moses had resurrected a plan to build the Lower Manhattan Expressway (LOMEX). Had Jane Jacobs not organized an opposition, vital New York neighborhoods such as Little Italy and communal spaces like Washington Square Park would have been razed to make way for the massive road.

Jordan Ricasa found inspiration in NYC activist Jane Jacobs. Jordan Ricasa found inspiration in NYC activist Jane Jacobs

What other iconic women do you admire? Who else do you think deserves a cocktail homage?

I was actually shocked to discover that writer Lois Long didn't already have a tribute cocktail! During the Roaring 20s, she was one of the original columnists for the then-brand-new publication, "The New Yorker," where under the pseudonym "Lipstick" she chronicled her nightly shenanigans of imbibing, dining, and dancing. Long was an icon for the flapper trend because of her wit, self-confidence, and charm — it was a movement that began as a defiant response to the residual expectations of women from the Victorian and Edwardian eras. This revolution was very much in stride with women gaining the right to vote in the United States. She deserves a cocktail!

Lois Long, the epitome of a flapper.

If you could invite five iconic women out for drinks, who would they be and why? (And what would you order?)

1) J.K. Rowling She obviously has a vivid imagination and a good heart. I imagine that we'd have a blast coming up with (and tasting) "every flavor" cocktails à la Bertie Bott's Every Flavour Beans.

2) Lauren Bacall Besides her being stunningly beautiful and amazing on screen, I always appreciated how such a privileged upbringing could produce such a kind person with socially liberal values. I'd take her out for martinis and we'd spend the entire evening conversing in snappy, no-nonsense film noir dialogue.

3) Stevie Nicks Her music is legendary and her lyrics are candid and painful. We would go wine tasting in Napa Valley, end up at a bed-and-breakfast in Sausalito, and polish off a nice vintage of Californian Pinot Noir while I play guitar and sing backing vocals for the most Wiccan jam session ever.

4) Ke$ha She knows how to party. We'd kill a bottle of Jack, hit up a rave where everyone was dressed as neon forest creatures, and wake up at Burning Man or something. Because sometimes you have to go down that road.

5) The Statue of Liberty Because she's French and everything French is beautiful, albeit painstakingly so. I would mix the largest French 75 to be flown to her lips via helicopter(s) and toast her, "Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free," citing Emma Lazarus' sonnet, "New Colossus."

Was this the first time you've created a cocktail tribute? Do you think you'll be creating more tributes in the future?

Yes. I had a blast! I liken it to dedicating or writing a song about someone or painting someone's portrait.

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