2018 Primetime Emmy
& James Beard Award Winner

The Great Guggle Muggle

The backdoor mezuzah at Barb and Gary Ratner's house, at Mentelle and Charles Allen, in Midtown. Photo by Matt Rosenfeld
Photo: The backdoor mezuzah at Barb and Gary Ratner’s house, at Mentelle and Charles Allen, in Midtown. Photo by Matt Rosenfeld.

The Great Guggle Muggle

I am a New Yorker in exile. But that is not why I’m drinking this drink.

Where I am now I live in Midtown. Which makes it a good thing I no longer live in New York.

I’ve been told by my new favorite neighbor that this neck of Atlanta was a Jewish neighborhood some time ago, in the last century. Which is why I’m going to follow my shrink’s advice—not that she gives it, not that I take it—and mix up the cold remedy her father used to rely on: tea, honey, brandy or rum or something like that, and lemon. “I think he put milk in it, too,” she said. “But lemon or milk, not both.”

If you’ve read Edward Said’s old stuff, then you know a goy gets her culture secondhand, by reading about it. The Internet reports—and I have no reason to doubt It on this point—that there are as many recipes for the guggle muggle as there are Jewish grandmas. Most involve egg yolk, though the citrus-or-milk-but-not-both principle always governs: it’s either yolk beaten with sugar, plus hot milk and sauce, or else some version of yolk, honey, brandy, citrus. One recipe calls for schmaltz (you can look that up), another butter and cocoa, another maple syrup, another slivovitz (ditto). You can garnish coffeeshop-style with cinnamon and nutmeg. You can also splash out: equal parts lemon and grapefruit juice, plus cognac and “three heaping spoonfuls” of honey, all warmed over.

There are nearly as many variations on the name as there are on the drink: guggla muggla, gogol mogol, kogel mogel, murgle gurgle… I kind of like gurgla murgla, but it looks like that’s just some random fantasy geek’s role-playing handle.

I’ll go with lemon. Because I’m going on three days now without a voice. I joke with everyone who can bear to listen to the rasp that scrapes out of my throat that this is not a metaphor for my life. Which is nothing more dramatic than a fever on Friday at 11 p.m. in December. It’s unseasonably warm. It’s seasonably wet.

I don’t keep brandy on my liquor shelf. The only grandmother I knew died last year, and her tough-as-lacquered-nails legacy was bourbon. I don’t keep bourbon on the shelf, either. But there are three swigs of rum in the bottle I bought years ago to make my family’s sweet potato casserole, the one we always have at Thanksgiving and Christmas. That’ll do. But tomorrow? I will still be sick tomorrow. How do you solve a problem like Maria?

Midtown is not, if it ever was, a Jewish neighborhood anymore. I do feel at home here, though. It needs a Chinese restaurant, but the houses huddle close together. There’s a bodega down the street—it’s right next to my hair salon. Everybody has a dog. Some of the people pick up after their dog. And there’s a Krispy Kreme one block up the hill, just across from the city’s Eagle. I totally thought Krispy Kreme was a New York thing. Did you know that Krispy Kreme is not a New York thing? Of course you did. I’m always the last to know.

So I’ll go with St-Germain. That stuff is delightful, especially with gin. And I’ll add another name to the list: the goigle moigle. Isn’t it just like a gentile to rewrite the old with the new?

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