Le Bonheur de Vivre

Matisse over Picasso, but just this once.

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Okay, the biggest rivalry in art history is between Picasso and Matisse. Hands down. But only if you’re old and European. In fact Picasso created this painting as a direct response to a Matisse from 40 years prior – that’s how trolling used to work… The common art history geek response is that of course Picasso is a better artist because he created and dominated several movements within Modernism that went beyond the default decorative nature of Formalism, and Matisse was basically just making pretty pictures. Yeah, maybe, but let’s face it, he was a prick – ask any of his ex-wives/mistresses/children. It’s not like Matisse was a saint, but if anyone’s painting style truly encompasses the Joy of Life, I’d have to say it was Matisse. Let’s just compare the two paintings with similar titles:

Joie de Vivre, Pablo Picasso, 1946 - cool color scheme, impersonal, abstract, geometric, not joyful, kinda drab, robotic and frightening.

Bonheur de Vivre, Henri Matisse, 1906 - warm analogous color scheme, friendly, personal, curvilinear, full of life and love. Plus the TnA is more naturalistic and doesn't involve animals…

Which painting would you rather immerse yourself in while drinking a cocktail? Obviously Matisse, but that doesn’t mean it’s a better painting, although I believe it is if we’re rating things here. Others may disagree, but they’re wrong and I’d be happy to argue the finer points. For a quick non-judgemental comparison of these two paintings and others with a similar title, check out this article.

So why are we talking about Modernist paintings? It’s because I based this cocktail on a similar one called the “Joie de Vivre Martini” which was delicious, but left something to be desired in a pure “Joy of Life” kinda way. Kinda like Picasso. Although the Matisse painting I reference is 40 years earlier than the Picasso painting, it’s closer to the essence of this cocktail and the phrase itself. There is no indication that the Picasso painting was in any way an inspiration for the original cocktail title, as it’s a common phrase, but I felt that the painting references allowed me to distinguish my version while still paying homage to the original inspiration. My cocktail version adds a few subtle ingredients which make a HUGE difference in flavor. The cucumber adds a fuller softer mouthfeel and the lime adds that tiny bit of sour to balance the sweetness of the liqueurs. The hint of orange was a happy accident, but seems essential now. There are a few ways to approach this. You can use a cucumber infused vodka, or plain vodka with the addition of 3 cucumber slices in the initial blackberry muddling. Conversely, you can use an orange infused vodka instead of the expressed orange twist garnish. Honestly, the best way is to combine both ideas and use an orange infused vodka with muddled cucumbers and an orange twist. The orange blossom water is an optional floral garnish, but otherwise all the ingredients are essential to create a truly wonderful Joy of Life cocktail.

  • 2 oz. Cucumber infused vodka

  • ½ oz. Crème de Cassis

  • ½ oz. Nocino

  • ¼ oz. fresh squeezed lime

  • 6 blackberries

  • dash orange blossom water as garnish

  • twist of orange peel for garnish

Muddle blackberries, shake with vodka, liqueurs and ice, fine strain, serve in coupe, garnish with orange blossom water,  express orange peel and use as garnish.