The Red Needle: The Drink that Leonard Cohen Made
Created | Updated Jan 6, 2012
This is the end of my life in art. I am drinking a Red Needle, a drink I invented in Needles, California, tequila and cranberry, lemon and ice. The full measure. I have not been denied the full measure. It happened as I approached my forty-first birthday.... This is drunken talk. This is Red Needles talking. It is too smooth. I am frightened. I don't know why. Yesterday I was so frightened that I could hardly hand a Red Needle to a monk on Mt Baldy....
– Leonard Cohen, 'My Life in Art', from Death of a Lady's Man
The Creation of the Red Needle
The quiet reference to the Red Needle he invented was first seen by the world in Canada, Leonard Cohen's homeland, in 1978 with the publication of Death of a Lady's Man by the Canadian publishing house, McClelland and Stewart. For decades now, devotees of Mr Cohen's poetry, music, and novels have often also been devotees of Red Needles. It is, indeed, 'too smooth' to be approached without care, particularly when employed as directed, in 'full measure.'
Looks like freedom but it feels like death, it's something in between I guess
Mr Cohen initially listed the essential ingredients of a Red Needle in his first published description: 'tequila and cranberry, lemon and ice'. He also very clearly described the proportions: 'The full measure.' For The Leonard Cohen Files, he elaborated on his original recipe: 'Tequila, Cranberry juice, Ice, Lemon and/or exotic fruits' Does one need more specificity? This is poetry, not science.
Things are going to slide in all directions
It has been reported that Red Needles greased the wheels of production of Leonard Cohen's apocalyptic 1992 album The Future. They certainly have greased the pleasant campaign to make 26 September, Mr Cohen's birthday, an international holiday. One can hope that in the future, all over the world, Red Needles will be raised on 26 September to toast Montreal smoked meat and the artistic legacy of Leonard Cohen.
There is a crack in everything. That's how the light gets in.
If you'd like to entertain your friends with a few Red Needles, and you feel you must have a recipe, here's something too smooth to go by:
Into one very tall glass about half full of crushed ice pour and drop:
2 oz tequila (that's 2½ English measures or about 60ml)
1 slice lemon
enough cranberry juice to top up the glass
Repeat for each friend.
Serve with Montreal smoked meat sandwiches accompanied by Leonard Cohen's Various Positions.
Repeat as necessary.1.