Smoke and Mirrors: An Interview with Justin Herrmann

by Jason Teal Read the Story June 19, 2017

The toe totally grossed me out—congrats. It also gave me pause, thinking of expensive cocktails I didn’t enjoy but finished nonetheless (recently: an $8 Kickin’ Mule). Who’s toe is in the glass?

I’m glad to hear you’re a good boy that finishes his cocktails, Jason.

Regarding the Sour Toe Cocktail, it’s based on a drink that exists in Dawson City, Yukon Territory. My friend Travis tried it a few years ago. The first toe the bar used had belonged to a miner before it was frostbitten and amputated. Eventually it was accidentally swallowed. Since then the bar has gone through several donated toes.

What’s the weirdest drink garnish you’ve ordered in real life?

Good question, Jason, but the problem answering it is that chances are any memory of the weirdest garnish was probably drunk away the night it was ordered. Weirdest or not, I can’t say for sure, but within the last year I’ve had a martini garnished with a lobster claw and another with a Pop Rocks rim.

I worked as a janitor in Antarctica for a while with plenty of fun and good-hearted people. Weird drinks were consumed: Juice boxes were garnished with syringes full of gin; a variety of tea bags were added to cheap cans of outdated New Zealand beer.

Are there other unique drinks on the story menu?

Well, it’s not on the regular menu, but if you know how to order it properly, you can have a shot of your choice poured on the bartender’s beard and you can splurch the drippings directly from the beard hairs.

There’s Americans in the bar. What do they do for a living?

I reckon they’re on their way back down to the lower forty-eight after having worked seasonally in Alaskan lodges as cooks, housekeepers, shuttle drivers. Their bank accounts seem large. Their new friendships feel important. They are looking for their next adventures.

Assuming there is no Alaska-Canada Highway drive in store, give us the itinerary of one such pilgrimage.

Sure, there would be planned stops, like bathing in Liard Hot Springs, but the best moments along this highway would be things that aren’t expected: weaving through a herd of bison in the middle of the night; sleeping in the car in a gas station parking lot due to poor planning, the yelling and crying silenced by seeing thick green waves of the aurora borealis overhead for the first time; eating great cupcakes in surprisingly hip White Horse.

About the Author:

Justin Herrmann is the author of the short fiction collection Highway One, Antarctica (MadHat Press 2014). He is a graduate of the University of Alaska Anchorage's MFA program. Most recently his stories have appeared in Mid-American Review, Blue Earth Review, and River Styx.

About the Interviewer:

Jason Teal is a writer and editor living in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. He earned his Master of Fine Arts degree in fiction from Northern Michigan University and runs Heavy Feather Review. His work appears in Quarter After EightEleven ElevenKnee-JerkVestal ReviewSmokeLong QuarterlyLit.catFlulandCorium MagazineBig MuddyMatter PressHobart, and Fine Print, among other publications.