Not sure what to get your beloved friend (or mortal enemy) this year for the holidays? For those with whom you share an emotional connection, food artists Bompass & Parr suggest gifting human tears, distilled into cocktail bitters.
Bompass & Parr’s Bitter Tears workshop series connects modern libations to the historic practices of lacrymatory, the ceremonial storage of mourning tears, and momento mori, meditation on death and the deceased.
Participants begin by extracting teardrops by traditional means—vigorous rubbing, menthol exposure and good ol’ sad thoughts. The products are organized into three categories: basal (everyday lubricating tears), reflex (responsive to irritants and injury) and, the prized psychic tears (emotional or stress-related).
The act of collecting tears extends from antiquity, referenced in the Old Testament’s book of Psalms—“Thou tellest my wanderings, put thou my tears in Thy bottle.” In Roman society, mourners cried into vessels beside tombs; the dead with the most collected tears were remembered as the most beloved community members. The practice continued into the Victorian and American Civil War periods, during which women saved tears while awaiting husbands’ return from battle.
Unlike traditional lacrymatories, which store tears in their pure saline form, Bompass & Parr recommend combining the the liquid with aromatic herbs and spices and infusing it in high proof spirit. B&P’s attendees leave with two bitter bottles, wrapped in a thin strand of their own hair—a memento mori, or symbol for recipients to remember them by.
Part history lesson, part relationship reflection, Bompass & Parr’s Bitter Tears workshop doesn’t provide shock value alone. Rather, it reminds us of the personal nature of gift giving, placing equal emphasis on product and sentiment.