• Peter Kaminski

For this week’s Key Ingredient, mixologist Charles Joly of the Drawing Room faced off against ambergris—the aromatic, waxy substance produced in the digestive tract of sperm whales and historically used for perfume, among other things. I’d never heard of it before, which my coworkers pointed out was probably because I’d never made it through Moby-Dick in my freshman-year literature class. There’s an entire chapter devoted to the stuff, immediately following the one in which the whalers come across a French ship that has claimed two pungent whale carcasses; Stubb tricks the Frenchmen into surrendering one that he hopes will yield ambergris (it was valuable back then, too, “worth a gold guinea an ounce to any druggist”). He’s rewarded with “some six handfulls.”