I’m very excited to bring you a new cocktail series today that centers around the planets in the solar system. We’ll begin with Mercury, which is a perfect place to start since it just came out of retrograde yesterday and made our lives much easier. I’ll get to that in a minute. Let’s begin with some of things we all know. Mercury is the innermost planet, or the one that’s closest to the sun, and it’s also the smallest. In relative terms of size, if the sun were a 6-foot circle, the Earth would be the size of a nickel, and Mercury would be the size of a green pea. Because of Mercury’s proximity to the sun, the gravitational pull speeds up its orbit to only 88 days, as compared to our 365, but slows down its rotation on its own axis so that one full day into night cycle takes the equivalent of 176 earth days. That’s a long time to be in the dark! Mercury has no atmosphere to speak of, so although temperatures in daylight can reach 800 degrees (hot enough to melt metal), there is nothing to hold and dissipate that warmth, so areas of the planet not in direct sunlight are significantly colder. During the long night, temperatures can drop as low as -300 degrees, making Mercury the planet with the greatest temperature extremes. This lack of atmosphere also prevents meteoroids from burning up, so Mercury’s surface is riddled with impact scars and craters, much like our moon. Its color is predominantly a greenish gray where the sun hits it, and it has areas of smooth rocky terrain that transition into cliffs that are hundreds of miles long and up to a mile high.
If you were standing on Mercury in some sort of a special suit that could withstand these extreme conditions, you would see the sun rise as a giant white orb, 3 times the size of how it appears on earth. The light would be almost blinding because there is no atmosphere to deflect and scatter it. Mercury’s own magnetic field interacts with the magnetic field of the sun’s winds, causing magnetic tornadoes that pull down hot solar plasma and fling atomic particles high into the air. Clearly this planet has no conditions that could support life. It also has no moons or rings, and no water source anywhere, except for ice deep in its craters that forms because of the extreme temperature changes. Mercury is very difficult to see with the naked eye. It travels very close to the horizon and would be visible only at dawn or dusk, when it appears to be greeting the light of the sun, or chasing after it into darkness.
Because it travels so swiftly through space, Mercury was named after the Roman god of communication, commerce, and transportation. Astrologically speaking, Mercury affects areas of the mind and communication in all of our charts, and it is the ruling planet for Virgo and Gemini. Since zodiac signs always exhibit the traits of their ruling planets, both Virgo and Gemini tend to have highly analytical minds and are usually excellent communicators. There is a phenomenon that occurs with planets where they appear to be moving backwards at certain times of the year if you view them through a telescope. This happens because of the difference in the speed in which they orbit around the sun as compared to the speed in which the earth makes that same orbit. It’s like passing a car on the highway; for a brief moment, the car appears to be traveling backwards in relation to our own movement. In terms of astrology, retrograde periods can wreak havoc because the planet “rests” during this time and does not exert its normal control over the areas for which it is responsible. Since Mercury travels so swiftly, there are 4 retrograde periods in each year. During those you can expect there to be communication and transportations issues, and just a general sense that all is not right with the world. Most astrologers recommend that we avoid starting any new projects, or entering into any new contracts, using this time instead to tie up loose ends, finish things up, and reflect and meditate on our lives. Because Virgo and Gemini are ruled by Mercury, they are especially sensitive to the retrograde periods and suffer more than the other signs. I can attest to this. The latest retrograde began on August 12th and ended yesterday, September 5th. If the last few weeks have seemed difficult, you now know why, and you can be aware of future retrograde periods. The next one begins on December 3rd. A quick online search will give you the complete schedule.
Today’s cocktail had to reflect temperature extremes and have a lovely gray color. I’ll admit that it was a bit of a challenge to get right! I also wanted the photo to capture the blinding sun. Anyone watching me take these photos yesterday would have found it quite entertaining, I’m sure. I decided that Aquavit should be my base spirit because of its smooth anise-like flavor that always suggests coolness to me. I went with Barrow’s Intense Ginger liqueur to bring on the heat, along with muddled ginger and peppercorns. I also made a peppercorn and arugula simple syrup which contributed a bit more heat, but there was something about the vegetal notes of the arugula that had a cooling effect too. I chose lemon for my citrus and used a half an activated charcoal capsule to get the color right. When I tasted it, the Aquavit and the arugula hit me first, and then the ginger and peppercorns. It felt like a transition from cold to hot, which was just what I was hoping for. Cheers everyone! Next up in this series is Venus, the planet of beauty, love, and emotions.
Muddle 2 ginger slices and a handful of peppercorns withe the simple syrup in the bottom of a shaker tin. Add the remaining ingredients with ice and shake until very cold. Double strain into a cocktail glass and garnish with a lemon wheel. Sprinkle some cracked pepper on top of the drink. Enjoy!
*Make a standard 1:1 ratio simple syrup and then throw in some arugula and cracked peppercorns. Allow it to steep in a mason jar until cool. Strain it and store it in the jar in the fridge for 2 weeks or so.