I can remember the first time I became aware of the fact that there were planets out there in space other than the one we lived on. It was a fascinating subject for me, and one that I could hardly fathom at times because of the sheer magnitude of it all. For me, there was no planet that was more captivating than Saturn, the sixth planet from the sun, second largest, and, almost without question, the most beautiful of them all. Saturn is a gas giant, much like Jupiter, so it has no solid surface, but rather it is comprised of a mixture of swirling hydrogen and helium. Its core is made up mostly of rock and ice, made solid by intense pressure and wrapped in a layer of liquid hydrogen. Saturn’s orbit around the sun takes 29 Earth years, but its daily rotation is very fast, clocking in a mere 10.7 hours, making it another go-to spot for the coffee drinkers of the universe, despite the fact that we’d be crushed in mere seconds by the atmosphere. Saturn spins so quickly, in fact, that it actually has a bulge around its equator as a result. This is the only evidence we know of that supports the idea that love handles can be caused by too much activity. Saturn has 53 recognized moons, and 9 more that are waiting to receive their official moon license in the mail. But, above all else, it’s Saturn’s rings that make it so spectacular. There are seven in total, and they are believed to be made up of broken comets, asteroids, and pieces of moons that shattered before they ever reached the planet. Each ring orbits around Saturn at a different speed and there are distinct gaps between them, the largest of which is called the Cassini gap. When spacecraft fly into Saturn’s orbit for exploration, they usually do so by passing through this particular gap. They have a thickness of 3,200 feet but span a distance of 175,000 miles, three quarters of the distance between Earth and the Moon. If Saturn had a surface that we could stand on, the rings would be clearly visible as they orbited the planet. How crazy would it be to look up into the sky each night and see 53 moons and seven rings?? In terms of relative size, if we return to the idea of the sun being as large as a door, and Earth being a nickel, then Saturn would be almost the size of a basketball.
Saturn was named for the Roman god of agriculture and wealth whose Greek counterpart is Chronos, father of Zeus (Jupiter). In terms of astrology, Saturn is the ruling plant of Capricorn and Aquarius, and influences the sense of duty, responsibility, and discipline in all signs. The rings are thought to represent human limitations, helping us to understand that although our imagination can be a powerful force, it must be guided by structure, reason, and organization in order for dreams to be put into action. There is a very significant astrological event that occurs called Saturn’s Return, which marks the moment when the planet comes back to the same place in the sky that it was in at the moment of your birth. This occurs every 29 years, but its influence can begin to be felt up to three years before. It marks a time of crisis when we confront ourselves and feel like everything we are gets called into question. It’s not coincidental that it occurs when we’re about to turn 30 and 60, respectively. Once we weather the crisis, we emerge on the other side of it stronger and more sure of our identity. There are a number of Saturn Return calculators available online if you do a google search.
For today’s cocktail, I kept things simple and went with a riff on a classic Army and Navy made with gin, orgeat (a syrup made from sugar and crushed almonds), and lime juice. I added in just a small amount of Suze, which brightened the cocktail up a bit in terms of both color and flavor. I garnished it with saffron and hibiscus salt to create a yellow effect on top that represents Saturn’s ammonia storms that are constantly swirling. And finally, those rings… many, many thanks to my daughter-in-law, Kerri, who helped me brainstorm about how to create those from Himalayan sea salt and cake sprinkles. Cheers everyone!
Add all the ingredients to a cocktail shaker with ice and shake until very cold. Double strain into a chilled cocktail glass and garnish with hibiscus salt and saffron. Enjoy!