Cocktail Musings: Chiaroscuro

Cocktail Musings: Chiaroscuro

This past week, I taught a workshop about the eight phases of the moon and how the one under which we are born tends to give us a particular perspective on life. It’s one of my favorite astrological sub-categories because while many people are aware that their moon is in a certain sign, they don’t realize that the phase is just as important. It’s a lot of fun to witness the moment when the lightbulb turns on. In addition to covering the topic of natal moon phases, I also talked about how the moon in the sky continues its journey every month, changing phases every three to four days and infusing each time period with its corresponding energy. Under this scenario, we’re given the opportunity to interact with each phase every month, setting intentions, working towards realizing them, and eventually releasing what didn’t serve us. Our focus changes monthly depending on the signs where the new and full moons are occurring, and especially how those signs are placed in our natal charts, with all of that being beyond the scope of this post, despite the fact that I could talk about these ideas forever. What I noticed most of all during my workshop was the number of times I referenced the opposing concepts of light and darkness as related to the moon, and the ways in which they differ in terms of energy and expression. What it reminded me of, in particular, was the Italian term chiaroscuro, which literally means light-dark and refers to the use of shading to create three-dimensional volume in a drawing or a painting. Developed by artists like Leonardo da Vinci and Caravaggio, this technique emphasizes increasing or decreasing brightness levels instead of using different colors.

Phases of the moon and Italian Renaissance painters aside, we all have very distinct feelings about light and darkness. I think we can reasonably assume that the majority of us would say that the light brings us clarity, illumination, and security. Darkness, on the other hand, is associated more with obscurity, worry, and the scariest of the creepy crawlers that emerge from wherever they are hiding during the day. If we are worried or anxious about something, the feeling always intensifies at night. How often do we find ourselves thinking or saying “just sleep on it, and things will look different in the morning.” Similarly, if we have a string of particularly gloomy days where the light has taken a vacation, a sort of despair sets in at a cellular level, and we drag ourselves around feeling unmotivated and lethargic. When the sun returns, the feeling of relief is enormous. It’s for this same reason that solar eclipses are so jarring; even the animals run for cover. If we do venture out at night to go walking, most of us will stick to well-lit areas or take a companion with us, especially if it’s a furry one that walks on four legs. Interestingly enough, we tend to forget that there is some level of illumination in the darkness that comes from the moon, especially on the nights when its full and at its point of maximum brightness. We still tend to feel as though whatever the moon is showing us cannot be trusted. If you are a person who knows anything about the Tarot, you know that the energy of the Moon card is entirely based on this thought. What is revealed under the light of the moon is never quite clear enough or bright enough to make us feel certain of what we’re seeing.

If we return to astrology for just a moment, we learn that the sun symbolizes and articulates our purpose in life. Its energy is outward-oriented, active, and powerful. The moon, on the other hand, represents the realm of feelings, our intuitive selves, and the way in which we emotionally react and respond to whatever life throws at us. In these terms, both luminaries are on equal footing, and neither one is seen as more powerful or worrisome than the other. They are simply two of the major components that make up our very complicated personalities. Taking it one step further, we can say that the sun and the moon are in an interdependent relationship in our birth charts. The sun may indicate what motivates and drives us, but the moon provides understanding into the intuitive factors that lie behind that forward movement. Once again, even if we set astrology aside, we are well aware that there is an entire side of us that is intuitive and instinctual, manifesting either as a certain feeling we might have about something, or a tiny whisper we might think we hear when we’re trying to make a decision not entirely based on facts. The problem is that we often don’t rely on our intuition because it is something that is not supported by actual evidence, but more of a gut feeling that somehow seems to be untrustworthy, much like things that are illuminated only by the light of the moon. We want to wait until daytime to make sure of what we’re seeing. One of the things that astrology hopes to help us do is to learn the areas of life where we need to seek balance. We are all comprised of both light and darkness, glorious outward energy that manifests in our flashes of brilliance and all we accomplish, and brooding introspection that gives meaning and depth to the ways in which we serve the world. Striking a kind of chiaroscuro balance between these two forces allows us to move in the light with confidence and certainty, while realizing that our intuition is a dark sky under which we can walk without any fear.

For today’s cocktail, I decided on tequila as my base because it is one of those spirits that represents both light and darkness for so many people. I also knew that I wanted to use lemon verbena in a simple syrup because its is said to mean both enchantment and sensibility, a combination that I thought was incredibly appropriate for a drink associated with this post. I added in some Dolin Genepy liqueur for its subtle herbal flavor that reminds me of the nuances of intuition that are always running beneath the obvious surface of things, and I balanced out the sweetness with lemon juice. A dash of Palo Santo bitters from DRAM was absolutely necessary since they are extracted from holy wood, which is said to have mystical powers that help promote clear visions. Cheers everyone. Happy Saturday! As always, thank you so much for reading.


2 oz Espolòn tequila blanco
.5 oz Genepy des Alpes liqueur
.5 oz lemon verbena simple syrup*
.75 oz lemon juice
1 dash DRAM Apothecary Palo Santo bitters

Long shake over ice.
Double strain into a cocktail coupe.
Garnish with a lemon verbena sprig.


*Make a 1:1 ratio simple syrup and pour into a Mason jar. Add some lemon verbena leaves and steep until cool.

Click below to listen to an audio recording of today’s post!

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2 thoughts on “Cocktail Musings: Chiaroscuro

  1. Spot on! The solar energy is masculine, heating energy. The lunar is the feminine, cooling, creative and intuitive. Love this!

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