Those of you who have any interest in astrology already know the direction I’m going in with this drink. Thankfully it’s a positive one! Four times a year the planet Mercury speeds past Earth as part of its orbit. During that time it “appears” to be moving backwards in the sky. This wreaks havoc on all of us, but it particularly affects Virgo (that’s me) and Gemini (I know too many to count) because it’s our ruling planet. The last retrograde we went through started on August 30th and ended on September 22nd, which means that it occurred in the sign of Virgo, making it even more powerful. When Mercury is in retrograde the world seems to turn a bit upside down and things go wrong for no explainable reason. There is good that comes from it too, but this was an especially difficult one and I’m so happy it’s over!
I created this cocktail to celebrate September 22nd (hence the name), but I held onto it because I knew I had a week of vodka posts coming up on the blog. The main spirit of this cocktail is, of course, vodka and I chose to use Stateside Urbancraft again since I’ll be featuring their bar tomorrow on the Thursday Barlogue, and because it’s quickly becoming one of my favorites. I added an equal measure of Lillet Rouge to the drink for its deep color and fruity red-wine flavors, and its touch of bitterness and tiny bit of citrus. I wanted to keep going with the bitterness idea so I chose to use a small amount of Amaro Montenegro and 2 dashes of Hella’s Aromatic Bitters. The Montenegro is one of the mildest of the Italian Amari and I think it smells and tastes like figs and violets. It’s an excellent digestivo, or after dinner drink, on it’s own too. To contrast the bitterness, I brought in equal amounts of simple syrup and Velvet Falernum, for its distinct spice drop flavor. Finally, I needed some citrus to brighten things up and balance out the heavier ingredients, so I added in some lemon juice and lemon wheels as a garnish. I served it over one large cube in a bucket glass, but I would be just as happy with it being served up in a cocktail glass. Just be careful, they go down easy!
It was very clear to me that without the vodka, this drink would be nothing more than a boozy sangria. You can certainly try eliminating the vodka at home and you’ll see just what I mean. I could have gone with another spirit, but there would definitely have been a conflict with the other ingredients I’d chosen. The vodka gave the drink a backbone, elevated it to the level of a cocktail, and permitted me to go in the direction that I wanted to take the drink. This was an excellent reminder for me that vodka remains an indispensable spirit, and often allows a level of creativity that is not always possible with many of the others.
Mercury Goes Direct
1 1/2 oz of your favorite vodka (I used Stateside Urbancraft)
1 1/2 oz Lillet Rouge*
3/4 oz Amaro Montenegro*
1/4 oz Velvet Falernum*
1 oz fresh lemon juice
1/4 oz simple syrup**
2 dashes of aromatic or angostura bitters (I used Hella Co. Aromatic Bitters)
Lemon wheels for garnishing
Place all the ingredients, except for the lemon wheels, into the smaller half of a shaker tin. Add your 1 large cube and 2 small cubes to the shaker. If you don’t have the large format cubes, fill the shaker 2/3 full with regular ice. Shake for 15 seconds or until very cold. Strain using a Hawthorne strainer into a bucket glass with 1 large cube, or serve without ice in a chilled cocktail glass. Drop the lemon wheels into the drink as a garnish. Enjoy!
*The Lillet Rouge, Velvet Falernum, and Amaro Montenegro are fairly easy to get. They can all be found locally at Canal’s Liquor Store on Rte 38 in Pennsauken.
**Simple syrup is 1 part sugar added to 1 part water and heated gently in a saucepan until the liquid turns clear. You can store the extra in a Mason jar in the fridge for about a month.
Tomorrow I’m featuring the Federal Distilling Room at Stateside Urbancraft Vodka. Be sure to stop back to learn more!