Just a few weeks ago I wrote about the phenomenon of the planet Mercury and its retrograde phase. This little first rock from the sun controls certain major aspects of our lives that include communication, transportation, and technology. In short, it can wreak a bit of havoc when it appears to be spinning backwards in its orbit because we suddenly can’t speak or write properly, can’t navigate our way around the block, and can’t rely on our cell phones to help us out in either of these situations. The good news is that retrograde periods do end, and as of yesterday, this one has come to a close. Although we feel the shift in Mercury’s energy almost immediately, it takes a few days or more for the planet to fully wake up and get back to business as usual. The day of re-entering direct is usually an emotional one because retrograde phases are also periods of reflection, and once Mercury stops its backward motion, we begin to feel very clear about the things on which we’ve been reflecting. Sometimes we welcome that clarity with open arms and other times we know that effort and change are ahead of us. Either way, it’s important to hold onto any revelations we might have had during the retrograde, and try to take them in a forward direction now that we have planetary energy in our favor!
Today I’m reprising a cocktail that I made almost two years ago just after the close of another retrograde period. I intended to photograph it differently, but if you are living on the East coast with me then you know that the sun has gone into some kind of hibernation, and yesterday was not the day for cocktail photography. The main spirit of this drink is vodka, to which I added an equal measure of Lillet Rouge 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 (because retrograde periods certainly cause a lot of that) 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 (now that we’ve gone direct again) 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. Citrus always brings brightness and clarity to cooking and cocktail making. 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. I was going for bright, aggressive flavor with this drink, something that would wake us up and make us feel as though we were back on track.
Without the vodka, this drink would be nothing more than a sangria that is a little more boozy than usual. You can certainly eliminate it, add some more fruit, and serve it as a sangria if you’d like, but the vodka gives the drink a backbone and elevates it to the level of a cocktail. I could have gone with another spirit, but there would definitely have been a conflict with the other ingredients I’d chosen. It’s just a reminder that vodka remains an indispensable spirit, and often allows a level of creativity that is not always possible with many of the others. Cheers everyone. Happy Monday and Happy End-of-Retrograde! I hope you’re feeling clear, and bright, and ready to move forward.
Mercury Goes Direct
1½ oz of your favorite vodka (I used Stateside)
1½ oz Lillet Rouge*
¾ oz Amaro Montenegro*
¼ oz Velvet Falernum*
1 oz fresh lemon juice
¼ 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, in a shaker tin with ice and shake until very cold. Strain 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.