The second spirit to visit Ebenezer Scrooge on Christmas Eve is The Ghost of Christmas Present, whose purpose is to give Scrooge a wake-up call by showing him what people really think of him. I find the idea of this spirit to be the most tantalizing of the three, because he represents something that will never be within our grasp. We can never really be sure what other people are honestly thinking or saying about us in private moments, but if we had the chance to know I wonder how many of us would actually take it. There are those people who truly don’t care about other people’s opinions of them, so having the opportunity to know what they were would probably not be very appealing. And then there are others, like me, who care very much, although I’m not sure I’d want to be flown around to other people’s houses to listen in on what they were saying about me. Then again, it is tempting. At least I’d know for sure what people thought, and maybe I’d learn a thing or two that I could work on changing, after I’d stayed in bed for a week with the covers over my head. I think the bottom line is that this is something that we can never know for sure, so we have to move through life doing the best we can to be as kind and compassionate as we can be towards other people. What Maya Angelou said is very true: “I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”
Now let’s get back to Charles Dickens! The Ghost of Christmas Past is described as being unusually large, almost a giant, who wears a dark green cloak and arrives with an abundant feast. In terms of a cocktail to represent this spirit, I needed something than was bold in taste and appearance, with lots of fruit-forward flavor. I decide to do a riff on a bourbon smash. I started off with Bluebird Distilling’s Four Grain bourbon because it has that smooth, sweet taste that I knew would really anchor the drink. For my secondary spirit I went with Cherry Heering, a liqueur that intensified the sweetness of the bourbon, and brought in the first of the fruit flavors that I wanted to use. From there I added freshly squeezed blood orange juice, and pomegranate juice, for both their flavor and their color. Once I had my juices in, I needed some sweetness, and so I decided on burnt sugar simple syrup because I love the way its deeper, more caramel-like flavor works with a dark spirit like bourbon. For bitters to offset the sweetness, I chose DRAM Apothecary’s wild mountain sage because it added an herbal quality to the cocktail, which made me think of the holly and mistletoe that are part of this spirit’s feast. Finally I tried to come up with a garnish that represented Christmas Past’s green cloak, as well as those two creepy little children he hides underneath called Ignorance and Want. A bay leaf and two cranberries gave me exactly what I was looking for. I also added a blood orange slice to the cocktail itself just to step up that sense of fresh abundance.
The Ghost of Christmas Present
1½ oz Bluebird Distilling Four Grain Bourbon
½ oz Cherry Heering
¾ oz blood orange juice
¾ oz pomegranate juice
¼ oz burnt sugar syrup*
2 dashes DRAM Apothecary Wild Mountain Sage bitters
1 bay leaf and 2 cranberries for garnishing
Add the ingredients to the bottom half of a cocktail shaker. Add your ice (1 large, 2 small if you have them) and shake for 20 seconds or until very cold. Double strain into a chilled goblet. Top with 1 – 2 oz of a good quality club soda. Thread the cranberries onto a cocktail pick and rest on the edge of the glass. Rest the bay leaf at an angle to the cranberries, partially covering them. Enjoy!
*Heat 2 cups brown sugar over low heat until melted; don’t stir it too much, but be careful not to let it really burn. Remove from heat and slowly add 1 cup hot water (it will splatter some but will calm down as the water goes in). Stir together well. Return the pan to the heat and continue cooking another 5 minutes over low heat. Syrup will be thin when hot and thickens as it cools. You can make less than this. just keep the ratio at 2:1.