Quite a few years ago one of my nieces lived in New York City up on 108th Street. There was a park close by that hosted Shakespeare productions during the summer. I was visiting with my kids and my sister-in-law one night when we decided to wander over for a walk after dinner. We found ourselves in the middle of a performance of A Midsummer Night’s Dream, and felt as though we had been transported into some kind of a magical world. If you don’t remember the how the plot of the play goes, a group of young lovers spend the night in an enchanted forest where they find themselves the victims of various fairy pranks and spells. Puck, also known as Robin Goodfellow, serves Oberon, the king of the fairies, in much the same way a jester would serve any king. He loves a good practical joke more than anything else and it’s his sense of mischief that makes the play the wild and wacky romp that it is. Puck’s character is based on a house sprite of the same name from Elizabethan folklore who either helped with chores or turned everything on its head. In A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Puck is both the force that makes everything go awry, as well as the agent of bringing it all back in order again. He is also able to transform himself, as well as other characters, and this helps to illuminate the play’s main theme of transformation. The characters leave the forest forever changed by the experience of the night they spent there. Puck also serves as the party planner of this entire night, and really of the entire play, which means he’s responsible for the audience’s enjoyment as well. He lets us know with a wink at the end that he knows that the play has all been a dream, and if we didn’t like this one, he’d make it up to us next time.
For today’s cocktail, I attempted to turn a Whiskey Sour on its head. I started with a base of rye whiskey, to which I added Amaro Montenegro, blood orange juice, rosemary simple syrup, and just a small amount of an Italian herbal liqueur called Centerba. It’s very strong and bitter, and a bit difficult to find. It’s available online if you search for it, and in Laurenti’s Shop-Rite liquor store in Lawrenceville, NJ if you’re local to this area. If you can’t find it, Fernet Branca will make an excellent substitute and it’s widely available. This cocktail is quite strong, with an underlying spiciness from the rye whiskey, a strong herbal bitterness from the Centerba, and a balancing sweetness from the Montenegro and the rosemary simple. The blood orange juice contributes the sour component and gives the drink its fun color. It’s a bit of a romp, just like the journey into the forest and the play itself, all under the direction of Puck as the ringleader of it all. Cheers everyone. Happy Wednesday!
A.K.A. Robin Goodfellow
Place all the ingredients in a shaker tin with ice and shake until very cold. Strain into an old-fashioned glass over one large cube. Garnish with a cherry, a blood orange wheel, and a sprig of rosemary. Enjoy!
*Use a 1:1 ratio of water to sugar and place in a mason jar with some rosemary sprigs. Steep until cool.