Words in a Glass: Saudade

Words in a Glass: Saudade

It’s going to be impossible for you to read this post without a correct pronunciation of the name of the drink and the word that I’m writing about. So here we go: saudade is pronounced sow-dah-day. It’s a Portuguese word with no English equivalent that captures the often indescribable feeling of yearning for someone or something so intensely that the absence we feel actually becomes a presence. This may be a person or circumstances that we’ll never experience again, or it may be someone or something that is very much a part of our lives. Saudade differs from the deep sadness we feel when we experience profound loss, or nostalgia for a time or place to which we can never really return. There are many words in the English language that capture sadness, and even nostalgia, that enable us to articulate those emotions rather eloquently, but there are none that are quite the same as saudade.

The origin of saudade goes as far back as 15th century Portugal where it was used to describe the emptiness and constant yearning felt by family members whose loved ones had sailed to far off places. It’s derived from the Latin root solitates, which means solitudes, but it carries such nuance that it has become known as one of the most difficult words to translate into English. There is a French phrase that I find to be similar in sentiment. If we want to say “I miss you” in French we would have to say “Tu me manques” (too-meh-mahnk) which literally translates into “you are missing from me,” a much more romantic expression than its English equivalent, and one that captures the same feeling of absence and longing as saudade. The Italians take things one step further (does that surprise you?) and use the term struggimento (struh-jee-men-toe) which signifies a longing so intense that it causes actual suffering and lifelong misery.

I am most intrigued by the idea of yearning for someone or something that is not truly absent from our lives, at least not permanently. I know that my son is currently experiencing saudade for his children, even though he sees them every night when he comes home from work. It’s understandable. I’m certain that there are many of us that can remember feeling that same way, especially when our children were very young. There are a fair number of relationship experts who believe that saying “I miss you” to someone can be even more intimate than saying “I love you.” Their theories are rooted in the concept of experiencing such a sense of connection with another person that we feel like they are literally a part of us. The boundaries and edges between us become blurred, but in a way that is completely healthy and without co-dependency. When this person is not with us, we feel their absence deeply, and we have the sense that they truly are missing from us. Personally I believe that when we make a statement that expresses to another person just how much we yearn for them when they’re not with us, we’re baring our souls. We can say it in any language we choose. We can say “Tu me manques” or “Estou com saudade de você” or “I long for you,” but underneath those words are these: I trust you. Implicitly and completely.

For today’s cocktail, I’m choosing to continue my experimentation with simple martinis that use a lesser amount of the base spirit. I’m finding that changing the ratios really allows the flavors of the secondary spirits to shine. In this case, I’ve chosen to combine vodka with Dolin Dry vermouth, and three equal parts of a high quality mint schnapps, an intense rosemary simple syrup, and DRAM lavender lemon balm bitters. Mint symbolizes fidelity and the warmest of feelings, rosemary represents remembrance, especially of love, lavender is devotion, and lemon balm has been used throughout history to send messages between lovers. The end result was a delicately flavored herbal martini that captured the nuances of both the flavor and the meaning of this cocktail. It stayed with me long after I tasted it and it made me think of my favorite definition of the word saudade that is the most simple, and the most beautiful. It is “the love that remains.” Cheers everyone. Happy Wednesday!


1½ oz Stateside vodka
¾ oz Dolin Dry vermouth
¼ oz Wondermint Schnapps liqueur
¼ oz rosemary simple syrup (as intense as you can make it)
¼ oz DRAM lavender lemon balm bitters

Add all the ingredients to a mixing glass with ice and stir until very, very cold. Pour into a chilled Martini glass and serve. No garnish. Enjoy!

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