Celestial Cocktail #9: Outer Limits
In the solar system that I grew up with, Pluto was still considered to be the outermost planet, until it was reclassified as a dwarf by the International Astronomical Union. It had always seemed so mysterious to me, sitting out there so unimaginably far away, moving slowly along in its weird elliptical orbit, and making its way around the sun once every 248 years. Okay, okay, I confess that I did not readily know those facts as a child. I became fascinated with Pluto when I was in 5th grade and did a science project about it that won me a prize in the science fair at school. Later, when I was in high school and began to think about life in astrological terms, Pluto grabbed my attention again since there was a particularly indecipherable Scorpio that I was wasting my time on. Pluto is, of course, Scorpio’s ruling planet. You can imagine my dismay when the IAU took Pluto’s status as a planet away in 2006. So what exactly was it that led to this decision? It just so happens that as far back as 1992, there were a number of objects of similar size that were discovered residing in the Kuiper Belt, a ring of miniature icy bodies that orbit in a disc-like fashion beyond Neptune. Once one of these, whose name is Eris, was found to be larger than Pluto, the IAU changed its definition of the word planet, and Pluto became a dwarf.
Because Pluto is so far away and so inaccessible to us, there aren’t many facts that are known for certain. We do know that it is roughly two-thirds the size of our moon, and that one Pluto day is equal to 6.4 Earth days, making this a planet that is inhospitable to coffee drinkers who cannot wait that long for their morning fix. Always an important consideration for me. We also know that it has a rocky core and a mantle of ice whose temperature hovers at around -391 degrees Fahrenheit. Even though we are in the grip of the coldest temperatures of this East Coast winter so far, I suddenly feel warm. Plutos’s surface is comprised mainly of frozen gases that include methane, carbon monoxide, and nitrogen. Its coloring is deep red with streaks of white that come from the presence of carbon residues that create charged particles that fall on those methane and nitrogen gases. Can you say science nerd alert? Pluto was named after the Roman god of the underworld by an 11-year-old girl from Oxford, England. Shortly after the planet was discovered, she suggested the name to her grandfather who contacted the Lowell Observatory on her behalf. Her idea won out, and Pluto’s moons were also subsequently named after other underworld figures from mythology. Charon (Pluto’s largest moon) is named for the boatman who carries souls across the river Styx (another of Pluto’s moons). Nix was Charon’s mother and also the goddess of darkness and night. Kerberos was the three-headed dog, also know as Fluffy to Harry Potter fans. And finally there’s Hydra, the nine-headed serpent that guards the entrance into the underworld. Quite a cast of cheery characters.
In terms of astrology, Pluto rules Scorpio and governs the 8th house of all the signs in ways that are equally deep, dark, and mysterious. Pluto rules destruction, death, obsession, kidnapping, coercion, viruses, and waste. It also governs crime and the underworld, and similar types of secret and underhanded activities like terrorism and dictatorship. This is definitely not a pretty picture we’re painting, but the plus side is that although Pluto may be about things that are secret, dangerous, and undercover, that very energy encourages us to look inward and determine who we really are, which can lead to transformation, regeneration, and rebirth. What is our inner reaction to the things that Pluto rules? Do they make us angry, upset, and defiant against them, or are we secretly enthralled with the power behind some of them? The answer to these questions can be enlightening.
For today’s cocktail, I decided on a Negroni riff with a bit of egg-white shaken in. Pluto is deep and dark, and it rules elements that can be bitter until we find a way to see them in a more positive light. I started out with Laphroaig as my base spirit because of its smoky, mysterious quality. From there I focused on achieving Pluto’s red and white coloring by using Lillet Rouge as my sweet ingredient and Cappelletti as my bitter. I topped the drink with Angostura bitters. The result was a drink that worked surprisingly well together. The smokiness of the Scotch was the biggest presence, offset by the slight cherry sweetness of the Lillet and the similarly flavored bitterness of the Cappelletti. This was definitely a cocktail meant to be enjoyed slowly with lots of time for reflection in between sips. Cheers everyone. Happy Wednesday!
1 oz Laphroaig 10-year-old Scotch whisky
1 oz Lillet Rouge
1 oz Cappelletti Apertivo
1 oz egg white
Add all the ingredients to a shaker tin without ice and shake vigorously for as long as you can. Add the ice and shake again. Strain into a Nick & Nora glass and top with streaks of Angostura bitters. Enjoy!