It can’t be denied that there are some powerful female characters in Shakespeare’s world to whom we might actually be able to relate. Let’s take Lady Macbeth for example. She’s that incredibly ambitious woman who we tend to admire because she’s able to get things done through the sheer force of her will alone. She’s also bitchy, controlling, and downright cruel, so while we may admire her type, it’s often best to stay as far away as possible. And then there’s Ophelia from Hamlet. She’s pure and innocent, the very epitome of the virtuous woman and the ultimate vessel of morality. Sounds a bit like a snooze though, right? I mean will she even come out and have a drink with us? Juliet is too young, and Desdemona has way too much on her plate… Are there any Shakespeare girls out there that we’d actually love to hang out with in the modern world??
As a matter of fact there is one: enter Rosalind from As You Like It, stage right. So what is it that makes her so special? For starters, she is the daughter of Duke Senior who has been banished from his brother’s court. Since her father is an outcast, she suffers the same fate, but rather than feeling victimized by it, she makes the decision to run away to the forest of Ardenne in search of freedom. She owns that decision and never questions it or regrets it. She has an intensely loyal friendship with her cousin Celia, and they escape together to embark on a Thelma and Louise style adventure. When the two characters converse or banter back and forth, they truly augment one another’s personalities. We all need that friendship in our lives! Rosalind is also incredibly self-aware. She has romantic notions about love, but keeps a level head about them. She knows that men will not die without their lovers, nor will they necessarily love forever, but she accepts these facts and is still willing to take a chance on loving Orlando. Rosalind enters the forest dressed as a man to protect herself, but she continues to do so because it grants her a certain freedom, and because she can tutor Orlando in the ways of love if she is disguised as his friend. Smart girl, indeed. And, most importantly, by remaining dressed as a man for reasons beyond protection and necessity, Rosalind challenges the power of 16th century Elizabethan gender roles and exposes the idea that masculinity is something that can be imitated and faked. This is an idea that would have been positively shocking at the time. Go Rosalind! She is, without a doubt, Shakespeare’s most modern girl.
I chose Rosalind for today’s post because tomorrow is International Women’s Day, a celebration of women’s empowerment and solidarity around the world. More about that topic in this week’s Friday Musings post. For the cocktail, I decided to go with a riff on a Manhattan, a drink that’s often thought of in masculine terms. I deliberately swapped out the sweet vermouth and used Suze in its place because it’s a spirit that seems to be able to do a bit of cross-dressing of its own, much like our girl Rosalind. It’ll work with gin and tequila, but has enough bitterness and flavor to stand up to a Manhattan’s base of rye whiskey. In this case, the Suze worked particularly well, because I used Standard Wormwood Rye, a wonderfully spicy and slightly bitter spirit that’s distilled right in Brooklyn from a combination of rye and wormwood. It’s absolutely fantastic! I added in just a small amount of demerara simple syrup for a bit of sweetness, and some Wild Mountain Sage bitters from DRAM to boost the herbal component and to call to mind the Ardenne Forest where so much of the play’s action takes place. I garnished with a grapefruit peel that had been expressed onto the drink for a bright pop of citrus. Is this a man’s drink? I think not. I think Rosalind would have no problem knocking a few of these back in a bar with us any day. Cheers everyone. Happy Wednesday!
A Modern Girl
Combine all ingredients in a shaker with ice and shake until very cold. Strain into a chilled cocktail glass. Express a grapefruit peel over the drink. Twist and drop in. Enjoy!