Note: Because Outlander is about to be a big ol’ awesome TV series on Starz, I’m keeping these posts as spoiler-free as possible. I’ll be including some book-quotes to illustrate my points, but I promise not to reveal anything plot-related. Because I care about you.
Claire Beauchamp is the heroine of the Outlander series by Diana Gabaldon, and is a damn breath of fresh air as far as female characters go. She’s smart, stubborn, funny, fierce, and entirely imperfect. No shrinking violet, she’s the leading woman you want to root for. Of course she’s pretty, but not much fuss is made about that. Her sexy mind and a talent for medicine make her special. She’s a little rough around the edges. Sure, she’s got love interests, but she is a whole human being with or without a man. I like that about her, and I hope that continues to be the case on the show.
Claire’s talent for identifying, making and administering medicine– and in particular her knowledge of plants– comes in handy many times throughout the series, so I knew it must be represented in her drink somehow.
The herb garden, valuable repository of healing and flavors that it was, was cradled in an inner courtyard, large enough to allow for sun, but sheltered from spring winds, with its own wellhead. Rosemary bushes bordered the garden to the west, chamomile to the south, and a row of amaranth marked the north border, with a castle wall itself forming the eastern edge, an additional shelter from the prevailing winds. I correctly identified the green spikes of late crocus and soft-leaved French sorrel springing out of the rich dark earth. Mrs. Fitz pointed out foxglove, purslane, and betony, along with a few I did not recognize. (Outlander, ch. 2)
I turned away without speaking and went to busy myself with tidying the small pots and packets of medicines on the side table. I arranged them into small groups, sorted by function: marigold ointment and poplar balm for soothing, willowbark, cherry bark and chamomile for teas, St. John’s wort, garlic, and yarrow for disinfection. (Outlander, ch 38)
Whisky is also an important consideration when it comes to Claire, for two reasons: 1. She likes it (duh), 2. A part of her anatomy resembles it (her eyes, perverts):
“… [She was] Inhaling the whiskey fumes with rapture.” (Dragonfly in Amber, ch 2)
“Her face was flushed from the whiskey, and her eyes were the most unusual light golden-brown color, he thought– like amber in crystal.” (Dragonfly in Amber, ch 2)
“[Claire's eyes are] the color of verra fine whisky, wi’ the sun shining through them from behind. I thought this morning they looked like sherry, but I was wrong. Not sherry. Not brandy. It’s whisky. That’s what it is.” (Dragonfly in Amber, ch 6)
An important side note about whisk(e)y: The spelling whisky is generally used in Scotland, England, Wales, Canada, and Japan. Whiskey is more common in Ireland and the United States. Scotch is the type most often referred to in the series, and therefore the spelling is sans e. Bourbon, rye, Irish, Scotch, etc. are all types of whisk(e)y, but they are all unique in their ingredients and production. More on that in a future blog post. For now, remember: Scotch = whisky.
Scotch purists often shudder whenever it’s diluted with anything other than water. I get that. It’s a beautiful, complex spirit that doesn’t need anything, really. That complexity also means that it can be a bitch to mix into cocktails. That doesn’t mean that it can’t be done well, however.
I’d recommend this drink even if you aren’t normally a whisk(e)y believer. Claire’s drink is a little sweet, a slightly bitter, and pretty without being prissy. My sister, Emily, said this may be her most favorite cocktail. Ever. That’s some pretty high praise. I hope you’ll decide to replicate it at home to celebrate the online premiere of Outlander on August 2nd, or the television premiere on the 9th!