Black Jack Randall: An Outlander-Inspired Cocktail

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Black Jack Randall cocktail | saragalactica.com

 

“Okay, so you’re going to have to trust me on this one,” were the words I used when handing this cocktail over to my sister, Emily, last night. She’d wandered into the kitchen and saw the ingredients I had out on the counter, and I could hear the skeptical expression forming on her face. A few moments later, alone again in my laboratory– er, kitchen– I cackled like a mad woman.

Photo credit: Starz

Photo credit: Starz

Captain Jonathan “Black Jack” Randall (shown above as played by Tobias Menzies in the Starz adaptation of Outlander) is arguably one of the most important characters of the Outlander saga. He also just so happens to be one of the biggest assholes. He’s highly intelligent, and even more sadistic. I won’t go into the details because I *hate* spoilers, but anyone who’s read the books knows what I mean… And anyone watching the television series will know soon.

So how do you create a drink someone will enjoy while staying true to the dark nature of a villainous character? I’d never really tried this before, but my approach was pretty straightforward: Make the drink look like it could be named after him based solely on the color, combine story elements (lavender) with some surprising ingredients (you’ll see what I mean), to result in a surprisingly delicious beverage. Randall is, honestly, a deliciously villainous character. For all his inhumane acts (and there are MANY), we do get small glimpses of his humanity. Perhaps there was a good man underneath that icy facade once? If so, this cocktail would be the embodiment of that nature shadowed by darkness.

And with that, on with the recipe:

Black Jack Randall

An Outlander-Inspired Cocktail original by Sara Galactica

black-jack-allingredients

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Claire Beauchamp, an Outlander-inspired cocktail.

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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

“Pretty” is probably an understatement. Caitriona Balfe as Claire in the Starz Outlander series.

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!

Claire Beauchamp

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Cocktail Recipe: Sookie St. James

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Sookie St. James is perhaps best described as Lorelai Gilmore’s accident-prone best friend and platonic life partner.

Gawd, I love her.

Played by Melissa McCarthy, she’s funny, beautiful, creative, and caring. She also happens to be fat. But you know what’s really cool about Gilmore Girls? No one ever mentions that Sookie is fat. It’s never a plot point that she can’t get a man because she isn’t skinny. She’s not depressed. There’s never a Very Special Episode where she comes to terms with how fat she is and tries to loose weight. She never goes on a binge diet or is seen making herself exercise to make up for whatever she ate that day. She’s just awesome. Not “she would be so pretty if she just lost some weight” awesome. Just awesome. Period.

I fell in love with Melissa McCarthy in the role as Sookie because she’s just so charming and real, but also because it’s so rare to see a woman her size being the love interest on a show, accepted and loved for Who She Is and not What She Should Be.  I wish I could say I’ve brought myself to watch more of her work since then, but I just haven’t been able to. The Chris Farley-esque body comedy where her fatness is her punchline makes me feel all wounded. Maybe it’s a good sign that women can have body comedy, too… I just wish a talented fat actress could get noticed for something else. I know that she’s at least partially responsible for some of these characters (she wrote and produced her latest film, Tammy), so I suppose she’s comfortable with the roles she chooses. I just wonder what the chances are that she’d get a movie funded where she wasn’t having the play a variation of the same bumbling fatso?

ANYWAY. Back to Sookie.

Sookie is a talented chef, and much of her screen time involves her in/around the kitchen. She’s constantly experimenting with different dishes and ingredients, often allowing her imagination to get the best of her as she prepares incredibly elaborate meals (ahem, not that I can relate or anything). I wanted her drink to be creative and decadent; a little cocktail she would enjoy as a fellow foodie.

 

 

MMmm, sauce bath. Images found here.

 

So, in her honor, I present to you:

Sookie St. James

You’ll Need:

Sookie St. James: A Gilmore Girls Inspired Sara Galactica Cocktail Original {pictured: cream, honey, vodka, apricot liqueur}

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Cocktail recipe: Audrey Horne.

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This drink is so simple I hesitate to even call this a recipe. That sounds so formal. Like there are steps and measurements and a planned outcome when you start. This drink was unplanned. It happened on a whim when I remembered those cherries I bought at the farm stand, the rye whiskey tucked up on top of the refrigerator where I’m staying, and the honey bear on the counter. It all became so clear. These things were made for each other, I just needed to introduce them. I knew they’d take it from there.

I didn’t even get around to taking a final glamour shot of this drink. I got as far as the muddle:

IMG_5963

View this and other photos on my Instagram feed, @saragalactica.

It occurred to me after making this cocktail that I didn’t have any particular story inspiration in mind when I began. This happens sometimes. I don’t always set-out to make a drink based on a character or place. Sometimes it just happens after the fact, and sometimes I just make a damn drink because I want to. This one, however, was in need of a name. I mean, look at it! So I started to think about the sexy, more-complex-than-they-seem characters in my story repertoire, and…

Enter Audrey Horne:

Image via https://vintagethreadspeckham.wordpress.com/tag/audrey-horne/

She’s that sexy weirdo on Twin Peaks that, if you’re anything like me, you started out kinda hating and then ended up feeling oddly protective over. And we all remember the cherry stem scene, right?

Audrey Horne makes her case.

This drink is a sexy weirdo just like Audrey, one you’ll definitely feel a little protective over once you have a taste.

 

How to make it:

Grab 5-6 gorgeous, sweet red cherries. Remove the stems and toss ‘em into your glass. Drizzle about a tablespoon of honey over top. Muddle the cherries and honey until the fruit is broken down a bit, and the juices from the cherries have dissolved the honey. Don’t worry about the pits, darlin’. You’ll drink right around ‘em.

IMG_5955

Honey + cherries.

Top it all off with an ounce or two of rye whiskey. Bulleit is my standard at home, but you grab what you like, sugar. Pour it on in, add some ice, and stir until just combined. Sit. Drink. Swoon.

 

 

Yes, Audrey. It really is.

 

Actual out.

 

 

 

Stories, Scotsmen, and Starting.

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I’ve been thinking a lot about stories these days. I’ve always been addicted to them, though until recently I don’t think I would’ve ever described it as that. But I am, you see, so addicted to stories.

I suppose it started somewhere around the age of three that it really set in (or maybe  it’s just the earliest memory I have). I loved to watch the same movies over and over (and over) again. I know that’s not particularly unique, but that desire never really went away. When Piggy and Kermit parted in Muppets Take Manhattan? I cried. Every. Single. Time. I remember my mom being on the phone, long cord forming curlicues to the floor, laughing at me because I was in tears again. I still can’t hear “Saying Goodbye” without tearing up, y’all.*

And yeah, I guess I assume most people probably grow out of that? I just haven’t figured it out. Sure, I eventually pick up new stories; it just takes me a bit longer than is maybe normal. I’m still driving my mom crazy: Yes, I’m on my third run-through of the West Wing and I watched it for the first time less than a year ago. Stop judging me!

I’ve been knee-deep reading stories these days, too. Well, one story/series in particular. Maybe you’ve heard of it? It’s called the Outlander series, by Diana Gabaldon. She’s been writing these books since the early 90s (the first novel was published in 1991), but I’ve just recently come down with the Outlander bug. It took me almost a year to give the first book a shot by the time I had it in my hands, but late this last year I picked it back up again, and while I was reading I turned some invisible story-corner that hurtled me into READ ALL OF THE OUTLANDER territory. If you’ve read the series, you probably know what I’m talking about. If not, I can only hope you give it a shot. It pretty much has everything you need: Strong female lead, historical fiction, romance (which normally makes shudder, but not this one), sci-fi elements, and a ton of action and suspense… And I’m not even mentioning all the sex and kilts and violence and magic and medicine.

So a couple of my newest homegirls, Ginny and Jess, and I traveled down toward Seattle for an author event & book signing with Diana Gabaldon. We and about 800 other nerds sidled into the commons in a building that lost its air conditioning earlier that day (on the hottest day so far this year, of course) to hear Gabaldon speak, and also settle once-and-for-all how to say her last name. She was funny, slightly bawdy, and as whip-smart as you might expect a woman who weaves history and fiction together so beautifully.

It was thrilling to hear her talk about how she became a novelist (secretly, to see if she could), and to listen to the powerful reminder that it’s never to late to try something new. She was about to turn 35 when she decided she’d try her hand at writing a novel. She was no old maid by any means, but bold to recognize what she wanted and not see her already established life as a roadblock. I can’t tell you how often I hear women my age talk about what they would do if they could start over, if they didn’t already have a family, a job, the bills, etc… Diana’s story was a great reminder that you don’t necessarily have to intend to start over. You just have to start.

Who got to stand quietly next to Diana Gabaldon? This girl right here!

Who got to stand quietly next to Diana Gabaldon? This girl right here!

Outlander is about to become a television show on Starz, with Ronald Moore (of Star Trek, Battlestar Galactica, and Carnivale fame) at the helm (I swear I’m not getting paid for any of this Outlander talk right now– I’m just THAT excited). A show or movie will never be the same as a book, and for that I’m grateful. It means a new interpretation of a story I’m in love with, a chance for me to get acquainted anew with the characters I’ve spent so much time with, and an opportunity to feast my eyes (and not just my brain-eyes) on what’s sure to be an incredibly beautiful setting.

Outlander will premiere online on August 2nd, and I’ll be working on a cocktail for you to drink while you’re watching. Outlander fans: What would you choose as inspiration for the first episode of the series? I just might take you up on your suggestions!

 

*Yep, even right then. Good lord.

 

“I will burn the heart out of you.”

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Things have been a little quiet here on the blog while I cocktail behind-the-scenes. I’m getting ready for another Study in Drink event at The Temple Bar this Sunday, this time featuring the episode “The Great Game.” Now, if you haven’t seen this episode, then I suggest going to watch it before continuing this post because there are tiny spoilers ahead:

 

 

 

 

The Sherlock cocktails I’ve made so far have included A Study in Pink, The Watson, The Cipher, and Contraband (a.k.a. Jade Treasure). I’ll share those recipes soon, but I am SO EXCITED right now because I have been wanting to create a Moriarty drink but had to wait until we OFFICIALLY meet him in the Season 1 finale.

And THE TIME IS FINALLY HERE.

I’m not going to share what’s in this drink YET because I don’t want to give any secrets away, but I will share that it will feature Irish whiskey in honor of Andrew Scott, because DUH:

 

Stay tuned, sweeties. The recipes will be coming soon!

Actual Out. 

Animated gifs found here.

Sara Galactica Presents: A Study in Drink

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A Sherlock-inspired cocktail demo series at The Temple Bar!

Each event includes two cocktail demo, two tasty themed cocktail samples, Sherlock BINGO/or other fun activity, and a complimentary screening of an episode of the BBC’s Sherlock:

  • Sunday, June 8 at 8pm: The Blind Banker
  • Sunday, June 29 at 8pm: The Great Game

$10, ages 21+

Select a date below to purchase tickets now!

The Lady Mary Crawley.

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Today I’m sharing a drink that I made for the first time a little over two years ago. I was on a Downton Abbey kick (who hasn’t been there?) and was feeling compelled to make drinks inspired by the dramatic characters of the show. Lady Mary was one of the first inspirations in this series of concoctions because, truth be told, I really sorta love her. Yes: Even the bitchy, cold, viper-like Mary who makes poor decisions and pouts over them. Maybe she’s a fellow Scorpio? I digress.

I made this drink on a whim, took a photo of it on instagram… And then never made it again, as is the case with most of the Downton cocktails I was devising on weekly basis.

The first The Lady Mary (or Lady Mary 1.0, made in December 2012) was sweet English tea, vodka, homemade rose liqueur, and bubbles:

The Lady Mary Cocktail, A Sara Galactica Original {photo by saragalactica on instagram}

It was pretty delicious. I almost thought to make that same drink again for this blog, but it’s the wrong season for roses here, and I’d be doing you a serious disservice if I didn’t explain how to make that rose liqueur. Can you buy rose liqueur at a liquor store? Sure, sometimes you can find it. But it’s a little harder to locate, and I’ve honestly never owned a bottle of it!

So I got to thinking about a Lady Mary 2.0. Without getting too spoilery, the cocktail above captured Mary in her rosier state of mind, but that’s not particularly suitable for the Mary Crawley you might recognize if you’ve been keeping up with the show. The more recent Mary is decidedly moodier… And I love me some moody characters.

You might notice I’m using tea again in this cocktail. I think tea is a woefully underused cocktail ingredient– it’s got a hint of bitterness, is kinda earthy, and can bring lovely flavors to the party if you know how to use it.

 

The Lady Mary, A Sara Galactica cocktail original.

Photos by Andrea Holodnick

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Recipe: Lilac Syrup

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I’m working on a lot of cocktails behind-the-scenes right now. They’re mostly Sherlock-related because, well, this is coming up: SHERLOCK-GALACTICA_TEMPLEBAR_HANDBILLWhile I’ve been concocting new recipes, the seasons have changed, and our garden is exploding with beautiful lilac flowers. I did a little research and learned that lilacs are edible (something I’m sad to admit I didn’t know before) and that you can make awesome shit with them, such as lilac syrup. I didn’t have my bad ass sister, Andrea, here to take photos this time, so this recipe is a little image-scant. However, this is the sorta thing anyone who can pick flowers and simmer water can do. I promise.

Lilac syrup, saragalactica.com

Lilac Syrup

  • 3 cups water
  • 3 cups white sugar
  • A shit-ton of lilac florets, carefully removed from their stems (as much as possible without removing the base of the flower). How much is a shit-ton, you ask? I didn’t actually measure, but I would imagine I was using anywhere between 6-8 cups of lilac flowers. Give the stems a few good shakes and inspect them for bugs before pulling the flowers off for the syrup.

Lilac syrup, saragalactica.com   1. Combine sugar and water. Cook over medium-low heat until sugar is completely dissolved, and the mixture is just about to come to a boil. 2. Pour hot simple syrup over lilac florets. Stir. 3. Cover with plastic wrap or other lid and let sit overnight, stirring occasionally before you go to bed. 4. Strain. I used a mesh strainer with no problems. If you don’t want any plant sediment, line a strainer with cheesecloth first. 5. Store in clean bottles/jars in the refrigerator.

Lilac syrup, saragalactica.com Those soggy lilac florets? Make sure you drain every last drop of the syrup you can into those jars o’ magic.

Then: You can spread them out on a wax or parchment paper lined sheet pan and allow to dry overnight. Toss with a little extra sugar and, voila! Candied lilacs. I used brown sugar because I forgot I used all of my white sugar for my syrup! The brown works nicely, though:

Candied lilacs, saragalactica.com

Greetings, humans.

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I skipped blogging last week to get things in order at work before leaving for Hawaii. There were a number of long days to get everything sorted, but y’all: I’m here.

Aloha

Even though last week was busy, it was full of lots of great accomplishments. I’ll share more on some of those later, but I’ve had one thing up my sleeve that I’ve been DYING to tell you all about… And now I can! Here it is:

Sara Galactica Presents…

A Study in Drink

A Sherlock-inspired cocktail series at the Temple Bar in Bellingham, WA!

The Temple Bar hosts this exclusive cocktail demo series, including free screenings of the TV series, Sherlock.

  • When: Sunday, May 18th at 8pm
  • Where: The Temple Bar, 306 W. Champion St.
  • What: Cocktail demo, two tasty themed cocktail samples, complimentary screening of BBC Sherlock’s “A Study in Pink,” and Sherlock BINGO!
  • How much: $10, tickets available for purchase at The Temple Bar (space is limited). Additional drinks and snacks available for purchase at the event.

Visit the Temple Bar to grab your ticket– space is limited, and this event is going to be so. Much. Fun.