We're exploring twelve seasonally-inspired cocktail recipes this year alongside our candle subscription with writer, historian, and cocktail creative Al Culliton.
This month, we’re continuing our exploration into the medieval Labors of the Month. Through these old cycles, we can find a way of pondering where we are in the year. We’ve seen the deep-winter Labors focus on being indoors, keeping warm, and celebrating. In March, the cycle begins to slowly turn toward the work of agriculture, with pruning and unearthing being the most common Labors depicted for this transitional month. In much of the U.S., this liminal space between winter and spring feels more like full-on winter. But that doesn’t mean we can’t take a lesson from what the Labors instruct us to do.
March; Source: Trinity College Library
Our Keap themes this month are tending, caring, and nurturing the needs of others. The corresponding Labors are fully aligned with these concepts. Pruning and unearthing are acts of preparation. The “work” hasn’t fully begun because it isn’t yet possible, but still we do what we can to make ready the land. In a modern context, this tends to be a time more suited to mental and emotional, rather than physical, preparation. Personally, pruning makes me think about strengthening the bonds we have by taking care of our loved ones and fostering our connections. In many depictions of the March Labors, a figure (or several figures) stands among a grouping of vines or small trees. In this simple scene, we can see ourselves as the laborer, standing amidst our personal relationships, our own vineyards or orchards, and tending to them one by one, noticing what’s beautiful about each and what may need more care.
March's Labor; Source: Flickr
Unearthing has the same spirit, but we direct our attention inward rather than out. In this act, we may attempt to take stock of where we are mentally and think about how we can best fortify ourselves for the new season ahead. What things from the winter can we carry with us into spring, and what should we leave behind? What can we remember about this time last year, and how can that help us look forward with joyful anticipation? What will we miss about the shorter days and cooler temps? The equinox has always been a time for marking the new life nature offers us. Perhaps we would also benefit from wondering what may be renewed in our emotional worlds, too.
Whether you seek a moment to connect with others or a reflective moment alone, making this month’s cocktail may be just the thing. Appropriately, March’s cocktail is called “Terra,” meaning “earth.” I wanted to contrast the bright and fresh scents of this month’s candle — Green Market — against earthy, wintry flavors and combine the concepts of digging up the soil with the need to take care and find moments alone as we prepare for change. So, I present a cocktail with earthy flavors that also has a tropical streak. The Terra is escapist, luxurious, and grounded all at once. In this sour designed for the death throes of winter, rye whiskey comes together with crème de cacao, honey, grapefruit, lemon, and spice-forward Angostura bitters for a drink that will both transport and comfort you and yours.
A cocktail with market-inspired, earthy flavors that also has a tropical streak: escapist, luxurious, and grounded all at once.
- 2 oz. rye whiskey
- ¾ oz. crème de cacao
- ¾ oz. grapefruit juice
- ¾ oz. lemon juice
- ¼ oz. honey syrup
- 2 dashes Angostura bitters
- 1 grapefruit peel, for shaking
- 1 grapefruit slice, for garnish
Combine the rye, crème de cacao, grapefruit and lemon juices, honey syrup, bitters, and grapefruit peel in a cocktail shaker. Fill two-thirds full with ice, seal, and shake vigorously for 15 seconds. Double strain into a Keap tumbler. Garnish with a grapefruit slice.
We'll be revisiting the bottles from this month in future months, so set up a nice little bar area for yourselves--we'll be mixing up drinks all year long!
A note on liqueurs
Crème de cacao is a chocolate liqueur that’s on the sweet side and typically hovers around 25% ABV. Liqueurs are a misunderstood category, as there are a lot of subpar products on the market that consist mostly of sugar, neutral grain spirit, and flavoring agents. But a well-made liqueur is a thing of beauty and can be used to great effect in cocktails. It is for this reason that liqueurs have such a long history in punches and cocktails. A high-quality 750mL bottle of liqueur should cost between $25-45. These products are typically used in small amounts and will keep for a long time, so think of it as an investment! My recommended brands for crème de cacao are:
- Tempus Fugit (Al's favorite)
- Marie Brizard
- Destillare Intense Chocolate liqueur (this one is a little higher ABV and lower in sugar, so you may want to adjust your recipe to taste; that said, it’s great and made with a high-quality American brandy base)
This month’s simpler recipe
Looking for a simpler twist or a non-alcoholic option?
- Simple recipe: Shake 1½ oz. rye, 1 oz. grapefruit, ½ oz. honey syrup in a shaker full of ice. Shake for 5 seconds and strain into a Keap tumbler. Fill with ice. Top with spicy ginger beer. Garnish with a grapefruit slice.
- Non-alcoholic version: Combine 1½ oz. grapefruit and ¾ oz. honey syrup in a Keap tumbler. Stir. Fill with ice. Top with spicy ginger beer. Garnish with a grapefruit slice.