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Bloodthirsty Cocktails for Hunger Games Fans
by Ken Walczak
Every Wednesday in Buy You a Drink, GOOD’s resident mixologist proposes a toast to a worthy newsmaker. This week, red cocktails to soothe the bloodlust of rabid Hunger Games fanatics.
This weekend, millions of Americans will immerse themselves in the fantastical adventures of a heroine with the heart of a teenage idealist and the mind of a cold-blooded killer, a beautiful victim of a cruel and oppressive society’s demeaning whims, a born survivor whose deep practical knowledge is only matched by her profound lack of romantic intelligence. But enough about Peggy Olson. I’m sure Season Five of Mad Men will give us plenty of reasons to raise a glass in her honor.
First let’s talk about a little movie called The Hunger Games, opening galaxy-wide this Friday. If you’re one of the 12 zillion people (note: all numbers approximate) who have snapped up Suzanne Collins’ sci-fi trilogy, you’re well-acquainted with Katniss Everdeen, the Hunger Games’ teenage hunter/killer/survivor/revolutionary. Katniss is a terrific archer. Unlucky in love. Presents her thoughts in efficient, propulsive little sentences. Fragments, even.
While Collins’ books are most often categorized as “Young Adult” fiction, legions of actual adults have devoured them, and legions more await Friday’s premiere with bated breath. Fully 100 percent of the Hunger Games fans I know are above the legal drinking age (note: sample size may be very small).
I may have plowed through the first Hunger Games book this past weekend specifically so I could write this column about how to drink to it, but now that I’ve got all 370-some pages clattering about in my brain, you can count me among the bated-breathers. Now, a drink to reward all that strenuous YA reading.
The Call: Drinks as Fashionable as Eye Tattoos and Prosthetic Whiskers
Since I’m as spoiler-averse as anyone I know, you can rest assured that we’ll be discussing the plot of the Hunger Games in pretty general terms. I won’t mention anything important to the plot that you wouldn’t learn in the first 103 pages of the first book, or (I imagine) the first few minutes of the movie. Fortunately, that leaves a whole mess of dystopian details to mine for cocktail inspiration. (Attention citizens of Denver! Stick around a few hundred years! You totally get to be in charge of everything after all the nukes!)
Let’s start with a classic cocktail whose name evokes the setting of the trilogy, the post-atomic totalitarian state of Panem, and whose base spirit is made from apples, like the one Katniss shoots out of a roast pig’s mouth with an arrow (on page 102 of the first book):
2 ounces Calvados or other apple brandy
½ ounce fresh lime juice
½ ounce real, blood-red pomegranate grenadine
2-3 dashes absinthe
Thin strip of lime zest, for garnish
Combine liquid ingredients in a cocktail shaker and fill with ice. Shake well until chilled, about 10 seconds. Strain into chilled cocktail glass; garnish with lime zest.
Ok, so the drink is actually called the “Pan-American Clipper,” but it’s a hell of a cocktail, one that’s been kicking around the pages of recipe books for a little more than a century now. The “Panem” version is the one published in Charles H. Baker’s Gentleman’s Companion, as adapted for modern tipplers by my dear friend Erik Adkins. Be very careful with the grenadine and the absinthe. Too much of the former and the drink is too sweet; too much of the latter and it’s too spicy. The balance makes the Clipper perfectly suited to cheering on a protagonist whose very existence is a tightrope act.
I wouldn’t hesitate to mix up a batch of Clippers and funnel them into a flask to accompany me to a Hunger Games showing if movie theaters didn’t frown on such things. I’m not here to encourage rule-breaking, after all. You never know when an armed Peacekeeper will pop up.
Katniss’s emerging foodie-ism is one of my favorite parts of the book, so for a more thematic Hunger Games cocktail, I thought of the delicious, warmth-restoring lamb stew with dried plums she savors in the Training Center. Imagining the colors of plums, the flavors of winter, and the herbs and berries that pair well with lamb took me to Eldergin, North Shore Distillery’s excellent limited-edition take on sloe gin. (Sloe-like berries factor prominently in the Hunger Games, too, in a way we can’t safely discuss here.) If you can find Eldergin or Plymouth Sloe Gin, you can whip up a plum-conjuring Everdeen Fizz.
1 oz. North Shore Eldergin (or Plymouth Sloe gin)
1 oz. gin (something more floral than dry: PDT recommends Plymouth for a sloe gin fizz; I used St. George’s Botanivore)
¾ oz. lime juice
½ oz. mango puree
½ oz. simple syrup
Shake all ingredients except soda vigorously with ice. Strain over new ice in a Collins glass. Top with soda water. If you must smuggle, pre-mix everything but the soda and carry the soda separately for on-the-spot mixing. The current through the fence is usually turned off. Don’t tell the Peacekeepers you heard it from me.
Twenty-seven million readers are right about this much: The Hunger Games books are addictive fun (as much as anything so teen-slaughter-centric can be deemed “fun”). As soon as I walk out of the theater after Friday’s showing, I plan to cozy up with my copy of the second book, Catching Fire. I’ve already settled on the perfect cocktail accompaniment for it: the flame-intensive Blue Blazer. Perhaps some rich gamblers from the Capitol will send me a silver parachute bearing asbestos gloves.
Ken is actually forbidden to play with fire at home. Help him convince his wife that this rule is akin to tyranny, or submit your suggestions for Battle Royale cocktails, to email@example.com.
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