Monday, December 14, 2020

Astro-Punch: Holiday Party 2020

*peep* 🐭

Hi there. It's been awhile hasn't it? Is there even a need to indicate why, this year?

Anyways, I've hope you and yours have been well. Like you, I'm very glad to see the end of this year. It won't be the end of all our troubles, but some element of closure tying a knot on a period of interminable uncertainty may prove fortifying (for the next period of interminable uncertainty). So let's take a moment to salute the current heavens with a couple rounds of Astro-Punch, mixed special for the Astrological Society of Princeton's holiday Zoom party.

There's plenty of background on the development of Astro-Punch, but all you really need to know is:

1 of Sharp, 2 of Sweet, 3 of Strong, 4 of Weak, and Spice!

Align according to the zodiac signs in the chart and get creative!

The heavens for the day, December 13th, featured a balsamic Sagittarius Moon quickly approaching the (Sag) Sun for an eclipse the next day, with Mercury a few degrees behind, Venus in Scorpio and Mars in Aries. We're looking for spirits, aromatics and dilution elements which reflect a contemplative, far-traveling, or religious/monastic quality. Then a rhythm section of sweet/sour which is bold, red and perhaps tart.

Stargazers' Punch

1/2 oz white grapefruit juice
1 oz crème de cassis
1 1/2 oz brandy (Remy Martin or similar centaur or ♐-themed spirit)
2 oz Arctic Fire tea (substitute violet black tea or other thematically-comparable tea)
food-grade frankincense

To make:

Prepare your serving glass with frankincense smoke. Take a tin pie plate and add a few granules of food-grade frankincense, placing this on your stove's burner on lowest setting. Hold your serving glass above the frankincense, letting the smoke/vapor fill the glass for roughly 30 seconds. The frankincense should bubble and liquefy; avoid charring. You may not see much smoke, but you should be able to smell the incense.

Combine sharp, sweet, strong, weak in a shaker. Give a brief shake to combine and aerate, then strain into your serving glass.

If making a punchbowl of the stuff, you could infuse the frankincense into water for a block of ice to rest in the punchbowl: this chills the punch without overdoing the dilution. Gently heat frankincense and water on the stove like making a tea, and pour into a suitable tupperware-type container (lid not required) or bundt pan whose size works with your punchbowl. Freeze, and perhaps run some warm water over the container's surface to help release the ice block when ready.

Tasting notes:

When originally testing this recipe with lime juice, Venus in Scorpio's Sweet element announced itself with mouth-puckering tartness. Of the two classic citruses typically used for punch (and can be used in a pinch for Astro-Punch if other options fail), lime juice normally brings out fruitier flavors than lemon, which is a plus when working with the red fruit liqueurs favored by Venus in Mars signs. However, be it grenadine (pomegranate liqueur — think Persephone), sloe gin or the racy crème de cassis, these liqueurs also come with a hefty dose of Martian acidity! Venus in detriment veers from serving in a purely Venusian fashion, that is, providing a balancing sweetness to unite disparate ingredients and creating a pleasing mouthfeel.

To solve this problem, white grapefruit juice comes to the rescue. The lower acidity, clean flavor and color of white grapefruit evokes Aries' lamb rather than ram (think racy bold lime juice) side, and harmonizes with the cassis. Cognac adds vanilla notes and an element of slow-sipping contemplation to pair with cassis' brooding quality, while the tea provides a low-tannin slightly-herbal vista on which the other ingredients might expand. Starry frankincense on the nose finds flavor affinity with the white grapefruit, and orients one to a spiritual frame of mind.

Oh Dear, There's a Total Solar Eclipse in Sag Tomorrow Punch
1/4 oz lime juice
1/4 oz lime oleo saccharum syrup
3/4 oz Batavia Arrack
2 oz ruby port
2 oz Ommegang Three Philosophers beer

To make:

Oleo saccharum syrup:
Zest one lime and add to a sealable container with 1/4 cup demerara sugar (turbinado or white sugars can also work). Muddle, cover, shake and let macerate on the countertop overnight. The next day add 1/4 cup hot water and shake to dissolve the sugar. Strain off lime zest and store syrup in the refrigerator.

ALSO: oleo saccharum (for any citrus fruit) makes a great base for a lemonade or limeade-style non-alcoholic beverage — just mix in the citrus juice and more water, to taste.

Add lime juice, syrup, Arrack and port to your serving cup. Stir gently. Add beer and stir gently. Grate nutmeg over top. Enjoy!

Tasting notes:

This is more of a recipe "inspired by" the transits, and provides an alternative way of working with desired ingredients while not strictly following the regular Punch ratio. With an eclipse the day after the party, a little holiday season opulence, in the spirit of Ford Prefect persuading Arthur Dent to down 6 pints immediately prior to getting beamed on-board a Vogon spacecraft to avoid Earth's destruction, seemed apropos.

Here, the acidity issues of Venus in Scorpio and Mars in Aries are solved reverse-King Solomon-style: combine them into one ingredient, ruby port*! As a digestif, ruby port's nature as an after-dinner sipper combines a dense blend of sugar and acid in a red fruity, Martian and festive delight. Yet the port could use some stiffening via our Sagittarian ingredients. Prominently, the quadruppel-ale-and-kriek Three Philosophers, another festive element one could imagine happily resting in the hand of a friar, real or erstwhile, at a pub bull session.

Wine and beer in the same cocktail
, you ask? Believe! I say.

The bready, malty (dare I say laconic) ale with notes of dark chocolate, coffee, and yes, cherry, balances quite well with the young ebullient port. To this we add Batavia Arrack, the rum progenitor first encountered by westerners traveling the East Indies during the early days of punch and global circumnavigation (you'll have to write me if you want to know how this relates to the gods of the Piscean Age and Homer's Odyssey). In a word, the arrack adds an element of funk to this otherwise smooth and too-easy-drinking quaff. And to this already-heady brew, we add in a ceremonial amount of lime juice and lime oleo saccharum, bowing in the direction of Right and True punch, because the arrack would feel out of sorts without the Tiki undershadings. Another classical punch element, nutmeg, finishes the cocktail with that spicy-yet-creamy thing nutmeg does, and sets the imagination on untamed possibilities.

Careful: too much nutmeg and you go from Sag to Pisces terrain. Granted, this is a recipe which could very easily set you down for a long winter's nap, but whether you want to encounter Lord Kinbote is entirely your choice.

*I would avoid LBV or aged port if possible, because it diminishes the sweetness and would throw off the punch's balance.

Thanks for reading. I hope you enjoy and have a warm holiday season and winter ahead with friends and family as close as our present moment allows.

For my latest astrological musings, please check out my blog Kastalia Astrology. It's a bit quiet at the moment due to an ever-expanding-in-scope research project, but stay tuned: I've had too many "holy $#!^" moments so far to not share what I'm finding.