Booktails from the Potions Library, with Mixologist Lindsay Merbaum
Let this cocktail and Neil Gaiman’s “American Gods” accompany you on the quest to figure out your past
In Neil Gaiman’s celebrated novel American Gods, we first meet the protagonist—a strong, quiet man named Shadow—while he’s in prison: “he’d plunged as low as he could plunge and he’d hit bottom. He didn’t worry that the man was going to get him, because the man had got him. He was no longer scared of what tomorrow might bring, because yesterday had brought it.” Yet, upon his release, Shadow finds his reason for being—his wife—is gone and, along with her, the world he knew before his incarceration. In its place is an odd playground for divinity, legends, and creatures, a reality revealed to him by a con man of a god who calls himself Mr. Wednesday. After Wednesday manipulates him into his service, Shadow takes everything that happens next in stride, from his introduction to old-school deities like Anansi, Kali, Horus, Easter, and Chernobog, to encounters with leprechauns, dwarves, and goblins. Because once you’ve lost everything, the impossible doesn’t seem all that surprising.
As Wednesday draws Shadow further into his twisted plot to win the war between the old and new gods, Shadow learns he’s on a quest of his own to figure out his past, and his future. And that con men never change.
This booktail is made with brandy infused for nine days with orange peel, rosemary, and whole cloves. These same flavors appear in a brandy-like elixir that Wednesday offers Shadow when he’s sick from traveling through liminal space and time. The infused brandy (call it Odin’s brandy, if you will) is combined with Drambuie–a honey liqueur, and a nod to fermented honey-based mead, which Wednesday calls “The drink of heroes. The drink of the gods.” Three glasses of the stuff seal the deal between Wednesday and Shadow, cementing the mortal’s fate as well. A twist of lemon adds a lovely touch of citrus to complement the other flavors—because there’s always a twist when an immortal being like Wednesday is around.
This drink, fit for the gods, is presented in a snifter, which is as round and full as the moon Slavic goddess Zorya Polunochnaya plucks from the night sky. It sits at the center of an offering circle that includes smoking sage and flowers—for the voluptuous and divine Easter—with stones and cardamom seeds to honor Kali. Present as well are pomegranate seeds—the fruit of life—and feathers for Anubis and the weighing of the soul. The novel stands behind the circle, blue lightning crackling across the cover, complemented by the shimmering blue, purple, and silver backdrop. The boughs and trunk of a tree are visible just to the right of the book, a reference to Shadow’s vigil and the great Nordic myth of Yggdrasil, the sacred tree at the center of nine worlds, containing all life.
- 1 cup of brandy
- 1 ounce of Drambuie
- Skin of one orange
- 1 sprig fresh rosemary
- 3 cloves
Add the rosemary, orange peel, and cloves to a jar, along with the brandy. Seal, shake, and let sit for 9 days in a cool, dry place, shaking once per day. Once the brandy is ready, fill a mixing glass halfway with ice cubes. Add 2 ounces of the infused brandy, along with the Drambuie, and gently stir until well mixed. Don’t over-dilute. Strain into a rocks glass or brandy snifter and garnish with a twist of lemon.