The Essex serpent (and another sour)



They leave gifts on the doorstep of rosehip syrup and walnuts in their shells; they leave cards and handkerchiefs so small, so fine, they’re no use at all.

-From p. 414 of The Essex serpent

If you are anything like me you foraged for rosehips in September, used them for a syrup and then proceeded to drink it all before Christmas. Which means that you can’t make this drink right now.  Sad as the Donald would say, but you can sip on some smokey whiskey to comfort yourself. The book is the real point of this post.

I’ve been thinking about and looking for winter reads lately, for the obvious reason that it’s January. In many ways it’s “big books season”; time for those big biographies and epic Russian novels. The weather really lends itself to such stories. So is also the case with “The Essex Serpent”.

I read it November which wasn’t a bad idea. In the beginning of that month we got something like 40 cm of snow in 24 hours which is a lot; winter got of to a flying start with a chaos in traffic and everything was put on hold. The weather gods must have had a proper laugh.

I was curled up on the sofa,wrapped in a blanket and fortifying myself with pot after pot of tea whilst reading this, which I’m going to say is the way to do it.

What I liked so much about this book was that it had all the elements of a victorian novel but mixed it with a very modern storytelling. I thought of Jenny Offill a bit and found a reference to to Maggie Nelson’s “Bluets” in the acknowledgements (“Bluets” was already on my TBR but I was delighted nonetheless).

At the heart of the story we have Cora; a recent widow for whom the death of her husband means the possibility to live a life of her own. She blooms and even more so by bringing her son and a friend out to the countryside to live a life of simplicity and science.

The rumors of an old beast, a sea serpent of some sort, jogs the imagination of not only Cora but others as well. It becomes the job of the local minister,William Ransome, to calm the fears and put an end to the fantasies. And as their paths cross there is drama.

It has both love and monsters this books, lovely characters and a very good story. Something to get stuck in on a cold winter’s night.

I regards to the cocktail I will leave the recipe with you here, for further reference. As I’m ,posting several of my cocktails one after another I do notice that this one has a fair bit in common with “The raven King”, although they were in reality made months apart. Its more a case of finding a formula that works and playing with it and tweaking it.

Essex serpent-sour; yields one cocktail

5 cl smokey whiskey

3 cl roseshipsyrup

3 cl lemon juice

1 dash Black walnut bitters

(1 eggwhite) Optional

for serving;

cocktail coupe

  1. Shake ingredients in an ice filled shaker until well chilled and white has become frothy. If using a white; don’t add the bitters now but wait until later.
  2. Pour into glass. If you have used an egg white now is the time to add the dash of bitter as it creates a nice pattern in the foam.
  3. Serve.





John Uskglass, The raven king

In conclusion PORTISHEADS’s book-though containing many excellent things-is fine example of the mad contradiction at the heart of Modern English Magic;our foremost magicians continually declare their intention of erasing every hint and trace of JOHN USKGLASS from english magic, but how is this possible? It is JOHN USKGLASS’s magic that we do.

-excerpt from a book review from The Edinburgh review, included in the book

Of course I was always gonna make a cocktail in honor of John Uskglass himself,the Raven king(aslo known as the Nameless slave).


As base I used Laproaig. I like the single malt whiskies in general, and this one in particular. It also felt apt with the Edinburgh review, all the fires being lit in the book and ,oh, peat having a place in fairy magic(if I’ve understood correctly).

It is sweetened with a syrup of apples and pears as there are trees growing at Hurtfew abbey as the result of The Raven King spitting out some pips there. Further sweetness comes from a dash of Sève Fournier as a nod to the king’s supposed French/Normand heritage.

And there was a dash or two of Fee Brother’s “black walnut bitters” as I cannot resist a bit of wordplay (apparently. I should be admitted to a ward or something) but it had “black” in the name and sometimes the impeccable manservant Stephan Black is the nameless slave. English magic cannot make up it’s mind who to obey. Not to mention how well it tastes mixed in with the smoke and the fruit.

This ended up another twist on a whiskey sour; with lemon juice and egg white for the reason that I wanted to make the “Raven volant” i.e. John Uskglass’s heraldic sign on top(but failed miserably) and I made it in summer and sours taste great during those cirka three warm days we have up here.

Apple&Pear syrup;

Making a recipe for this is rather difficult as it depends a bit on what kind of apples and pears  you are using. The point is to make a fruity tasting syrup so fragrant apples are best and definitely firm  pears as to have a clear syrup and not just a load of mush. I used 1 cup of water, 1 cup of caster sugar and 1 cup of chopped fruit bits(rather large chunks to prevent them from falling apart when cooked) which was brought to the boil and left to simmer for a few minutes(In my notes is says 5 minutes). Then remove from heat but let fruit stay in until cool. Then pour it into a clean bottle. Will last about two weeks.

The Raven king; yields 1 cocktail

5 cl smokey whiskey

3 cl lemonjuice

2 cl Appel&Pear syrup

1 cl Seve Fournier

1 dash black walnut bitters

1 eggwhite.

for serving;

cocktail coupe

1.Shake the ingredients well in a shaker full of ice.

2. Pour into the cocktail glass.


This worked out really well; smokey,fruity and then spice and depth from the Séve Fournier and the black walnut bitter.





Weekend and The Vinculus

Yet the reason for Vinculus’s celebrity-or notoriety-was a little mysterious. He was no better a magician than any of the other charlatans with lank hair and dirty yellow curtains. His spells did not work, his prophecies did not come true and his trances had been proven false beyond doubt.

That is the case of Vinculus. But he is pivotal to the plot, and offers much in terms of comic relief. He does not have an easy life and deserves a cocktail,no doubt. And I went all in.

img_5731The base spirit is Johnnie Walker because old Vinculus is a vagabond. (Again with the wordplay!!). He likes his hot spiced wine so I made a syrup with white wine,cinnamon,star anis and sugar, then poured it over pineapple chunks and let it infuse over night. I had long wanted to included pineapples in one of my cocktails inspired by this book; they were such a thing back in that era(and are referred to in the book several times), and Vinculus does have an important meeting at a place called “The pineapple”. Then it’s lemon juice and egg white (again with the sours!!). The blue markings on top of the foam was a bit of a reference to something in the story, made with food dye. Can easily be omitted and it was a bit of a mess really. That was just me trying to stay “true to the book”.

White wine&pineapple syrup;

Bring 3 dl of white wine(nothing fancy; basic Chardonnay) to the boil with 3 dl of caster sugar. Also add 2 cinnamon sticks,2 star anis, a couple of green cardamom pods. Let it simmer for 5-10 minutes, until all the sugar has dissolved. Let cool a bit and then pour over 4 dl of chopped fresh pineapple and let infuse over night. The syrup should be rather rich as the enzymes in the pineapple break it down. No need to remove all the spices before letting it infuse but maybe take out half of them. After it’s done don’t throw away the pineapple chunks; they are very tasty to eat with whipped cream and meringue (although for adults only).

The Vinculus; yields one cocktail

4 cl Johnnie Walker red label

3 cl white wine&pineapple syrup

2 cl lemonjuice

1 eggwhite

for serving;

cocktail coupe

  1. Shake ingredients in ice filled shaker until well chilled.
  2. Pour into the glass.
  3. Serve.

This did taste very nice; spicy and sour at the same time with a lot of depth from the fact that it’s wine-based and the pineapple added freshness.



And then,as if struck by a thought, he said “we are two magicians. Honeyfoot&Segundus” he said trying it out,as if thinking how it would look in the newspapers and historybooks.

Well, the books isn’t called “Honeyfoot&Segundus” so I’m not spoiling anything by telling you that these are not the men that will resurrect english magic. But they have a part to play,an important one, and they are some of my favorite characters so they get a cocktail. True gentleman those two, pillars of society one might say.

I did fall back on a bit of wordplay; honey syrup for Honeyfoot. And at one point Segundus is feeling under the weather and is served tea with a bit of licorice root and arrowroot. The arrowroot was omitted as it has no place in cocktails but I did let a bit of licorice root infuse with the honey-syrup which made it more earthy(I thought). Proceed as with a regular honey-syrup and let something like a thumb’s length of licorice root simmer with it. You can leave it in while it cools too.

On another occasion when Mr Segundus is not all well he is given “canary wine” to calm his nerves. That particular beverage isn’t made anymore, my research tells me that the closest thing is “Oloroso sherry”. Those to things were added to a reasonable dose of gin, which is frankly my cocktail patronus. Topped of with Plum-bitters(inspired by plum-pudding they are a quintessentially british taste and just the thing for two gentleman of english magic). It needed a bit of freshness so an orange zest seemed just the thing.


The Honeyfoot&Segundus; yields 1 cocktail

4 cl London dry gin

2 cl Oloroso Sherry

1 cl licorice root-infused honey syrup.

1 dash Fee Brother’s Plum bitters

for serving;


orange zest

  1. Stir ingredients in an ice filled stirring glass.
  2. Pour into the glass. Zest with the orange peel and then let it join the drink

This is lovely with loads of oaky tones. It can be argued that the licorice root doesn’t make a lot of difference so if you omit it, I won’t judge you. I just like knowing it was in there. I like my literary cocktails to be very rooted in the books and characters they are inspired by. I’m nerdy like that but you don’t have to be. You do really need to get yourself some Plum bitters though,they make everything nicer when used right.


The Childermass

Childermass knows. Childermass understands.

It is rare but it does happen; Mr Norrell acknowledges the importance of his manservant. Mr Norrell prefers his books but for life to function he needs someone to deal with the more worldly aspects;enter Childermass.

Having been in a magician’s service a long time, and having his roots in the North to begin with, he has picked up a few tricks himself. And that’s not the last of his talents. Childermass is nothing like a butler to be sure, he is a force of nature.

He is a man very at home in gin-joints and pubs. What we call gin now is a far cry from what was known as gin back then so I based this drink on “Oude genever”; the mother of the mother’s ruin(as it came to be known) and a spirit that has more common with whiskey then London dry gin.

I addition to that I used a salty licorice-syrup; salty licorice is perhaps a very scandinavian flavor that isn’t easy to get a hold of but it’s what I used. It’s black colour was a nice visual reference to Childermass’s dark clothes, and he is an acquired taste,just like salty licorice. A little grapefruit juice to round it all off, I don’t think he would like it more complicated then that.


The Childermass; yields 1 drink

5 cl oude Genever

2 cl Salty licorice syrup

1,5 cl freshly squeezed grapefruitjuice

for serving;


  1. Shake the ingredients in an ice-filled shaker.
  2.  Pour into the glass and serve.

This is strong and complex cocktail but one that has been appreciated by those who have tasted it(all swedes though). The licorice gives a wonderful aftertaste.


…& Mr Norrell

Carry about,exclaimed mr Norrell, more chocked then ever. “But surely you do not intend to take them from place to place? You must put them in a library the moment you arrive. A library in a castle will be best. A stout well-defended castle…”

Mr Norrell is the seasoned magician in this story, well-versed in all the classic “books of magic”. A Scholar and a Gentleman. But not much for traveling and quite frankly the ways of the world are an enigma to him. He prefers a quite life, and leaves the messy details to his manservant Childermass. Mr Norrell much prefers drinking tea in his library and who can blame him?

In the end I decided that he could use a bit of sherry to calm the nerves in addition to some smokey tea, elderflower cordial( full of magical properties are elder trees) and some coffee-&Chocolate bitters. Seehuusen’s bitters can be hard to track down outside of Sweden; you can use chocolate bitters from “Fee Brothers” or “The bitter truth” instead.

The Mr Norrell;yields 1 cocktails

4 cl dry sherry

3 cl cold lapsang tea

2 cl elderflower cordial/syrup(store-bought is fine)

2 dashes of Chocolate bitters

fore serving;

tumbler/old fashioned-glass

a few ice cubes

lemon zest

  1. Stir the ingredients in an ice-filled stirring glass until chilled.
  2. Add a few ice-cubes to the glass and then pour over the cocktail.
  3. Zest with the lemon and then let the peel join the drink.

This is a nice apéritif or something to sip on warm days.The combination of floral and smokey is something that I’m partial to and it works very well in this drink, with the bite from the chocolate giving it a roundness.





The Jonathan Strange…

NB; It’s gonna be a lot of cocktailpost for a while, as I try to catch-up with stuff I’ve posted on Instagram

Two magicians shall appear in England. The first shall fear me, the other shall long to behold me.

It is one of my all time most beloved reads, Jonathan Strange&Mr Norrell, with it’s Austen-era framework and magicians at the center of it(those are a few of my favorite things). To say nothing about the whole story and world described in the footnotes, the fact that it’s set in Baskerville and all the beautiful illustrations. And Byron turns up. I have a tattoo based on the cover, used a broken copy to make lampshades with the illustrations and I have created cocktails for several of the characters (might make more when I reread it again. Because I will, probably several times).

Well, Henry, you can cease frowning at me. If I am a magician, I am a very indifferent one. Others adepts summon up fairy-spirits and long-dead kings. I appear to have conjured the spirit of a banker.

Jonathan Strange ends up a magician seemingly by accident. It isn’t chance but foretold in a prophecy, he just doesn’t know it. In his defense he did try several other careers first ,without any success.

The first spell he attempts, a spell to know what my enemy is doing presently, contains dried thyme,lavendel and roses. I felt it had the makings of a syrup. To that I added the grappa he drinks in Venice (I won’t go into detail as I  want this post to be spoiler-free). Mixed that up with some lemon juice  and a dash of rhubarb-bitters(something I think I picked up in “The book of English magic” actually but it’s related). Abracadabra! A savory cocktail with a kick.


The Jonathan Strange:

Spell based-syrup;

2 dl water

3 dl caster sugar

0,5 msk dried thyme

1 msk dried lavender

0,5 dl dried rosebuds(can be excluded in worst case scenario)

1 msk rosewater

1. Bring sugar,water,thyme,lavender and rosebuds to the boil.

2. Let simmer for 5-10 minutes.

3. Using a sieve separate the flavourings from the syrup and add the rosewater. Let cool before pouring into a clean bottle. Will keep in the fridge approx. 2 weeks.

The Jonathan Strange; yields 1 cocktail

5 cl grappa

1,5 cl spell-based syrup

2 cl freshly squeezed lemonjuice

1 egg white

for serving;


Rhubarb bitters

  1. Shake the ingredients in an ice filled shaker until cool.
  2. Pour into the glass and add 2 dashes of the bitters on the foam.

The syrup ends up tasting more of rose and thyme, not in an unpleasant way mind you, and excluding the lavender could render it void of magic. On the other hand if you treat your enemy to a few of these you already know what he is up to( and that old saying goes “keep your friends close and your enemies closer”).