The trick to a memorable Halloween is knowing when to treat yourself.
So, while the children are loading up on bite-sized pieces of future dental bills, why not sip on a cocktail inspired by a classic film of horror and suspense?
After all, this is the night when spirits roam.
Just about any holiday inspires libation creation, but there’s something about Halloween that gets bartenders in touch with their inner Wes Cravens.
Take the “Red Rum” created by Dave Greekwood, bar supervisor of the Boston Burlington Marriott.
This is in honour of the The Shining, in which scary kid Danny sees messages of “Redrum” that are a warning about his even scarier dad, Jack. When the message is reflected in a mirror, the meaning becomes clear.
To make the drink, Greekwood burns a sage leaf and places a rocks glass over it to absorb the smoke.
Then he muddles another sage leaf with 30 ml (1 oz) of elderflower liqueur. After that comes 60 ml (2 oz) of silver rum, 30 ml (1 oz) each of pomegranate liqueur and pomegranate juice and a scoop of ice.
He gives it a shake and a strain and then garnishes with one last burning sage leaf “to keep the bad spirits away.”
The Shining is one of the best scary stories ever told,” says Greekwood, who thinks the two undead little girls portrayed in the film are the most haunting image of any horror movie. And he says the Red Rum cocktail was specifically inspired by the scenes of a hallway overflowing with blood. “I hope Jack would be proud.”
For something a little more subtle, Jack Huang, owner of Basho Japanese Brasserie in Boston, uses sake for The Samurai, inspired by the onryo, or vengeful spirit, of Japanese folklore.
Huang sought to recreate the lingering, deadly curse that haunts the characters in The Grudge, a 2004 remake of classic Japanese horror film Ju-on.
The drink is made with 75 ml (2 1/2 oz) of vodka, 60 ml (2 oz) of sake, 15 ml (1/2 oz) of elderflower liqueur and 30 ml (1 oz) of fresh lime juice, all combined in a shaker over ice and garnished with a sprig of fresh mint.
The idea is the elderflower liqueur lingers on the palate after the first few sips, like a haunting spirit.
Dracula doesn’t drink cocktails. At least not those served over ice.
But if he did, he might like New York City mixologist Jonathan Pogash’s Vampire Bite, a deep red concoction inspired by movies like Nosferatu and 30 Days of Night.
Pogash, bartender at Bookmarks Lounge, sees two ways to approach Halloween.
One is to go the locavore route and take advantage of seasonal ingredients.
“Anything with apples — apple cider is great. If you’re making a Halloween punch there are all kinds of baking spices like cloves and cinnamon and nutmeg.”
Or, you can use ripe blood oranges and grenadine and practise a “gore is more” esthetic.
Pogash likes the Halloween bar scene.
“People are definitely more fun, they’re dressed up. Even the day before or the day after.”
Of course, sometimes things can get a little too frightful, especially when patrons disguise themselves as characters like scream king Jason of Friday the 13th fame.
“It’s a little freaky bartending and not seeing people’s faces and just seeing someone walk up to you in a Jason mask.”
This recipe calls for homemade grenadine, which resembles blood in this vampire-inspired cocktail. Don’t be tempted to use purchased grenadine, as it is too sweet, too thin and will change the flavour of the drink. And if blood oranges aren’t available, use a slice of regular orange that has been soaked in the “blood.”
If you have trouble finding tamarind soda (check the grocer’s ethnic aisle), tamarind juice can blended with seltzer water.
Start to finish: 1 hour (15 minutes active)
125 ml (1/2 cup) pomegranate juice
125 ml (1/2 cup) sugar
Several drops orange flower water
45 ml (1 1/2 oz) silver tequila
15 ml (1/2 oz) Campari
30 ml (1 oz) blood orange juice
60 ml (2 oz) tamarind soda
15 ml (1/2 oz) grenadine “blood”
1 slice blood orange (optional)
Grenadine “blood”: In a small saucepan over high heat, combine pomegranate juice and sugar. Bring to a boil and heat until sugar is dissolved. Add orange flower water, then reduce heat and simmer for 10 minutes. Remove from heat, transfer to an airtight container and refrigerate until chilled.
In a highball glass filled with ice, combine tequila, Campari, blood orange juice and soda. Lightly stir, then top with grenadine “blood.” Garnish with a slice of blood orange.
Makes 1 serving (plus extra “blood”).
Source: Recipe adapted from Jonathan Pogash of Bookmarks Lounge in New York.