I’ve never really felt tied to a theme here. I pick out drinks I want to try, for whatever reason, and I make them. Then, I tell you a little something about the history of the drink, how to make it and what I thought of it, usually in way too many words. Outside of that, I just sort of riff on whatever is on my mind. Somedays it is inspired, on others, well it’s just random shouts into the darkness by a fairly boring ape with delusions of grandeur. My personal comments tend to deal with how we ought to be more decent to each other, my frustrations with the world when that is not happening, or long-winded nostalgic trips down memory lane. Looking back over this corpus there is no denying that I have been writing during a pandemic. So, in honor of these unprecedented times, which feel more precedented with every passing day, won’t you join me now as we stand and make the Bonnie Prince Charles.
Aside from my ritual of making a drink everyday, there have been a number of smaller changes in our routine at Stately Monkey Manor, a lot of them for the better. We sit at the kitchen table and take dinner together most every night now. That may not seem like much, but we often used to have dinner on the coffee table while watching something on TV. Now we sit down across from each other and talk about our days, our plans, anything that’s is on our collective minds. It works for us, and we are better off for it. Anyone who knows me, knows that my life is incomplete without a soundtrack and that is definitely integrated into supper time. I match our music to the meal. If we are eating stuffed shells we have “Sounds of Italy”, roasted poblaño rellenos means mariachi music, gyros mean middle eastern or greek, depending on the sides. You get the picture. Our usual, though, is something wonderful we stumbled upon a few months ago, 95.0 Celtic Radio Glasgow, an amazing volunteer run community radio station broadcasting from Kinning Park and across the internet. It’s funny, but we know a surprising bit of what is going on in Glasgow these days through listening in most evenings as we put dinner together and eat. If we ever have need, I know the folks at Cardwell Garden Centre will help me with my plants, Linwood Coachworks stands ready to repair my wrecked van and give it a full respray, the great folks at Cooper Brothers tyre fitting service could install a set of retreads from Caledonian Tyre while I waited down the way at the Lismore Pub. It may sound silly, but these folks have become a part of our family life. I don’t listen to a lot of terrestrial radio these days and hearing these local adverts and the presenters most evenings has given us an odd sense of community, with people we have never met, who sometimes speak in Scots Gaelic, but who we intend to come visit when the world gets back to normal.
This is not a classic cocktail, though it sort of feels like one and it comes from a sort of strange place, all thing’s considered. This doesn’t appear in one of the Harry’s seminal cocktail books, nor was it created anywhere near Scotland. This drink was born in the mind of Victor Bergeron in 1972, who recorded it in his hard to find, cocktail book. If that doesn’t ring a bell, it’ll help if I use the full title, the “Trader Vic’s Bartender’s Guide“. That’s right the crown prince of Tiki drinks built this one behind his bamboo bar. It seems a little out of his wheelhouse, but he made some damned fine drinks, let’s see if this is one of them.
Grab your tins and pop in 1 ounce of cognac, I chose Hennessy; 1/2 an ounce of Drambuie and 1/4 ounce of fresh squeezed lime juice. Add ice and shake to the beat of Lizzo’s “Truth Hurts” only use the folk cover by Ali Spagnola and Nataly Dawn, cause this drink is all about twists and unexpected origins. Seriously, if you want to be amazed, check out their entire creation video. When your tins are well chilled double strain into something lovely and Scottish, but tiny, cause this is a small drink. If you want to use a proper coupe, double the recipe and enjoy in moderation. If you want to float a dehydrated lime wheel on top for garnish, well, all’s the better.
This is surprising. It’s obviously reminiscent of the Rusty Nail, Drambuie likes the spotlight and it steps forward here, again. The interesting ingredient here, and not surprising for Trader Vic, is the lime juice. That bright citrus thing kind of pushes the honey to the back of the Drambuie flavor and brings forward its herbal tones. There is an anise thing going here that I had not really noticed in Drambuie before, though it is always there. Something about the lime just brings it out, to great effect. Just reading the ingredients, I did not expect Laura to like this one, but she was all over it.
So why is this one named Bonnie Prince Charles instead of the Charlie we usually expect? Who knows, maybe Victor felt that was too informal. Drambuie was created as a tonic for “Bonnie Prince” Charles Edward Stuart who led, or at least figureheaded, the Jacobite revolution to depose William and Mary and restore the Stuarts to the throne. One can imagine him drinking this herbal honey scotch liqueur as he despondently rode off into the moors after his resounding defeat at the Battle of Culloden on April 16, 1746. I guess I should have saved this one for day after tomorrow to honor the 275th anniversary of that battle. So, let’s change that narrative, as we imagine him preparing for the final reckoning of their cause. Alternately, excited with the possibilities of what he could bring to a new Stuart reign, tempered by the fears of what would become of him if they failed and he was forced to leave Scotland or even worse, if he fell on the field of battle, victorious or not. It turns out there was no real danger of that, as he, allegedly, mostly led from the rear. Still, it must have been a trying time for him and would certainly drive a man to drink. One can imagine the lairds watching him drink his scotch with honey and herbs, having a bit of a laugh up their sleeves as they quaffed the straight stuff. Maybe not, I guess it would depend on how personable he was and whether they like him as a fella or not. I’ll admit that my impression is tempered far more by his portrayal on Outlander than any actual historical model. I am human and flawed and haunted by the vague scent of lavender oil and peat. The point is, it’s a storied ingredient, and it make sense in helping Trader Vic name the drink, but it still seems like a weird one for him to have added to his repertoire. That works, though. You need oddball things coming at you out of left field to keep things interesting. So, as we sit at our kitchen table in Tennessee, eating Irish Bangers, roasted peppers, mushrooms and squash, we can sip a Bonnie Prince Charles and get the news of the day from Glasgow. Nothing wrong with that. Stay safe, stay hydrated and stay sane, my friends.