“The time has come, the Walrus said, to talk of many things. Of shoes and ships and sealing wax, of cabbages and kings.” It goes on, but you get the gist. I always loved that poem, obviously I did not learn the original from Lewis Carrol, but had Walt Disney interpret it for me in his adaptation of Alice in Wonderland. Now, there is a head screw of a story, whether animated or in the written form. Your world suddenly turned upside down, where nothing makes sense, where you cannot tell who to trust and where the inhabitants often delight in being confounding, even when it is to their own detriment. Let’s dig into that as we stand and make, The Red Queen.

I’ll admit this was a new one for me, but I went down a rabbit hole looking at wine based cocktails and found this one sitting there saying “Drink Me.” It has a lot of elements I like and one I am trying to like, so it made the list. I wasn’t sure what to say about it though. I haven’t read Alice in Wonderland in forever and it has probably been nearly as long since I have seen the movie, but I remember the character. You know her, the despotic ruler of Wonderland, famed for her catchphrase, “Off with her head!” Of course, she was a monarch and I guess that’s her prerogative. On the other hand, it is precisely that sort of thing that made us decide that monarchs were probably not the way to go, so I guess it balances. The thing I remember most about her isn’t her screaming, but the way everyone around her acts in order to avoid her ire. Think about the flamingoes and hedgehogs who break the rules to make sure she cannot lose her beloved croquet games, while everyone looks on but ignores the obvious cheating. The one that really gets me though is the cards falling over themselves “painting the roses red”. Remember that part? The wrong roses were planted and they bloomed white, but instead of letting the queen come to terms with it, the soldiers spent their days painting the roses red to pretend that things were something they are not. Crazy, huh? Stupid, really. Painting the roses red, did not change them, it just made things look better to her. The wildest part is that everyone in the kingdom just accepted this sham as normal. When Alice questions it they look at her in disbelief. How could she be so crude as to call out this obvious deception? That always got to me, how so many people could work together to perpetuate a falsehood for no good reason, other than to keep a tyrant from having to face the facts. Who cares what color the roses are, really? It’s not like it is scientific data or incontrovertible facts they were conspiring to hide, it was just some flowers. Luckily, having the good fortune to be born in a democratic republic with checks and balances on governmental power, I do not really understand the ways of tyrants and despots. Must’ve really sucked for all those folks in the red queen’s court, though. Never knowing what to believe, who to trust, besides the queen, obviously. I am sure that the hardest part was when they had to change their views on a dime in order to match the whims of the queen that day. It must have been exhausting. Of course, Emerson would say that “A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds,” never mind what the quote goes on to say, the sound bite is good enough for our purposes. If you want to know more, go ahead and reread Self-Reliance, its got some great stuff on non-conformity and will give you something to do while you sip on this cocktail, which we will make, now.

Grab your tins and pop in 3 ounces of red wine, I used Winking Owl California Red, yep the cheap stuff from Aldi, and even worse I (clutching pearls) actually poured it from a box; to that add one ounce of bourbon, I went with Hudson Baby Bourbon Single Barrel, because I love that corn forward bite; 3/4 of an ounce of fresh squeezed lemon juice, 1/2 an ounce of simple syrup and 1/2 an ounce of Cynar, that cool artichoke based bitter liqueur. You can use Amaro or Campari here, but I am learning to love Cynar and it really works in this one. Ok, before we add ice and shake this one you are going to need to prep your glass. Go pick some herbs from the garden and slice some lemon wheels. I picked some basil and rosemary, a bit of sage and some lemon balm. Place a couple of ice cubes in a tall glass and add some of your herbs and lemon wheels, so they will show through the glass, you don’t have to fill it, just enough to deal with the bottom, which will be hard to work with once you add the drink. Now add ice to your tins and give the drink a good shake, if you want to sing “painting the roses red”, I guess you could, but I prefer rocking to White Rabbit, it just feels right. You can even use your shaker like Grace Slick’s huge liquid filled maraca. Yeah do that, that’s way cooler than anything else you had planned tonight. Just don’t shake it too long in order to avoid over dilution. Strain into your waiting cup, you may want to pause halfway through to add more herbs and lemons or you may want to dump it all in and work wet, you do you, I’m not judging. Well, not for that anyway.

This is a nice drink. Cool. Refreshing. All of the elements are there, but no one is fighting for the spotlight, this is an ensemble drink. The wine leads with support from the bourbon and the Cynar definitely lends a nice bottom note. Somewhere between a sangria and a spritz, I think a little sparkling water might elevate this one, we will have to see. This is totally worth making on these days when the humidity has done the whole “Eat Me” thing and grown so tall. Remember what the dormouse said and “Feed Your Head”, with a drink and some Emerson and some pithy words with a nice picture.

Since I am feeling a bit scattered today, I’ll throw in a bonus monkey fun fact. That poem I quoted way back there at the beginning, inspired a 1904 book by O. Henry, called “Cabbages and Kings” in which he coins the term “Banana Republic”. Funny how it all ties together sometimes. For those folks born after it became a clothing store, a banana republic refers to an “unstable country with an economy dependent on the exportation of a limited resource, often ruled by a dictator who’s actions are rubber-stamped by a sham government, often filled with family members and party operatives.” I will admit that I did not know that, even though I own a first edition of the book, which I read many, many moons ago. I’m constantly amazed at how much I have forgotten and how much there is still out there to learn. 

Speaking of learning new things, are you feeling good about today’s lesson/sermon/shout into the darkness? We all on the same page? Well, we shouldn’t be. You see, I lied to you. The Red Queen wasn’t even in Alice in Wonderland, that was the Queen of Hearts. The Red Queen doesn’t show up until the sequel, “Through the Looking Glass”. That’s what you get for trusting someone who just spouts off and gives you a plausible story, with “mostly” correct facts, and one glaring, but easy to overlook fundamental flaw. I didn’t even realize it myself, I just took off running my mouth. It was only when I decided to look up a quote, that I noticed my mistake. Unlike the Red Queen and her ilk, I freely admit that I made a mistake and that while it was not my intent to deceive you, I did it and I am sorry about that. I do my best to keep the facts straight here, but when I mess up I try to fix it. I know it’s important to adapt your views when you learn new facts. You see, a “foolish” consistency truly is the hobgoblin of little minds, a hobgoblin that can only be vanquished by a willingness to learn and to change when necessary. I’m trying to do that, to keep open to new information and to face the facts, whether I agree with them or not. It’s not easy, but it beats playing croquet with a temperamental despot who changes the rules or hides the facts when they don’t suit him, I mean her. Stay safe, stay hydrated and stay sane, my friends.