We all say we hate lies, but then we live with them. I’d say that most of the problems we face stem from dishonesty. The kind of stuff that we all know is not true, or not quite true, but we perpetuate it by not calling it out. I am not sure why we do this, maybe we don’t want to cause trouble and rock the boat or maybe it is because we secretly want those lies to be true. Perhaps, Colonel Jessup was right and we can’t handle the truth, so we choose the lie. I do know this. There are some lies so egregious that we must stand up and speak truth to power whenever they are uttered within earshot and that is why I must say, C.S. Lewis lied to us, Turkish Delight is not delightful and certainly not worth betraying your family over. With that universal truth acknowledged, won’t you please join me now as we stand and make the White Witch.
That’s right, I said it. Exposing the truth of a lie that has plagued so many of us for so long. For most of the Western world, reading The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe was our first exposure to Turkish Delight. Listening to Edmund give up his family and friends for this treasure I knew it must be something amazing. I often wondered what it tasted like, how creamy and delicate it must be. I never actually tried it till years later in London. As I took that first rose scented super floral, stick to your teeth gummy bite I knew that Mr. Lewis had deceived me and countless others. Adult me ached for the heartbreak of child me who had created this great expectation only to have it dashed.
It is probably important to note here that I am sure there are millions and millions of people who adore Turkish Delight and that my dislike for that very floral taste its a product of my culture and upbringing. I know that in North Africa, I was surprised by the tendency toward floral tastes on many occasions, but I smiled and said thank you for the treats offered, cause that’s what you do. I often find rosewater dishes and drinks challenging, but mostly because they smell like the soap in my Grandmother’s bathroom in the front hall. You know, the one reserved for guests, with the good hand towels and fancy soaps.
It is a testament to the lasting power of this great deception that when I saw the name of this drink, the very first thing I thought of was not how the Witch was terrible and made it winter all the time and never Christmas or how she tried to kill Aslan or turned poor Faun Tumnus to stone. Nope, I thought of her most serious trespass against humanity, as the prime co-conspirator and willing accomplice who sold us the idea that a room full of Turkish Delight was something to be envied.
Obviously, this drink was not named for Jadis or any other Narnian. It is likely a tip of the hat to Jamaica’s “White Witch of Rose Hall”, Annie Palmer who is said to still haunt the grounds of the plantation near Montego Bay. Other stories attribute the name to a psychic living near San Francisco when Victor Bergeron opened his first Trader Vic’s there. The recipe for this one comes to us from Trader Vic’s Bartender’s Guide, which is as full of great drinks as it is hard to find. I am surprised that this has not been reprinted with the resurgence in craft cocktails and tiki drinks. Still, I keep my eye out for a thrift store copy of this classic. The drink itself is kind of unclear when it comes to provenance. It was most likely created by Vic Bergeron for his Trader Vic’s bar and restaurant. I don’t see any direct connection to an older drink, so it may be an original, he did that a lot. It would not surprise me that he created this one on his own and then batched some of the ingredients so no one, including his bar staff would now exactly what was in it. Apparently, the early days of tiki were pretty cutthroat and bar owners went to some extremes to protect their recipes, well, at least until they decided to put them into books of their own to sell.
Grab your tins and pop in 1 ounce of overproof rum, I went with Wray & Nephew because I love the flavor in spite of its higher octane; 1/2 an ounce of light creme de cacao, although since it is going in a tiki glass, the dark stuff would work just as well; 1/2 an ounce of dry curaçao, I used triple sec instead, because I am a poor planner and my curaçao-ian well had run dry; 2 drops of Bittermen’s Elemakule Tiki Bitters and the freshly squeezed juice of 1/2 a lime. Set that lime skin to the side to use later , add some pebble ice and give this one a good shake to the beat of “Istanbul (Not Constantinople)” by They Might be Giants. When your tins are well chilled, dirty dump over pebble ice in to a suitably witchy tiki mug and top with club soda. Flip that used lime skin on top for garnish and add some mint sprigs. If you are feeling extra pop an umbrella straw in the top for good measure, all the better if you acquired the straw from a thrift store in the middle of nowhere Ohio. The original actually calls to dust the drink with powdered sugar, but I skipped that step. Why? Well, do you want ants? Cause, that’s how you get ants!
I kinda love this, even without an extra dose of ant inducing powdered sugar. I am always a fan of Wray & Nephew and it comes through loud and clear here. I am surprised at how much the cacao fades into the background. I really expected it to be more present. That’s not a complaint, it adds a great base to the flavor that really helps sell the drink. I am just used to it being really strong and here it blends nicely. This is well balanced and interesting, a great addition to the menu.
So the White Witch is a good drink and a poor judge of candied treasures. I’d say that is fair, but maybe not. In the book Edmund actually chooses the form of his destroyer. If he had asked for Stay-Puft Marshmallows or Reese’s Pieces, she would have just as happily given those to him, a whole room full, allegedly. So we can’t really blame her. There is another important thing about that Turkish Delight I always forget. It was enchanted. To be fair, I have never had the opportunity to experience enchanted Turkish Delight and it may very well be the Bee’s Knees. Even after his escape from the White Witch, Edmund found himself drawn to her charms, or the memory of them, anyway.
“He had eaten his share of the dinner, but he hadn’t really enjoyed it because he was thinking all the time about Turkish Delight – and there’s nothing that spoils the taste of good ordinary food half so much as the memory of bad magic food.”C.S. Lewis, The Chronicles of Narnia
Viewed in that light, I feel you, Edmund. In my sordid past I have known a witch or two with enchantments that proved hard to escape. Things that were oh so bad for me, but still make me smile for a moment before I remember the downside. That’s the thing, isn’t it? We choose our own Turkish Delight. Whether it is money or drugs or alcohol or codependence or beliefs in things we know to be untrue, we all have something that spoils the taste of our good ordinary food. Those are things we fight against. The things that would destroy us if we let them. I guess that is why it is so hard to watch someone else making those same decisions, because we know the pain of accepting that lie as truth. I am not sure how we fix that, but I know it is worth trying. So, call it like you see it, as long as your view is backed with empirical data and not based on how you feel about things. Let folks know when you see something that is not right and do your best to be honest, especially with yourself. And stay away from the Kool-Aid and the Turkish Delight, those enchantments just aren’t worth the price. Stay safe, stay hydrated and stay sane, my friends.