“By the pricking of my thumbs, something wicked this way comes.” That immortal line from Shakespeare always makes us think of the weird sisters, that famed trio of witches from the Scottish play. The line is so iconic that it is easy to forget the line is not about them. It is actually spoken by one of the sisters, on the approach of the true monster of the story, the titular Macbeth. It’s funny how that happens, as the fire burns and the cauldron bubbles, things get crossed up and the wickedness, well, we tend to lay that at the feet of the witches, no matter who is really at fault. It seems we are always looking for blame, in all the wrong places; and there is probably a reason for that. Won’t you join me now and dig a little deeper as we stand and make the Witch’s Kiss.
This is an unusual drink, which is right up my alley. It was created by Jim Meehan in 2008 for his legendary New York speakeasy, PDT. When I first saw the drink, I assumed it was a variation on the classic Widow’s Kiss and while the name was inspired by that one this is actually a riff on the Classic Margarita with Liquore Strega and apple butter. By the way, Strega means “witch” in Italian, so the name is more than just a nod toward its autumnal flavors. Tonight, I am going to make a version of the original recipe that reflects how it was actually served at PDT. It is a simple switch and the drink is great both ways, but if you have time, infuse your tequila with cinnamon before making the drink. All you need to do is pop half a cinnamon stick into a 6 ounces of tequila and let it sit overnight. This is a great cocktail either way, but I feel like the infusion gives it that extra kick over the top to really makes this one sing.
Grab your tins and pop in 2 ounces of your cinnamon infused tequila, I chose Kah AÃ±ejo, cause I love that skull bottle; 1/2 an ounce of herbal Italian Liquore Strega, 3/4 of an ounce of fresh squeezed lemon juice, 1 barspoon of agave syrup and 1 barspoon of apple butter. I always give it a preliminary stir with the bar spoon to mix the apple butter before adding some of those artisanal ice cubes and giving it a good shake to the beat of BjÃ¶rk’s “Pagan Poetry“. When well chilled, double strain into a waiting coupe and garnish with a lemon twist. If that coupe happens to be have been given to you by a witchy woman in Cave Spring, all the better.
This is autumn in a glass. The cinnamon and apple are accented by the tequila in the most wonderful way and that Strega gives it a depth of flavor that is hard to fathom, with the mint, anise and fennel laying an herbal base to balance the sweetness of the agave. Essentially, this is a margarita, with Strega and apple butter replacing the triple sec and the lime swapped for lemon, but it is a much more complex drink. Don’t get me wrong, you can definitely see the familial resemblance, but you have to squint. I used our house made apple butter which is already pretty cinnamon heavy, so I could probably skip infusing the tequila, but it is totally worth the time and one of those cool secret ingredients to add to your arsenal.
If this is what a Witch’s Kiss tastes like, sign me up for more. Who am I kidding, I have always loved kissing witches and I have no intention of stopping now. After all, most of those demonized throughout history as witches were just strong, independent women. The wise ones who did not need the approval of “good people”, polite society, the church or anyone else. Yeah, that is just my kind of girl. Of course, that is not the case for everyone. For centuries, these women have been vilified by people who felt threatened by their independence. Men who feared their power. So they created stories to cast suspicion on any woman who did not need the protection of a man or who did not fit their version of an approved traditional home and family life. The old woman who preferred tending her garden in solitude, she was probably a witch. All the more likely, if her cabin happened to be on desirable land that the church or town could seize when she was convicted of her obvious crimes, after a fair trial, of course. How about those two women who never married a suitable man, but chose instead to live together? Definitely witches, probably a coven. It is certainly an unnatural arrangement to say the least. I mean, they must be married to the devil, why else would they avoid the unwashed charms of your typical 17th century fellow?
It is ironic that we have always been taught to fear witches, when it is these upstanding citizens who were the true monsters. Of course, the gentlemen were not alone, they were aided and abetted by the good women of the town. The respectable ladies who condoned these trials, who helped to punish the odd ones, those who did not fit in. A nightmare for anyone outside the norm brought to you by “the men who fear strong women…and the women who love them.” We started on a haunted moor in Scotland as a man’s ambition turned him from hero to monster, but, like most, he did not make that journey alone. We could argue that Lady Macbeth was equally monstrous, her lust for position and desire for power driving her to support and even encourage his crimes. Those sins a far greater stain than any damned spot.
It all comes down to power, doesn’t it? Who has it, who wants it and what lengths they will go to in order to get it or protect it. That’s mostly the story of the world. Those who were born with power feeling threatened by those without it, especially the ones who don’t seem to care or want it. We still see it all the time. People marginalized by the good upstanding citizens of the world, for not fitting the approved mold. Of course, we don’t call them witches anymore, we have other names, but it is still about vilifying those who are not like us; the others, the ones who look, speak or love differently. It’s a shame that we learned the wrong lesson from centuries of witch trials. The danger doesn’t come from the folks wearing pointed hats and dancing in the moonlight, and it never did. The real monsters are those who sit in judgement and pass sentence on what they don’t agree with. They are the ones who light the fires and destroy what they don’t understand. Given the choice, I’ll spend my time with the witches and if they want to give me a kiss, well who am I to judge? Stay safe, stay hydrated and stay sane, my friends.