Thursday, October 4, 2012

What Would Keats Drink?

Probably nothing, he was sick so much of his short life.

But that sad fact is no reason to get in the way of so silly an idea as a commemorative cocktail to mark the centenary of Poetry Magazine. (These days, it seems every event, no matter in what field, has to have a signature cocktail.)

Here's my account of the oddball libation:
Ode to a Cocktail
What would Keats drink?
On Thursday, at a celebration in Chicago honoring the centenary of Poetry magazine, guests will raise a cocktail created especially for the occasion. Named the Hippocrene — the mythological source of poetic inspiration — it is the work of Brian West, a web developer at Columbia College Chicago and cocktail enthusiast, and is primarily inspired by John Keats’s “Ode to a Nightingale.”
Mr. West became interested in mixology during the three and a half years he worked as Web producer for the Poetry Foundation, which publishes the magazine. When he was asked to create the drink, he said in an e-mail, he looked at the myth around the Hippocrene spring and the Pegasus, but also at a few lines from “Ode to a Nightingale.” As the tale goes, Pegasus — the winged horse that has long been the symbol of Poetry magazine — struck the mythical Mount Helicon, a peak sacred to the muses, and out gushed the Hippocrene.
The fountain is invoked in many poems, including “Ode to a Nightingale.” The lines Mr. West focused on came from the second stanza:
O, for a draught of vintage! that hath been
Cool’d a long age in the deep-delved earth,
Tasting of Flora and the country green,
Dance, and Provençal song, and sunburnt mirth!
O for a beaker full of the warm South,
Full of the true, the blushful Hippocrene,
With beaded bubbles winking at the brim,
And purple-stained mouth;
That I might drink, and leave the world unseen,
And with thee fade away into the forest dim:
“It was obvious that we needed a sparkling wine,” said Mr. West, pointing to those “beaded bubbles winking” in the stanza’s seventh line. “I was also inspired by the line, ‘Tasting of Flora and the country green,’ to add some herbal notes with gin, mint, ginger and basil,” he said.
He found both Prosecco and Korbel Extra Dry performed nicely as the sparkling wine in his concoction, and for the gin — given Keats’s British heritage, what other base spirit would have been appropriate? — Mr. West thinks Ransom Old Tom Gin, Farmer’s Gin and Small’s Gin work best. The ginger in the drink comes in the form of ginger liqueur, and the mint arrives as mint tea. The drink also includes lemon juice, grapefruit juice and grapefruit bitters. (With so many glories of the garden in this concoction, surely Wordsworth would have joined Keats in a glassful.)
The event, where the cocktail will be unveiled, will also commemorate the publication of “The Open Door,” an anthology of 100 poems collected from Poetry’s archives, published by the University of Chicago Press. The magazine was founded in Chicago in 1912 by Harriet Monroe.

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