Wherever the Catholic sun doth shine,
There’s always laughter and good red wine.
At least I’ve always found it so.
That’s the first thing we read in Michael P. Foley’s inventive book, Drinking With the Saints: The Sinner’s Guide to a Holy Happy Hour. After making a good case for “Catholicism’s numerous contributions to the spirit world” (he means libations, of course: a number of beers, champagnes, wines, whiskeys and especially liqueurs carry long Catholic pedigrees) and an equally strong argument in favor of responsible drinking as a convivial part of the Benedictine concept of “Holy Leisure,” Foley provides the reader with useful toasts and blessings and gets down to the business of sharing drink recipes amid saintly hagiographies.
He does this brilliantly and with astonishing thoroughness, even cross-referencing cocktails and drinks that serve multiple duties for saints throughout the Catholic calendar. Have a devotion to St. Philip Neri? In Foley’s world his May 26 feast day is a time to recall Philip’s “burning love of God” (and how it manifested physically in his heart), and how better to toast that fascinating saint than with a drink called a “Heart Warmer No. 2” (number 1 is cross-referenced to St. Francis de Sales), or another cocktail called “Heartburn”?
In Drinking With the Saints, one will celebrate Our Lady of the Rosary by reading about the victory at Lepanto and then mixing a solid “Lady Victorious” or a lugubrious-sounding (but eye-pleasing) “Turk’s Blood.” One will read about St. Dominic on his feast day and then consider a potion called not — as one might guess — the “Hair of the Dog” but rather “Master of the Hounds.”
And what of these holidays and holy days? Foley has a whole second half devoted to the seasons of Lent, Advent, Easter and Christmas (right through to Pentecost and Epiphany, respectively). Those who enjoyed our recent feature on the role rosemary would have played in the lives of the Holy Family might find Foley’s Epiphany libation to be refreshing:
- 2 ounces gin
- 1 dash vermouth
- small sprig of rosemary
Instructs Foley: “Pour all ingredients except rosemary into shaker filled with ice and shake 40 times (Foley recommends that number both for the sake of thoroughness and scriptural integrity!). Strain into cocktail glass and garnish with rosemary. “If you don’t have rosemary,” he writes, “use an olive, which will remind you of the olive orchards of Bethlehem.”
Many of us have enjoyed a hot mug of cocoa flavored with a bit of peppermint schnapps, but somehow when Foley calls that a St. Nicholas’ Helper, in honor of St. Nicholas of Myra, it all makes the sweetest sense. When he prescribes a “Three Wise Men” as equal parts Johnnie Walker, Jack Daniels and Jim Beam, one gains an entirely new perspective on Gaspar, Melchior and Balthasar.
Here, in these last days of Advent, we find ourselves torn over whether we should tonight try the Third Week of Advent specific “Pink Rose” or a Jubilee Year relevant, “Jubilee” (it’s a Bacardi Cocktail that sounds delightful), or perhaps we should try the “Mezcalicious” Foley offers for December 18, Our Lady of Solitude. Tough choice. The Pink Rose seems most tempting:
1 1/2 ounce gin
1//4 ounce grenadine
1/4 ounce cream
1 egg white
1/4 oz lemon juice
Pour all ingredients into a shaker filled with ice and shake the requisite 40 times. Strain into a cocktail glass.