You have doubtless spent a lot of time wondering what to drink as you’re reading through Homer’s Iliad, and today the answer is at hand. Sure, the epic poem was written long before distilled spirits were invented, and the very existence of the Trojan War is doubtful, but that’s no reason not to have a tasty cocktail and pay acknowledgment to a pivotal character: Helen of Troy. After all, around 200 BC a Greek scholar named Eratosthenes calculated that June 11, 1184 BC was the burning of Troy and the end of the Trojan War. So today we’ll mix a Helen of Troy Does Countertop Dancing cocktail.
To refresh your memory, the Trojan War was waged by the ancient Greeks against the city of Troy after Paris of Troy (the feckless son of the King Priam of Troy) took Helen away from her husband Menelaus, the king of Sparta in Greece. This is one of the most important events in all of Greek mythology and may be the first recorded tale of men fighting over women. But Helen of Troy was no ordinary mortal: she was the offspring of the God Zeus coming to earth and seducing Princess Leda. Zeus even transformed himself into a swan for the occasion, but that’s an entirely different myth, and we digress. What is relevant is that she was considered the most beautiful woman in the world, pre-dating the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Edition by thousands of years and becoming the face that launched a thousand ships. Even Roman poets like Virgil and Ovid wrote about this stuff.
Now whether or not there’s any historic reality behind the Trojan War remains an open question. Despite the legend and writings handed down for centuries, it had largely been dismissed as a bit of poetic license until 1822 when a site in what is now Turkey was identified as the likely location of Troy. These days many scholars believe there is a core of truth to the stories but that they are likely just the fusion of various tales of expeditions and sieges by the Mycenaean Greeks during the Bronze Age.
Whether real or not the fact that there’s a drink incorporating Helen of Troy into its name is good enough for The Drunkard’s Almanac and today the Drink of the Day is the Helen of Troy Does Countertop Dancing. We are not asserting that countertop dancing was ubiquitous during the Bronze Age, and also ignoring the fact that the name is the title of some poem that doesn’t even rhyme. But we do know that the drink itself was invented at The Independent in Boston and is a good example of modern drinks that utilize bitters in large quantities – not dashes but rather amounts you would measure with a jigger.
The use of bitters in large quantity is a relatively new development in the world of bartending. It simply didn’t happen, or at least wasn’t written about in the 19th century. Carried to its logical conclusion, since neutral alcohol is the base carrying the infused flavors in any bitters concoction, one can even go so far as to use it as a base spirit. The exemplar here is the Trinidad Sour, created by Giuseppe Gonzalez at his bar the Suffolk Arms on New York’s Lower East Side, that uses an entire ounce. Seems like he started a new thing.
Today we bring our thirsty readers one step in this direction when Angostura Bitters are not the base spirit but are nonetheless an integral component. Soon enough you may be guzzling bitters straight from the bottle.
Helen of Troy Does Countertop Dancing
- 1.5 oz Laird’s Apple Brandy or Applejack
- 1 oz Orgeat syrup
- 0.5 oz Angostura Bitters
- 0.5 oz Fresh lemon juice
- Add all ingredients to your trusty cocktail shaker
- Add ice and shake until frosty cold
- Strain into chilled coupe glass
- Return to reading the Iliad