The Widow’s Kiss

Your cocktail calendar entry for: October
31
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You know what October 31 means.  It’s Halloween and this year the Drink of the Day is the Widow’s Kiss.  We’ll cover where the whole thing came from, suggestions for handling trick or treaters, and the Widow’s Kiss recipe.

Last year we named the Zombie as a shoo-in for Halloween, so if you’re feeling tropical we refer you to that episode which provides the drink’s history and the search by Jeff “Beachbum” Berry for the original recipe.  A slushy drink like the Zombie is probably a better choice than the Widow’s Kiss cocktail as a handout to trick or treaters at your door.  But now on to Halloween.

The History

About two thousand years ago the Celts occupying most of the UK and a lot of northern Europe believed there were two parts to the year: a light half and a dark half.  So they came up with an annual pagan festival known as Samhain that was observed on October 31 – November 1.

This was a special time.  The transition from light to dark seasons was when the worlds occupied by the living and the dead were barely separated.  Spirits could come visit the living.  Visits by deceased loved ones seeking food and comfort were welcomed.  They had all kinds of fun lighting huge bonfires, feasting, and sacrificing animals.  We only endorse the feasting.

The downside was that witches, evil spirits, fairies and other supernatural beings could also show up to sow mischief.  The obvious solution?  People disguised themselves as spirits to fool the nasty ones.  Wearing animal skins, blackening one’s face with ash from the bonfires, you name it.  Historical details are scarce, but people sometimes also carried treats in their pockets as bribes if they were ambushed by something spooky.  Some even had jack-o-lanterns in the form of hollowed out turnips or beets, lit by candles, to scare away the nasties.

The Church eventually pushed paganism underground.  November 1 turned into All Hallows’ Day (aka All Saint’s Day) and ‘Halloween’ comes from “All Hallows’ Eve” or the evening prior.  That’s a good time for bonfires and other assorted merriment.  By the way, we find the Corpse Reviver No. 2 a perfect choice for All Saints Day or Dia de los Muertos on November 1.

Halloween rituals have been modernized.  Now kids run door to door in search of candy, naughty nurse costumes are donned, pumpkin farmers sell out their crops and candy companies have a great time.

The Widow’s Kiss

As mentioned earlier, the Zombie is a good choice for Halloween if you want something slushy for the kids.  Today the Widow’s Kiss cocktail is Drink of the Day because, well, it’s got a name that fits.  It tastes good too.

The Widow’s Kiss name was used in the title of a 1990s B-movie and various pulp novels, but the cocktail goes back much further.  The recipe was first published in George Kappeler’s Modern American Drinks in 1895.  It’s a strong, herbaceous drink of apple brandy mixed with with two monk-produced products:  Benedictine and Yellow Chartreuse.  The recipe we present below is the original.  It’s often an after dinner drink rather than an aperitif, good for the spooky hours, but that can be tweaked.  We discuss that option below in the recipe.

Widow's Kiss cocktail

Widow's Kiss

The recipe shown is the original version as first published in the 1895 work Modern American Cocktails. As such, it leans toward the sweet side of after dinner drinks. Some bars change the proportions a bit to cut the sweetness, reducing the Benedictine and Yellow Chartreuse relative to the apple brandy, most notably in the recipe published in The PDT Cocktail Book. That version uses two ounces of apple brandy and only 1/4 oz each of Benedictine and Yellow Chartreuse.
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Equipment

  • Mixing glass
  • Nick and Nora or coupe glass

Ingredients
  

  • oz Calvados or Apple Brandy. We tend to use Laird's, but if you prefer to add some earthy elements pull out the bottle of Calvados.
  • ¾ oz Benedictine
  • ¾ oz Yellow Chartreuse
  • 2 dashes Angostura bitters
  • Garnish (optional): cherry

Instructions
 

  • Add ingredients to your trusty mixing glass.
  • Add ice and stir to chill. Note that this is one you may want to stir a bit longer to dilute more than usual as the flavors are so strong. Some even advocate adding a small (about 1/4 oz) of water for this purpose, or shaking as that will dilute the drink more than stirring.
  • Strain into pre-chilled cocktail glass.
  • Garnish with cherry if desired.
  • Drink.
  • If you would like to reduce the sweetness of the drink change the proportions from the original ratios of 2:1:1 to 8:1:1 by using 2 ounces of Calvados or apple brandy and 1/4 oz of each of Benedictine and Yellow Chartreuse.
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