June 2, 2018

COCKTAIL CULT

Pagan rites, magic, and rebirth—shaken and stirred

Descend the darkened stairs to Midnight Rambler with the right frame of mind and an appetite for curiosity, and you can easily imagine you’re slinking into a sexy bacchanalia à la Kubrick’s Eyes Wide Shut. Order a libation off the seasonal menu, Pagan Ritual: Rites of Spring, and sip further into a heathen celebration. If that all sounds a bit dramatic, it is. Rambler’s cocktail savant Chad Solomon and his team take their drinks seriously indeed.

For this latest batch of thoughtful, creative cocktails, Solomon looked to the otherworldly and the ancient, drawing from pagan celebrations of the Vernal (spring) Equinox and Dionysus, the Greek god of fertility, wine, ritual madness, and intoxicating parties. (His Roman counterpart is Bacchus.)

Solomon says that studying how pagan cultures around the world celebrated spring’s cycles of growth, rebirth, and fertility helped him frame a menu that showcases lighter spirits and fresh, natural flavors. He also took into account earthier aspects, looking to the elements of fire, smoke, and things that spring from the dirt.

“There’s always a perfumery element to our menus, but this is where we’ll really relate owers,” Solomon says. “Florals are the most delicate and rare. High-quality oral avors and essential oils—which date back to incense and those types of aromas—will be making appearances.”

To get it all right, he and the team did their homework, researching Greek and Roman mythology, plus ritualistic Bacchanalia fests. They also sought more mystical inspirations, like poet-occultist Aleister Crowley’s concepts of alchemy and “magick” (Crowley’s 1922 book Diary of a Drug Fiend inspired a previous Solomon menu, Diary of a Flower Fiend.)

“This is fun for us. You’ll see these elements translated possibly into names or whatever, but we go through a lot of backstory internally to concept. I feel it helps yield a richer drink,” he says. “You’re standing on history and precedence and seeing what’s there to pin these things to. How do you modernize? What’s the jumping off point to do something new? A new menu presents the opportunity to just really go for it.”

Solomon plans to go deeper with the menu debuting mid-summer, swapping lighter cocktails for darker, neo-tropical drinks made for sipping in the warmer weather. —Hilary Lau

The Details: Midnight Rambler, 1530 Main Street, beneath The Joule. (Just look for the neon cocktails sign.)