Two hundred seven years ago today, Edgar Allan Poe was born. His life and writings are as intriguing as ever. As such, I thought to myself, why not create a cocktail in his honor. And, so I did!
Since Poe was a master of murder and the macabre, I wanted my drink to be blood red. Campari! Campari needed to be a main ingredient. I love the flavor. It wasn’t invented until 11 years after Poe’s death, but I’m sure he would’ve liked it. So, that’s how it all started—The Tell-Tale Heart Cocktail.
Absinthe is a spirit Poe was known to enjoy, so I wanted it to play a role. And since it’s only been legally sold in this country for the last decade and I’d never tried it, I wanted to experiment.
What I came up with is a take on the Boulevardier: equal parts Campari, Maker’s Mark, and Noilly Prat red vermouth, with a splash of St. George Absinthe Verte, which I procured at Bar & Garden in Culver City. (I love that place! Absolutely charming.)
As a garnish, I decided to use a baby beet with an orange rind rosette. The beet to represent blood, and the heart beating under the floorboards in The Tell-Tale Heart. Famous last lines: “I admit the deed! --tear up the planks! here, here! --It is the beating of his hideous heart!"
And the orange? Because it goes well with Campari. The gorgeous twist into a flower is also a nod to Virginia, his child bride. Sorry, Poe, just calling it like I see it. I know you loved her. It’s all good. But, you did falsify her age on the marriage license. Just sayin.
Anyway, I’ve always loved Poe’s writing. He is one intriguing literary figure. His tales of madness and murder are compelling. So much so that when I took an acting class in college, I picked Poe to recite.
We had an assignment to deliver a soliloquy while acting out a daily activity. (We didn’t know this second part of the assignment until we after we’d made our first selection.)
There’s nothing quite like peeling a kiwi fruit with a sharp kitchen knife while reciting an excerpt from The Tell-Tale Heart in front of a class of acting students at UCLA. “I was never kinder to the old man than during the whole week before I killed him.” Cue kiwi peel drop to the floor. Weird, creepy, and memorable!
Just to be clear, you don’t need to recite any of The Tell-Tale Heart while you make this cocktail, but it could add to the fun. In any case, if you’ve never read any Poe, may I suggest you do. It’s good.
Cheers, Edgar Allan Poe! Happy 207th!