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Welcome to Wonkette Vacation Hours, With This Week's Cocktail, Basil Mead Gin And Tonics!
Interspersed with vacation stories. You've been warned!
Please note that tonight’s Wonkette mixer has changed locations! Details below.
Now back to your regularly scheduled cocktail post.
Greetings, Wonketeers! I’m writing to you from a campsite out in Pennsylvania, with 12,000 of my best friends. This is The Pennsic War, my annual week of SCA chivalry, derring-do, drinking, partying, and merriment. I’ve been fighting rapier and dagger for years now in the SCA. I’ve also been our camp’s bartender in residence. A dozen of my closest friends build a small home away from home in this massive party every year. We make dinner for each other, throw private parties, drink around the camp, and most importantly, construct our own shower facilities. (Partying with 12,000 people? Awesome. Bathing with 12,000 people? Less so.)
As the camp mixologist, I generally have to make up drinks by the pitcher-full. When you’re working in large quantities in the field, measurements get much looser than my normal standards. Granted, if you make things strong enough many people won’t care, but you do have to keep your wits about you, especially when you’ve challenged an entire nation of fencers to single combat over a petty grievance/failed assassination attempt and could face a challenge at any time.
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But more on that bit later. First, here’s the drink of choice in our camp.
Basil Mead Gin and Tonics (Camp style)
8-10 oz Beefeater gin
8-10 fresh basil leaves
3-4 oz mead
1-2 oz bottled lime juice
In a cocktail shaker, shake basil leaves and two to three ounces of gin with ice until well chilled. Strain into a pitcher filled with ice. Add remaining ingredients and top with tonic water.
So, let me get back to that failed assassination attempt. Back in April, a young man named Giovanni shows up at a local tournament. He’s a high-strung, adventurous soul, who lived in our local barony for a while before moving to AEthelmarc, the neighboring kingdom. While there, he studied with Don Niccolo, a peer of mine in the study of the blade. (Yes, this is all going to sound a bit like a Three Musketeer novel at times. Roll with it.) Giovanni issues me a challenge, with an offhand comment - “Niccolo told me to stab you for him.”
Naturally, this could not stand. Giovanni tried his best, but he is young and enthusiastic, and I am well-skilled and devious. The pup went home with his tail between his legs.
A month or two later, Giovanni returned. This time, he had the courage to issue me a formal challenge. As I related in a missive later, “I was pleased to receive your message, Don Niccolo. Mind you, your courier was a bit clumsy in delivering it. I gave him back his glove, after he tossed it at my feet. Also, I must quibble with your choice of language. ‘Velvet, Villain of the Midrealm?’ Scoundrel, certainly. Neer-do-well, a given. But ‘Villain’? I’m crushed.” (Yes, I go by the name of ‘Lord Velvet’ when I’m swashbuckling. If you could call yourself ‘Lord Velvet’ when swinging a rapier, why wouldn’t you?)
In single combat, Giovanni composed himself with honor. I composted him, with due honors. At this point, I decided that Don Niccolo’s finances were clearly in arrears, due to his inability to hire better assassins … and I decided to rectify the matter.
But first, let’s talk ingredients:
Beefeater Gin: As a camp of middle-aged veterans, we tend toward gin and tonics for our daily drink. Civilization is a fine thing on a hot day. Beefeater is an excellent starting point for any quick G&T. I prefer some other gins, but when camping out you want 1.75L bottles of your chosen libation.
Mead: A sweet mead is ideal here. Dry meads do exist, and they are wonderful, but not in this cocktail. If you find yourself under duress, a little honey or simple syrup can correct the cocktail. Taste as you go.
Basil: Absolutely use fresh. We brought a potted basil plant from home just for this purpose. We’re shaking the basil with a small quantity of gin to effectively muddle the basil leaves; I’ve used the same technique with rum for pitchers of mojitos.
Lime juice: My usual “only use fresh juice” rule goes out the window here. Any port in a storm.
Tonic water: Schweppes is fine here. Remember the ice will melt and dilute the drink.
In summary and … oh, wait. The duel. Well, after recognizing Don Niccolo’s plight, I determined to challenge each and every one of his countrymen. If they won, I would give them a coin to give to Don Niccolo in an act of charity. And, of course, I challenged Don Niccolo himself, to settle the affair of honor.
I fought my way past fifteen of Niccolo’s countrymen before challenging the man himself. I lost a few tough battles against young, hardy fighters. I outwitted some even tougher fighters to win the day. And I was honored to gift a coin outright to some brave novices of the blade, as encouragement to their further prowess.
When I finally encountered Niccolo, I realized I was in trouble. I remembered that he was a broad-shouldered man; I had forgotten that he was so broad that his blade was on the outside line of my own guard, a position I rarely encounter.
I also had forgotten that he had a deceptively fast lunge for a man of his size, as he demonstrated with a quick lunge over my sword arm to the chest.
I used every feint and deceit to gain one score on him. I feinted to the head and lunged to the torso on the third pass. His dagger was there to intercept me … but I had pulled my lunge short, permitting his dagger to sail past my point before striking home. I had won two passes of three, but we had agreed to three of five for an encounter of this import.
We exchanged lunges on the next pass, too spent for trickery. His lunge landed a moment before mine. On the final pass, I hung back, planning my offense. I hatched the perfect plan … just as Niccolo launched his wicked lunge again. Lost in my thoughts, I defended myself a hair too late. The day was his.
I gifted him with ten coins, to give to others as marks of prowess or courtesy as he saw fit. And I retired to a refreshing gin and tonic in camp, the matter of honor settled. I’ll plot my revenge later.