In a few days we will be celebrating an event truly worthy of a drink. September 19 is the Feast of St. Januarius, a fourth-century martyr whose head and dried blood (kept in a phial) are preserved in a church in Naples. The saint’s head and the blood are brought together several times a year (including his feast day), and when they are, the blood becomes liquid and bubbles up as though it were fresh. If it doesn’t, a group of poor women known as the zie di San Gennaro (aunts of St. Januarius) “make themselves specially conspicuous by the fervour, and sometimes, when the miracle is delayed, by the extravagance, of their supplications.” When the saint’s melodramatic aunts cannot convince him to effect the desired miracle, impending disaster is predicted. In 1941, when the dry red powder in the phial failed to liquefy, Mt. Vesuvius erupted.
So this Feast of St. Januarius, drink either to celebrate the liquefaction of the saint’s blood or drink to drown your sorrows over impending doom. Either way, we have the perfect cocktail for the occasion. The Life Blood Warmer, a cocktail so ancient and rare that one of its ingredients, listed in the 1937 Café Royal Cocktail Book as simply “L.B.W.,” has remained a mystery—until now. Our crack Drinking With the Saints team, mustering what few brain cells it had left, deduced that the acronym stands for “Lillet Blanc Wine” and has verified this conclusion in multiple taste-tests—ironically destroying the remaining brain cells that facilitated the insight to begin with. We cannot prove our hunch scientifically, but that also seems appropriate for today’s surreal feast.
Dearly beloved, for the first time in almost eighty years, the Life Blood Warmer.
Life Blood Warmer
½ oz. Lillet Blanc wine
½ oz. orange juice
1¼ oz. gin
½ oz. Cointreau
Pour all ingredients in a shaker with ice and shake forty times. Strain into a cocktail glass. Note: some of our panelists liked the drink better with another half ounce of orange juice.
Have a contest to see who can come up with the worst pun or joke involving today’s saint, blood, and liquefaction. Or if you are tongue-tied, watch Godfather Part II where Vito assassinates Don Fanucci and Godfather III where Vinnie, Vito’s grandson, assassinates Joey Zasa (“Zah-Zah”!). Both scenes take place during the famous Feast of San Genarro in New York’s Little Italy.
Finally, if St. Januarius’ blood liquefies on September 19 as hoped, feel free to celebrate this happy news on September 20.