An Important Note on the Life Blood Warmer for the Feast of St. Januarius

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Philip Greene is a columnist for The Daily Beast and author of several great cocktail books including his latest due out next month, A Drinkable Feast: A Cocktail Companion to 1920s Paris (Penguin Random House). Phil is also a friend who helped me when I was writing Drinking with the Saints. Over the summer he sent me the following note:

“Hello Michael, I hope you are well. I think I solved a mystery for you; unfortunately it means you have a mistake in your book! In the drink recipe Life Blood Warmer you speculated that the initials LBW stood for the Lillet Blanc Wine. When I read that I was dubious because back in 1937 it was not called by that name, it was called Kina Lillet. I then perused the online version of the 1937 Café Royal book and discovered that the initials represent lemon barley water.”

Phil later added that if you google “lemon barley water UK,” you will see “that it was a thing, like we drink cola or lemon lime soda.”

Phil was referring to my entry for the Feast of St. Januarius (September 19), the martyr januarius blood 2whose dried blood is brought out every year in a phial on his feast day and which miraculously liquifies when it is placed close to his severed head (no, I am not making this up). In Drinking with the Saints I recommend an old cocktail for the feast called a Life Blood Warmer. The problem I faced was that one of the ingredients was listed only as “LBW,” which a later editor erroneously thought was an abbreviation of “life blood warmer.” I knew enough from logic that you can’t define a term with the term in the definition, so I speculated that the abbreviation stood for Lillet Blanc Wine, tested the cocktail with this ingredient, and was sufficiently pleased with the result.

But Phil is right: unbeknownst to me at the time, the term “Lillet Blanc Wine” did not exist in 1937, and lemon barley water does appear elsewhere in the famous 1937 Café Royal Cocktail Book, whence I obtained the recipe.

So it was back to the drawing board. Although lemon barley water is still common in Great Britain, it is difficult to find locally. Happily, you can make it yourself with the help of an online recipe. Here it is now:

Lemon Barley Water
lemon barley water½ cup pearl barley
10 cups water
1 lemon rind, grated
1 cup lemon juice
1 cup sugar


  1. Rinse the barley well.
  2. Cover barley in a pot with cold water & bring to the boil; drain.
  3. Return barley to saucepan with the lemon rind & 10 cups water, cook slowly for 1 hour.
  4. Add the lemon juice & sugar and stir until sugar has dissolved.
  5. Strain and chill to serve.
  6. Discarded barley can be mixed with some dried fruit & nuts and warm milk and makes a great breakfast.
  7. This recipe takes about 70 minutes and makes approximately 1⅞ liters.

The recipe I included in DWTS (with Lillet) is still pretty good, so now we have two options. I foolishly took the Pledge for the whole of this Embertide week, so I won’t be able to do a taste test. Any volunteers? Here are the two recipes:

(Original) Life Blood Warmer
From the 1937 Café Royal Cocktail Book
½ oz. lemon barley water
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.

(New) Life Blood Warmer
By a sincere but misguided Mike Foley
½ oz. Lillet Blanc wine
1 oz. orange juice (½ oz. more than the original recipe)
1¼ oz. gin
½ oz. Cointreau
Pour all ingredients in a shaker with ice and shake forty times. Strain into a cocktail glass.

Last Call
A toast in gratitude to those who correct us: Through the intercession of Saint Januarius, may our blood never boil when they point out our mistakes.