This month we held a contest on our Facebook page for who could come up with the best cocktail in honor of St. Corona, the third-century virgin and martyr who is currently being invoked against the COVID-19 virus. On April 17 (Easter Friday) five judges assembled and, observing social distancing as best they could, taste-tested the entries. We announced the winner last night on a live virtual happy hour, which attracted almost forty people. Congratulations to Chris Kandas, who earned himself a signed copy of Drinking with Your Patron Saints!
Almost all the contestants’ submissions were outstanding—as far as we could tell, that is. For unfortunately, we were unable to find one or more of the ingredients for several entries and were therefore unable to test them. As lamentable as this, it unintentionally conforms to the “Waco Purchase Rule” I used when composing the Drinking with the Saints trilogy, the rule being that for the most part, if I could not find an ingredient here in Waco, Texas, I would not include it in the book. My thinking was that because Waco is neither the best nor the worst place in the country for buying alcohol, it is a good indication of what the average American has access to. I did, of course, break this rule on occasion, happily buying cardamom bitters and Toschini black cherries online. But with respect to this contest, we had no choice but to obey the rule, for there were some ingredients we simply could not purchase short of a four-hour roadtrip.
In any event, here are the results of our contest. Flawed though they may be, we were thrilled with the top three winners and tickled by them all.
FIRST PRIZE: Old European Corona
By Chris Kandas
2 oz. Kilbrin Irish whisky sherry cask
¾ oz. Quintas Ruby Red port (to bring out the dries red fruit of the whisky more)
¾ oz. Bénédictine liqueur (adds necessary sweetness, is a nod to the Italian saint, and brings a French touch to this European cocktail)
2 dashes Angostura bitters (I used AZ Bitter Lab’s Mi Casa bitters)
2 dashes orange bitters (I used AZ Bitter Lab’s orange sunshine bitters, of which everyone should order a bottle. Orange, saffron, and fennel! I’ll also point out that AZ (Arizona) is known for our redemptive suffering heat, which is expected to slow the spread of this disease)
Pour all ingredients into a shaker with ice and shake forty times. Strain into a cocktail glass.
Tasters’ Notes: Chris says he based this cocktail on a Jameson Old-Fashioned, but this creative mix of flavors was to us more evocative of a Boulevardier. Tasters found it smooth and well-balanced with a nice finish. The red color is beautiful and fitting for a drink honoring a martyr. We did not use any of the brands that Chris recommended and it was still good: we can’t wait to try the Platonic Form version of it.
SECOND PRIZE: St. Corona’s Cocktail
By AnnaMaria Cardinalli
For the rim, a “crown” (see below)
1½ oz. Amaretto
⅔ oz. simple syrup
fresh juice of ½ lime (1 tbsp.)
Begin by preparing the cocktail’s crown: Grate the zest of one lime, and cover it liberally on a flat dish with equal parts sugar and salt. (It is best if the citrus peel is left to candy this way as long as possible–ideally 24 hours–before serving, but the wait is unnecessary if time does not permit.) Mix coarsely, and rim a large old-fashioned glass, first with lime and then with this mixture.
For the cocktail, fill the glass with ice and add Amaretto, simple syrup, and lime juice. Stir. Top with Prosecco.
Symbolism: The strands of bright green that will stand out from the cocktail’s crown can represent the palm branches that formed part of St. Corona’s martyrdom, those of Passion Sunday which we approach, and the spiky tentacles of the virus against which we invoke St. Corona’s intercession and Our Lord’s victory!
Tasters’ Notes: One of the better champagne (er, prosecco) cocktails we have had; we were surprised at how well the Amaretto balanced the lime juice and prosecco. The “crown” (rim) was genius: several of us were skeptical about the mixture of zest, salt, and sugar, but it worked. We tried the “instant” rather than the “candied” version, and it still worked. And the visual presentation of the crown was excellent. Finally, the panelists were impressed with the allegorical explanation.
One suggestion: How about a chilled champagne flute or coupe glass instead of an old-fashioned?
THIRD PRIZE: Golden Crown
By Michael Astfalk
fresh juice of ½ lemon (2 tbsp.)
½ oz. Grand Marnier
½ oz. limoncello
1½ oz. Slane Irish Whiskey
dash of orange bitters (I used Wigle Pomander Orange)
3 oz. tonic water
Add ice to an old fashioned glass. Build ingredients and stir. Sip and enjoy. Try with 1 ounce less tonic water for a slightly boozier drink.
Symbolism: Slane Whiskey is for Slane, the hill where St Patrick lit his paschal fire that led to Ireland’s conversion. May our resurrected Lord’s Fire of Love during the Easter season convert hearts and lead to a new springtime of Faith out of this pandemic. The Limoncello is a nod to Italy, giving a yellow “corona” to the drink, a golden crown. The tonic water contains quinine, which is an old anti-malarial treatment. If one malaria drug works, wouldn’t another?
Tasters’ Notes: This is a refreshing summer drink, sweet but not overpowering. One judge called it a “sophisticated Mountain Dew,” which he meant as a compliment! And all the panelists were impressed with the thoughtful allegorical explanation of the ingredients.
Note: The rest of these entries are listed in the order they were received and are not ranked according to taste.
1. Arrghen’t You Glad I Didn’t Say Corona
By Judy Bronson
1½ oz. Probitas White Blended Rum
1 oz. Crown Royal
1 oz. Byrrh Quinquina
1 oz. Meyer lemon juice
1 oz. orange juice
¾ oz. crème de banane liqueur
1 tspn. Herbsaint
Shake over ice, strain over fresh ice into your favorite pirate-themed tiki glass (St. Corona was the patron saint of treasure hunters, after all) or skull mug (in honor of her martyrdom) and garnish with a sprig of mint.
I started out with Crown Royal because of the Corona connection. I wanted to go in a tiki direction, hence the tropical elements of rum, lemon, orange, and banana, because what is more of an escape from our current woes than imagining we are existing in a beautiful tropical paradise? The Byrrh quinquina brings the cure (quinine) and Herbsaint hearkens back to absinthe, the original vermifuge. It isn’t likely to cure anything serious, but it makes any quarantine a heck of a lot more fun. Cheers!
Tasters’ Notes: Judy calls this a tiki cocktail fit for a saint and/or a pandemic, and we bet she is right, but we could not taste it! We were going to fudge on the Probitas rum and used Cruzan instead, but we figured there was no substituting for the unique French aperitif Byrrh Grand Quinquina, which is not available locally. Judy provided her own photo, which as you can see, is fantastic. And she was smart to invent a tiki cocktail, which are experiencing a Renaissance these days.
2. Miraculous Quinine
By Marian Van Til-Cassidy
2 oz. bourbon (I used Elijah Craig)
4 oz. tonic water (Q Beverages makes a great one: extra carbonated, intense quinine taste, only mildly sweet, as it uses agave, not sugar)
5-10 dashes Angostura bitters, to taste. (For a stronger, slightly fruity option, add another ounce of bourbon, an ounce more of tonic, and an ounce of cranberry juice. Adjust bitters. Some might consider this a different drink.)
Tasters’ Notes: Folks did their homework by including ingredients with quinine: although it does nothing to stop COVID-19, it recalls the happy days when it stopped malaria and earned the epithet “miraculous.” Marian’s bourbon and tonic water (with lots of bitters added) is one such example, and it certainly does the trick. Panelists described her submission as “satisfying,” a “reliable go-to in the future,” and evocative of the halcyon days of whiskey-and-sodas. We imagine Evelyn Waugh (or one of his characters) drinking too many of these were he alive today.
3. Corona Sunrise
By the Seaside Bartender
1½ oz. tequila
1 oz. grenadine
2 oz. orange juice
½ bottle Corona Extra
Combine tequila and orange juice in a pint glass. Add grenadine and ice, then fill with ice-cold Corona Extra. Garnish with orange slice.
Symbolism: The fact that it is a sunrise drink could represent the hope of finding a cure and a vaccine. The sun also has its own corona, which is visible during solar eclipses. Since we are experiencing an “eclipse of the Church” right now, it seems fitting.
You could also replace the tequila with an Italian liquor like grappa. I’m not sure how that would taste.
Tasters’ Notes: Scott Alexander came up with this idea, googled the ingredients, and found out that it already exists (we hate when that happens!). He decided to post it anyway, and we’re glad that he did. The Corona Sunrise is a fun cross between a Tequila Sunrise and a beergarita. Trying it with grappa, however, sounds a little scary.
4. Silver Corona
By Laurie Hilger
lemon and lime slices
2 oz. silver tequila
Muddle some lemon and lime slices in the bottom of an old-fashioned glass. Add ice and tequila. Stir. Top with soda water. Stir again and enjoy!
Tasters’ Notes: Laurie Hilger opines that her Silver Corona will be most refreshing to share with friends and family in a few weeks when the weather warms, and we think she is right. You can never go wrong with lemon, lime, and tequila, and the sparkling water is a nice touch.
5. Crown of Glory
By Margaret Kennedy
3-4 montmorency cherries that have soaked for at least a month in fine Kentucky bourbon
1 tsp. of syrup from the bourbon-soaked cherry jar
6 oz. Prosecco, chilled
2 mint leaves
Add cherries and syrup to a champagne flute glass. Pour in Prosecco and garnish with mint leaves.
Note: If you don’t have time to soak the cherries, the proper substitution for the bourbon-soaked cherries and syrup is 3-4 luxardo cherries (the original maraschino cherry) with a large splash of bourbon.
Symbolism: The crisp sparkling wine represents the beauty and innocence of the virgin martyr. The red cherry syrup represents the blood shed of the martyrs. The fine Kentucky bourbon represents the richness of our Catholic faith and traditions. And the mint leaves represent a fresh new springtime and renewal for our Holy Catholic Church. The cherries represent shining red rubies in the crown of glory!
Tasters’ Notes: We were not able to soak the cherries, and we had to use Toschini black cherries instead of luxardo, but we still enjoyed this delicious champagne cocktail. Taking syrup from the cherry jar was an excellent decision, and the mint garnish gives the drinker’s nose a fragrant surprise just as he is about to consume that pairs nicely with the drink’s flavor profile. The panelists were also impressed with Margaret’s sharp allegorizing.
6. M-m-m-my Corona
By Jeffrey Williams
1 oz. Crown Royal whiskey
1 oz. Cream of Coconut (Coco Lopez)
1 oz. Aperol liqueur
½ oz. orange juice
⅓ oz. simple syrup
Add all ingredients in a cocktail shaker with ice. Strain and serve in a martini glass with an orange twist garnish.
Symbolism: Crown Royal was selected as Corona means crown in Latin. Cream of coconut represents the palm trees that led to the martyrdom of St. Corona. The Aperol liquor is from the same Northern Italy region where her relics are preserved. The pink color of the drink represents the young female martyrdom of Saint Corona.
Tasters’ Notes: This cocktail looks great! Did you notice the Drinking with the Saints cocktail glass in the photo, which, ahem, we sell on our website? But tragically, we thought that the Coco Lopez cream of coconut was a liqueur rather than coconut milk’s richer and sweeter cousin (which, it turns out, it is). And so when we could not find it in the liquor store, we gave up on it. ‘Tis a shame, for our mouths were watering over the beautiful color of this drink. And what a great title!
7. The St. Corona
By Brian Keenan
2 oz. hard cider (We tried with both Bold Rock and Angry Orchard and preferred the Angry Orchard)
¾ oz. Goldschlager stirred on ice and strained into a cocktail glass.
1 dash grenadine
Pour cider and Goldschlager into a mixing glass with ice and stir. Strain into a cocktail glass and top with grenadine.
Symbolism: As St. Corona is especially venerated in Bavaria and Austria, a schnapps is fitting. Moreover, since she is a patroness of treasure hunters, Goldschlager seems especially appropriate. Finally, the grenadine’s red color symbolizes St. Corona’s blood shed for sake of Christ, and adds a nice sweet finish to the drink. The St. Corona. Enjoy.
Tasters’ Notes: A bold and adventurous outlier with an unconventional combination of ingredients. Not for the faint of heart.
8. St. Corona’s Cure-all Cocktail
By Sam Esparza
2 oz. gin (my preference is Roku Japanese Gin but feel free to use your favorite)
½ oz. ginger liqueur
½ oz. St Germain Elderflower liqueur
1 oz. tonic water
1 oz. Sprite
Shake all ingredients except the tonic water and Sprite, fill a Collins glass with ice and pour. Top with the tonic water and Sprite and garnish with a lemon twist.
Tasters’ Notes: Another heartbreaking moment. Despite our best efforts, we could not locate ginger liqueur in order to try what looks like a delicious recipe.
9. A Quarantine in Thyme
By Beth Richards
1½ oz. Crown Royal whiskey
2 oz. grapefruit juice
2 dashes Angostura bitters
1 sprig of thyme
Shake all ingredients except the sparkling water in a shaker with ice forty times. Strain into an old-fashioned glass with ice and top with sparkling water.
Tasters’ Notes: Beth gets an Honorable Mention for this one, if only for the title! The Crown Royal is a clever nod to the meaning of “Corona,” and the grapefruit juice pairs nicely with the whiskey. We recommend a grapefruit juice that is on the sweeter side; it will not overpower the drink.
By Tom Ward
2 oz. Calamity gin
1 tsp. Drambuie
Pour ingredients into a mixing glass with ice and stir until ice cold. Strain into a cocktail glass and serve without garnish (who would garnish in these complex times?).
Explanation: The coronavirus cocktail must demonstrate that harmony can emerge from apparent chaos. In our own case the chaos is due more to the opposition of the parts rather than their great number. And yet as Catholics we believe that although history is indeed catastrophic, it is eucatastrophic: the unexpected twist which brings order out of chaos, a happy ending out of a tragedy. As we know, one must never mix clear and brown, else disaster ensues. Likewise, one must never mix a novel coronavirus and human beings. Yet God in his providence has permitted this gruesome mixture. And we know by faith that the mixture will be good. And so I present to you that Eucatastrophe: a martini gone wrong but which somehow works. Cheers.
Tasters’ Notes: Believe it or not, Tom pulled it off. Although the Eucatastrophe is unlikely to surpass the martini in popularity, it really is a fine drink and something to keep in mind should catastrophe strike your supply of dry vermouth. And the choice of Calamity gin for a cocktail on this theme is inspired. But since Tom was one of the judges on our panel, we had to disqualify this intriguing concoction from the contest.