Make Your Own Fig Vodka (in Honor of St. Augustine)

Tomorrow is the Feast of St. Augustine of Hippo (354-430), and it is not too late to make your own fig vodka in his honor. Why fig vodka? To make a Lady Continence cocktail, of course, one of our favorite recipes in Drinking with the Saints (see below). In case you were wondering, the fig pays tribute to St. Augustine’s conversion, which took place under a fig tree, while the name “Lady Continence” evokes a vision of the virtue of continence Augustine had shortly before converting.

To make fig-infused vodka…
Start with a liter of vodka (we recommend Tito’s) and 2 1/2 ounces of dried figs (we had ours blessed during a traditional blessing of herbs and fruits on the Feast of the Assumption).

fig vodka ingredients

Dice or quarter the figs into small pieces. This allows the figs to infuse the vodka more quickly–and to get in and out of the bottle easily.

fig vodka chopped figs

You can either put the figs directly into a bottle of vodka or, as we have done, put them into a specially designated bottle (with a homemade label) and pour vodka on top of them.

fig vodka fig piece over bottle

fig vodka pouring vodka

The recipe we consulted requires you to refrigerate the bottle of figs and vodka for three days, lightly shaking twice a day. We found, however, that if you keep the mixture at room temperature and shake lightly a few times, it will be ready in a matter of hours (six or eight and certainly within twenty-four). You will know when the vodka is ready when it turns a beautiful figgy color–and tastes like fig.

fig vodka with figs

When the mixture is ready, strain the figs out of the bottle with cheesecloth, and voila! you have very own fig-infused vodka.

Fig vodka is actually a good after-dinner sipping drink, but it also goes well in a Drinking with the Saints original, the Lady Continence:

Lady Continence
2 oz. fig vodka
½ oz. lemon juice
simple syrup made from 1½ tsp. honey and 2½ tsp. water (warm both in a saucepan and stir until honey is dissolved)
1 sliced fresh fig for garnish (if you can find one)

Pour all ingredients except fig into a shaker with ice and shake forty times. Strain into a cocktail glass or an old-fashioned glass filled with ice and garnish with half a fig.

Last Call
A toast to Saint Augustine: may our daily conversion be as sweet as the fruit of the fig tree and as intoxicating as a Lady Continence.

Happy Anniversary, S.P.!

Today is the eleventh anniversary of Pope Benedict XVI’s Summorum Pontificum, the document that on July 7, 2007 granted all priests the right to use the 1962 Roman Missal without the permission of their bishop. Last year we invented a cocktail for the occasion, and this year we’ll be drinking it again. Some More Um Pontificum 2


Some More, Um, Pontificum 
1 oz. gin
½ oz. Bénédictine liqueur
¼ oz. lemon juice
dash kirsch
lemon twist
Pour all ingredients except lemon twist into a shaker filled with ice and shake forty times (the biblical number for penance). Strain into a cocktail glass and garnish with lemon twist.


Allegorical Explanation
The Bénédictine honors the name that Joseph Ratzinger took upon his election to the Holy See.

The kirsch pays tribute to the Pontiff’s German heritage, and since kirschwasser is a cherry brandy, it also symbolizes Pope St. Gregory the Great, who according to legend was quite fond of the juicy red fruits (see Drinking with the Saints, p. 52). It is appropriate that Pope Benedict’s drink would incorporate a symbol of Gregory the Great, since Summorum Pontificum liberalizes the use of what is sometimes called the Gregorian Rite.

The lemon juice recalls the bitter opposition of tradition’s enemies to Pope Benedict XVI’s liturgical largesse. These enemies are alas still with us but we can use them to our spiritual benefit to grow holier and more charitable, just as we can use bitter ingredients to make a tasty drink.

The lemon twist, on the other hand, betokens not resistance to the Pope’s largesse but the largesse itself. In Drinking with the Saints, the twist is a symbol of St. Martin’s torn cloak generously given to a beggar who turned out to be Christ (p. 311). And because lemon rinds are oleaginous, secreting healthy essential oils, they are also symbolic of the sacraments that can now be celebrated with greater freedom according to the 1962 liturgical books.

As for the London dry gin, we like to think of it as a nod to all of the English-speaking supporters of Summorum Pontificum or an allusion to the earlier Agatha Christie indult.

A Toast
Reverend Fathers and recognizable Sisters, ladies and gentlemen: May what has begun in our day be brought to perfection, for the honor of God and of Our Lady and of all the Saints. Happy anniversary and many more!

Last Call
Be it to your bartender or your parish priest, never hesitate to ask: “Can I have Some More, Um, Pontificum?”

Recite over and over again these beautiful lines from Pope Benedict XVI until you have committed them to memory (which may be harder to do after the second round):

What earlier generations held as sacred, remains sacred and great for us too, and it cannot be all of a sudden entirely forbidden or even considered harmful. It behooves all of us to preserve the riches which have developed in the Church’s faith and prayer, and to give them their proper place (from his Letter to the Bishops accompanying the motu proprio).

B16 beer

Catholic Drinks for Memorial Day

Emil Kapaun

Fr. Emil Kaun celebrating Mass on the hood of a jeep during the Korean War. Fr. Kapaun is the only person in history to be awarded the U.S. Medal of Honor and declared Servant of God by the Catholic Church, the first step towards canonization.

Memorial Day honors those who have died serving our country, and although it is not a liturgical feast, it makes sense that Catholics–who are pretty good at remembering the departed–should mark this solemn occasion with more than just grilled hot dogs. This Memorial Day, when you raise a glass, toast to (and pray for) those who have fallen in defense of our nation. And if you’re uncertain what to put in that glass, we make the following suggestions:

Beer and Wine. Think domestic. After all, it’s a patriotic day. Of course, you can also enjoy English beer or French wine and tell your guests that these are tributes from our allies for saving their hinies twice in the last century.

michael patron saint of soldiersCocktails. St. Michael is the patron saint both of the U.S. armed forces and of the faithful departed, the first because of his role in defeating Satan and the second because he is the angel who escorts souls to their eternal reward. The St. Michael’s Sword cocktail is a DWTS original.  According to an old Irish legend, when Michael cast Lucifer out of Heaven, the devil fell on a blackberry bush and cursed and spat on the blackberries, thereby rendering them sour after September 29, the feast of Michaelmas. The St. Michael’s Sword contains blackberry brandy, as well as Jim Beam Devil’s Cut Bourbon, which comes in military-strength 90 proof. The “Angels’ share” is the portion of the whiskey that escapes into the air during distillation, but the “Devil’s cut” is the portion that seeps into the wood of the barrels. Jim Beam’s claims to have stolen this cut back from the Devil, and so we gratefully offer this portion to St. Michael for a job well done. Jim Beam Devils Cut

St. Michael’s Sword
1½ oz. Jim Beam’s Devil’s Cut bourbon
¾ oz. blackberry brandy
2 dashes orange bitters
1 cherry for garnish
Pour all ingredients except cherry in a shaker with ice and shake forty times. Strain into a cocktail glass. Use a cocktail spear (St. Michael’s sword) to transfix the cherry (the Devil, red with shame and rage).


Other Patronages. If there is a particular branch of the military you wish to honor, we’ve got you covered. All of the recipes to the drink suggestions can be found in Drinking with the Saints.

U.S. Army                                                           St. Martin of Tours, a Martlemas Martini

U.S. Army Cavalry                                            St. George, a St. George Martini

U.S. Army Chaplain Corps                              St. Titus, a Sidecar

U.S. Army Field Artillery                                St. Barbara, a Barbara cocktail

U.S. Army Infantry                                           St. Maurice, a St. Maurice or St. Moritz cocktail

U.S. Army Quartermaster Corps                    St. Martin of Tours, a Martlemas Martini

U.S. Army Special Forces (Green Berets)      St. Philip Neri, a Heart Warmer

U.S. Coast Guard                                                St. Christopher, a Christophe cocktail

U.S. Marines                                                       St. George, a St. George Martini

U.S. Navy                                                             St. Brendan, a St. Brendan’s Isle cocktail


More. Are you still unsatisfied? Then turn to these drinks with military names, even if they’re not terribly Catholic:

  • Admiral
  • Artillery
  • Aviation
  • B-52
  • Black Hawk
  • Navy Seal
  • Orange Bomber


Last Call. The offertory verse from the traditional Requiem Mass can be adapted into a touching Memorial Day toast: “May the standard-bearer St. Michael lead our fallen troops into the holy light which our Lord God once promised to Abraham and his seed.”

Drinks for Ascending on the Ascension

“Ye men of Galilee, why stand you looking up to heaven? This Jesus who is taken up from you into heaven, shall so come, as you have seen him going into heaven” (Acts 1:11).

ascension_detail_sm_laudarioA group of people staring blankly at the sky until a couple of angels snap them out of it: let’s hope that is not a description of a typical Drinking with the Saints party.  But it’s not hard to resist the temptation to celebrate the Ascension of our Lord, which was no mere “mission accomplished” celebration but the final phase in our redemption, when Christ opened the gates of Heaven for mankind for the first time. So regardless of whether you celebrate this Feast on a Thursday or a Sunday, you need to celebrate.


It was once a custom in Europe to eat fowl on the great Feast of the Ascension of our Lord Jesus Christ forty days after His Resurrection “because Christ ‘flew’ to Heaven.” Bakers in Germany followed this precedent by making pastries for the Ascension in the shape of various birds.

cold duckWe’d like to follow the precedent too, in our own special way. Tonight, have a drink associated with a bird. It could be a cider like Woodpecker, a lager liked Golden Eagle, or a wine like Rex Goliath (named after a rooster). Or why not lift an old page from American popular culture and have a bottle of Cold Duck? In the 1970s it was one of the best-selling sparkling wines in the U.S., with two million cases of E&J Gallo’s André Sweet Sparkling Red Cold Duck sold every year. Cold Duck can be traced to a Bavarian custom of mixing cold sparkling Burgundy with bottles of already-opened champagne. The practice, which was called cold end (kalte ende), came to be known as cold duck (kalte ente).

In the realm of cocktails, you can have something made with Greygoose vodka, Famous Grouse scotch, or Wild Turkey bourbon. Let your imagination–your knowledge of booze labels–be your guide.

Better yet, try a Phoenix Bird, the legend of which we hereby commandeer from the Phoenix-Fabelwesenhoary volumes of mythology and use as a symbol of our risen Lord flying out of the ash-heap of death up to the right hand of the Father. (Plus, it’s a good cocktail.)


Phoenix Bird
1 oz. bourbon
½ oz. crème de banana
½ oz. triple sec
1 oz. cream
Pour all ingredients into a shaker filled with ice and shake forty times. Strain into a cocktail glass.


Last Call

The Church traditionally uses Psalm 46:6 on this feast day, and you can too. One person says, “God is ascended with jubilee, alleluia!” and another replies, “And the Lord with the sound of the trumpet, alleluia!”


Heart Warmers!

St Francis de SalesIf you missed the feast of St. Francis de Sales on January 24 on the new calendar, take heart: God has given you a second chance today with the feast of St. Francis de Sales on the traditional calendar (January 29). And St. Francis de Sales is worth celebrating:  appointed Bishop of Geneva over an area that had become overwhelmingly Calvinist, he won back 70,000 souls to the Church through his patience, hard work, and gentleness: hence one of his nicknames, “The Gentleman Saint.” St. Francis is also called the “Doctor of Charity” for his keen psychological understanding of love and the human heart. Check out his Introduction to the Devout Life and you will readily agree.

For this heart-warming saint, we have two different Heart Warmer options depending on the weather and your own heart’s delight.

Heart Warmer #1 Heart Warmer 1
½ oz. vanilla liqueur
½ oz. peppermint white liqueur
½ oz. Amaretto
6 oz. hot black coffee
Pour all ingredients into an Irish coffee cup or coffee mug and stir.


Heart Warmer #2Heart Warmer 2
1½ oz. Kahlua
1 oz. vodka
1 tsp. vanilla extract
3 oz. milk
Pour all ingredients in an old-fashioned glass filled with ice and stir until very cold.


Last Call
Adapt this beautiful quote from St. Francis’ Treatise on the Love of God into a toast: “Love has neither convicts nor slaves, but brings all things under its obedience with a force so delightful that just as nothing is so strong as love, nothing also is so sweet as its strength.”

Forget Hump Day: Today is Plough Monday, and You Need a Drink


In the agrarian parts of England, the Monday after the Twelve Days of Christmas is traditionally known as Plough Monday, the time to say goodbye to Christmas merriment and return to the grindstone–or plow or desk or whatever. You can read about some of the charming customs of the day here.

I don’t know any “ploughmen,” but I do know plenty of people who could use a drink to ease their transition back to the daily grind. In honor of this tradition, turn to your favorite English beer or ale (Newcastle, Speckled Hen, etc.). Or for something warm on a cold work night, play on the plow theme with a Snow Plow:

Snow Plow Snow-Plow-Cocktail-8
1 oz. Bailey’s Irish cream
1 oz. coconut rum
½ oz. creme de cacao
10 oz. hot chocolate, or less if your glass is smaller
whipped cream
cocoa sprinkles
Pour Bailey’s, rum, creme de cacao, and hot chocolate into a mug or Irish coffee cup and stir. Top with whipped cream and sprinkle a little cocoa powder onto it.

Last Call
A toast: May the joys and blessings of the Christmas season forever soften our toils at the plow.

St. Simeon and Regnery Publishing

holed up 1

To celebrate their 70th anniversary, the good folks at Regnery (who publish DWTS), asked me to make a cocktail in honor of St. Simeon of Trier, the medieval hermit who stayed in the Porta Nigra, the silhouette of which appears as the colophon on the spine of every Regnery book. Regnery had the drink available during their 70th anniversary party on October 4, 2017–though to live up to their reputation as America’s most dangerous publisher, they added gin. Hence the Washington Post‘s coverage of the event included the line: “The bars were open, serving a gin-spiked cocktail inspired by the publisher’s patron saint (it’s a long story).”

Well, here’s the long story, and the drink.

When Henry Regnery founded the Henry Regnery Company in 1947, he chose as its logo the Porta Nigra, the world’s largest Roman city gate north of the Alps, located in present-day Trier, Germany. Henry chose this landmark to honor his grandfather Wilhelm, a winemaker from near Trier who immigrated to the United States in the 1870s. He also wanted this colophon to represent the passage from the uncivilized world of ignorance into an enlightened civilization.

Henry Rregnery colophonegnery may have also known that the Porta Nigra’s most famous occupant was a medieval recluse named Saint Simeon of Trier, a native of Sicily who received permission to be sealed up in a cell high in the gate tower from 1028 until his death in 1035. Not everybody understood Simeon’s vocation, and so when a flood ravaged the city and the nearby countryside, suspicious townsfolk assumed Simeon was a trouble-making sorcerer and pelted his cell with stones, breaking its only window. But Simeon persevered, and when he eventually died, he was buried in his cell in accordance with his wishes. Soon after numerous miracles were attributed to him, and not long after his death, the Porta Nigra was converted into a church, thus saving it from being destroyed by scavengers who used old buildings as quarries.

I see a lot in common with Saint Simeon and the Regnery Publishing family. Both have immigrant roots, both are not always understood by the masses and subject to pelting but both persevere. And the legacy of both, we hope, is to conserve the best of the past and to make the world less uncivilized and more enlightened.

In honor, then, of both Saint Simeon and Regnery, I present to you an original cocktail, the Holed Up.

Holed Up
2 oz. Blüfeld Riesling wine
1 oz. elderflower liqueur
Amarena cherry
1½ oz. club soda
1 dash angostura bitters
Build all ingredients into an old-fashioned glass filled with ice. Stir gently for a Russell Kirk version, violently for an Ann Coulter version.

holed up 2The Amarena cherry is in memory of St. Simeon’s homeland of Italy. Riesling wine honors the famous Mosel region of Germany, where Wilhelm Regnery worked as a winemaker and where St. Simeon spent his final years, while Blüfeld honors the color blue, the original color of conservatism before some nincompoop at NBC screwed things up with his “red” and “blue” states. Elderflower liqueur pays tribute to the wisdom of the elders which St. Simeon and Regnery have sought to conserve. And bitters reflect the bitter truth to which St. Simeon and Regnery are committed in season and out, despite all angry mobs.

To Regnery Publishing and to its founding family, its employees, and its authors: Through the intercession of the hermit St. Simeon of Trier, may their keep their heads holed up high!

St. Simeon’s feast day is May 1. Drink to his holy memory then, or every time you buy or read a Regnery publication.

A Cocktail for a Very Unusual Feast

januarius blood

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 januariuspoor 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.

Last Call
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.


An Ignatian Retreat to the Bottle

Ignatius of Loyola

The Jesuit Order isn’t exactly at its high-water mark of excellence these days, but that’s no reason to take it out on its founder, St. Ignatius of Loyola (1491-1556) . The Spanish saint’s feast is this Monday, July 31, and lest you have to think too hard about what to drink as you battle the summer heat, I would like to narrow down your options to one: a Mexico Pacifico. In DWTS I recommend this drink for the Mexican martyr Miguel Pro, but I don’t think he would mind sharing with his order’s founder. A Mexico Pacifico is easy to make and an excellent cocktail for summer: think of it as a more sublime iteration of the margarita.

Mexico Pacificomexico-pacifico
1½ oz. tequila
½ oz. lime juice
½ oz. passion fruit syrup
1 lime wheel for garnish
Pour all ingredients except lime wheel into a shaker with ice and shake forty times. Strain into a cocktail glass and garnish with lime wheel.

The key ingredient, passion fruit syrup, is not only what makes it so delicious but what gives the drink a connection to St. Ignatius. Jesuit missionaries in New Spain made great catechetical use of the Passion Flower, seeing in its details an allegory of Our Lord’s Passion: The flower’s five sepals and five petals call to mind the ten Apostles who deserted but did not betray Christ, the corona represents the Crown of Thorns, the vine tendrils symbolize the flagella used in the scourging, etc.

Last Call
In the Spiritual Exercises Ignatius provides helpful rules for the “discernment of spirits,” but today you can give that phrase a whole new meaning. Before the first round, adopt the motto of the Jesuits and say, “To St. Ignatius: For the greater glory of God!” Before the second round, say, “To St. Ignatius and the art of being Jesuitical!” Before the third round, paraphrase a memorable line from Pascal and say, “To St. Ignatius and his casuists, the lambs of God who take away the sins of the world!”


Three Beers for St. Thomas More

The great Saint Thomas More (1478-1535) was martyred for refusing to acknowledge King Henry VIII as head of the Church of England. More was beheaded on July 6, which prior to the 1950s was the Octave Day of the Feast of Saints Peter and Paul. More took consolation knowing that he was being martyred on a feast honoring St. Peter, to whose See he was remaining loyal at the cost of his life. In the traditional calendar prior to Vatican II, Thomas More’s own feast day was assigned to July 9, the first available day after his “heavenly birthday”–July 6 had the octave, July 7 Saints Cyril and Methodius, and July 8 Saint Elizabeth of Portugal. In the new, post Vatican-II calendar, St. Thomas More shares a feast day with Cardinal John Fisher on June 22, the date that Fisher was martyred for the faith.

Why bring all this up now? Because as far as I am concerned, the entire month of July is a good time to reflect on the life and legacy of Thomas More–and if you want a rather macabre reminder of this, consider the fact that since Thomas More was executed as a traitor, his head was placed on a spike on London Bridge for nearly a month until it needed to make way for other heads (his daughter Meg bribed an official and retrieved it when it was time to bring it down; otherwise More’s head would have been tossed into the Thames). We don’t know the exact date when this precious relic was thus preserved, but July 6 through July 31 is “nearly a month.”

And July is also a good time to drink beer. As it turns out, St. Thomas More enjoyed

Thomas More

“No large beer, please.”

“small beer”–that is, beer with an alcohol content low enough to be suitable for “women, children, and manual laborers”! (there was just enough alcohol in the brew to kill water-borne pathogens without making you groggy). Today, the term “small beer” is also used for: 1) the second runnings from a very strong beer mash and, 2) beers that are thought to lack flavor. For small beer in the first sense, the easiest to find is probably Anchor Small Beer, produced by the Anchor Brewing Company in San Francisco from the second runnings of their Old Foghorn Barleywine. For small beer in the second sense, turn to the blandest light beer you’ve ever tasted and have at it.

I also recently learned that Thomas More’s great-grandfather was a brewer. John Joye,

Trinity Hall Aldersgate Street

Trinity Hall, the former Falcon on the Hoop Brewery, where Thomas More’s great-grandparents lived.

whose daughter Johanna married William More (Thomas’ grandfather), was one of London’s many beermakers. In 1460, he and his wife Joan rented a brewery called The Falcon on the Hoop on the west side of Aldersgate Street, where they also resided. The brew house eventually became Trinity Hall, which survived into the nineteenth century (see photo). We don’t know for certain what the building looked like in John Joye’s day, but in 1782 it was said to have a stained glass featuring “a monkey in a monk’s habit shaving a dog, which is seated in a chair.” Now that would make a great beer label.

It might be difficult where you are to track down an authentic beer made in London, although the city has its fair share of craft breweries (see here). Many brews are associated with London, such as 1) summer ales, 2) IPAs, and 3) Porters. IPAs and Porters are only a couple of hundred years old. “Summer ale” is also a recent label, although these lighter, golden ales hearken to a medieval tradition of local parishes making “Whitsun Ales” (after Whitsunday or Pentecost) for fundraising and social activities.


Thomas More’s last words were not, as it is often reported, “I die the King’s good servant but God’s first” but rather “I die the King’s good servant and God’s first.” The difference indicates that even in defying the wishes of Henry VIII, More was being his good servant, bearing witness to the truth and calling him back to God. Even in disobedience Thomas More saw no conflict between serving God and his earthly monarch. The better a servant of God he was, the better a servant to his fellow men. Period. It is a truth worth reflecting upon in our own day and age.

We can take More’s profound statement and turn it into a toast honoring him: “To St. Thomas More: The king’s good servant, and God’s first!”

Alehouse medieval

A medieval alehouse.