A few years ago I took a course on Renaissance literature and philosophy. Honestly, it was a lot more interesting than it sounds but with a few notable exceptions such as Copernicus’ heliocentric cosmology (placing the sun at the centre of the universe), most of these theories have become obsolete. The course taught me a lot about the mutability of science – I now picture future generations chortling over the Large Hadron Collider with the same sense of incredulity I read about the alchemical experiments of such a noted man as Isaac Newton.
One commonly accepted theory of this period held that the human body was filled with four basic substances called humours. An excess or deficiency of any of these would cause disability and disease and each was associated with distinct qualities, elements and seasons. Belief in this system lasted well into the 19th century and has much in common with Ayurvedic medicine still practiced today.
What has any of this to do with cocktails? Not a lot I’m afraid. Except that it was the first time I’d encountered the word sanguine (the ancient name for the humour of blood) in this context and I noted it would make a pretty name for a red drink. And that shows you can get inspiration for a cocktail from just about anywhere.
I was reminded of this thought when blood oranges recently came into season and decided to recreate an old recipe of mine that had previously gone unnamed. By swapping ordinary oranges for blood oranges it became the Sanguini. It’s essentially a martini version of a Harvey Wallbanger (a drink that is, perhaps rightly, out of fashion – at this point I could draw parallels between mixology and cosmology and the mutable nature of both but that would just be ridiculous) created for a vodka-loving friend one Sunday afternoon when I was low on fruit supplies. Neatly, the season associated with sanguine is Spring, which, with clocks going forward last night, is officially in full swing.
So what about a full set of cocktails based on the humours? An interesting addition to anyone’s drinks repertoire you might think, but given the remaining three substances are Yellow Bile, Black Bile and Phlegm I think it wise to hold off on that idea until Halloween.
2 fresh squeezed juice from a blood orange (mine were a little lacking in flavour so I added a few dashes of orange bitters but half and half of ordinary and blood orange might be advisable)
Shake over ice and strain into a cocktail glass. Garnish with a slice of blood orange rind.