The Essence of Midsummer
Midsummer solstice is the time of year when the sun reaches its pinnacle in the sky and summer days are drenched with the year’s longest hours of daylight. Spring’s fertility has birthed a harvest that is ripe for the picking, and soon the days will shorten as harvesters chase the sun to bring in their yields.
“Solstice” comes from the Latin words sol (sun) and sister (to stand still). Accordingly, for centuries countrymen and women across many cultures have paused in synchrony with the sun, turning their energy to joyous Solstice festivals and bawdy rituals drenched in powerful overtones of fertility, romance and love.
Flowers seem particularly meaningful and symbolic in Solstice rituals. Girls gather flowers to place under their pillows to trigger dreams of future husbands. Unmarried women float floral wreaths across the river, hopefully into the hands of eligible bachelors on the opposite bank. Strong libations quite often fuel Solstice couplings, and they say that more Swedish children are born nine months after the Midsummer Solstice than at any other time of year.
Romance in a Glass
“This drink was inspired by the liquor itself,” Studer said, in reference to a limited edition gin from the Scottish distillery. “Midsummer Solstice is a special edition release from Hendrick’s formulated with floral essences. The recipe, though, remains a closely guarded secret. The distiller, Lesley Gracie, used the same flowers from a bridal bouquet to create the flavor profile. Most definitely an homage to the solstice rituals of yore! So, of course, when dreaming up this cocktail I wanted to use all of the flowers. I also added a little bit of crème de violet in the drink, for color and a little extra floral vibe.”
Studer said the departure from the more astringent flavors of traditional gin is a refreshing alternative. “Normally a lot of your London-style dry gins are very heavy on the juniper,” she explained. “This gin tastes like you’re actually standing in the center of the most beautiful garden in the midst of summer at its height. The aromas just kind of transport you to that place.”
For an added layer of floral depth, Studer turned to Crème de Violette, an intensely purple violet liqueur.
“It’s an important, integral part of the Aviation cocktail, which is your old pre-prohibition-style drink. But here I brought it in for that violet essence, and also for the color, to match the beautiful purple of the bottle. I just love this. Also, we are adding a little lavender syrup and fresh lemon.”
To finish the drink, Studer added a few drops of honeybee bitters (housemade bitters incorporating flowering herbs from the garden, spruce tips and dandelion root) in homage to a Pagan Midsummer wedding tradition in which mead made from fermented honey was included in marriage ceremonies between couples who wed during the Solstice. The moon that shone over the couple on their wedding night was dubbed “the honey moon.” Fittingly, as a final celebratory note, Studer popped the cork on a bottle of bubbly prosecco to top off the glass.