I’ve always been drawn to the macabre. Scary stories, serial killers, horror films, ghost and vampire legend and lore—even as a young child I found myself seeking these things out. Not to mention my mother is just as fascinated as I am, so I suppose it’s also a bit inherent. But perhaps the thing that most shaped and nurtured my love for the darker things in life was a book I happened across in my elementary school library.
When I was about ten or eleven, I was a library monitor. A volunteer gig at my school that allowed the bookish and lonely to escape class for a while and help the school librarian. I loved it because she’d bake for us and let us read and we each had a shelf to maintain. Mine was the history section and was filled with mostly textbooks and a small collection of dusty history books for. One fateful day I was shelving and organizing when a deep red book spine caught my eye. I’d never noticed it before.
Intrigued I pulled it out for a closer look. The title was something along the lines of Notorious Killers Throughout History or Real Monsters Throughout History. The book was a compilation of all these fascinating people throughout time who had some seriously twisted hobbies.
Vlad the Impaler. Prince and warrior. Liked to impale his victims and supposedly dined among the corpses. The brief history was accompanied by an old Germen woodcut that depicted a forest of dead bodies on spikes with a happy looking Vlad dining among them. Then there was Elizabeth Bathory, the Blood Countess, who supposedly bathed in the blood of her victims to maintain her youth. She was also fond of torture and the book was not shy about disclosing her methods.
Gilles de Rais. H.H. Holmes. Jack the Ripper (complete with crime scene photos). Richard Speck and countless others. The descriptions and images were graphic, shocking. I couldn’t believe this book was in an elementary school library. How had no one caught this? I knew I had to do something about it. So I checked it out…multiple times…over the next several months.
I never told a soul about that book. Not a friend or teacher, certainly not the sweet librarian. I was able to sneak it past her because I could scan the books out myself. I read and re-read every page of that book. I was too afraid it would be banned and taken away. Which in retrospect it probably should have been. I studied the images over and over. Absorbing every gruesome detail. What can I say? I’d like to think it improved my character more than anything else.
So what better way to celebrate my favorite month than with a Halloween cocktail series inspired by some of these historical figures? Each drink is reminiscent of its real-life counterpart in some way or another. All are gruesome and haunting enough to serve at any upcoming Halloween parties you might have planned. I hope you enjoy them as much as I did!
Elizabeth Bathory was a 16th century Hungarian countess who went down in history as one of the most twisted female serial killers of all time. Nicknamed the Blood Countess she was rumored to have killed anywhere from 80-650 young women. Some say she even bathed in the blood of her victims. While some historians argue that she was framed for these heinous crimes as part of a political scheme, she still maintains her place among some of the most sadistic killers of all time.
- Tall glass
- Crushed ice
- 1 oz. Pomegranate simple syrup*
- A few dashes orange bitters
- 3 oz. blood orange soda
- 2 oz. bourbon
- 1-2 oz. red wine
Pour simple syrup and bitters into glass. Fill glass with crushed ice. Next, slowly pour in blood orange soda, bourbon, and finally wine. Pour slowly and carefully to create a layered effect. You could even pour over the back of a spoon to help with this.
Sange de Dracula
Sânge de Dracula (Blood of Dracula in Romanian). Vlad III aka Vlad the Impaler was a 15th century Romanian prince born in Transylvania. As well as being credited as one of the inspirations behind Bram Stoker’s Dracula he gained notoriety for his favored method of execution; impalement. It is said he’d leave forests of impaled corpses on the outskirts of the city to send a message. Celebrated as a national hero by some for defending his country, it’s debated whether or not his cruelty was exaggerated by his enemies. In any event his ruthless and inhumane reputation has long outlived his reign. FUN FACT: His father was Vlad Dracul (meaning dragon or devil) and he was known as Dracula (Son of the Dragon/Devil).
- 2 Tbsp. raspberry preserves
- One large red wine ice cube
- Fresh raspberries dipped in raspberry preserves for garnish
Place preserves in the bottom of a large wine glass along with your ice cube. Fill glass with champagne, garnish with raspberries.
Tea time in Whitechapel. Perhaps the most notorious serial killer of all time, Jack the Ripper stalked the streets of London’s East End in the late 1800’s claiming of the lives of at least five women. He targeted prostitutes that frequented the dark streets and alleyways and savagely mutilated his victims, in progressing severity. While countless suspects were investigated at the time and in subsequent years, no one has ever been held accountable. The Ripper’s notoriety, fueled by the mystery surrounding him, has never faltered. This drink is called From Hell, taken from a letter police received from a man purporting to be the killer…
- 1 oz. rose and lemon simple syrup*
- 2 oz. gin
- 4 oz. strong brewed Earl Grey Tea
- 1 egg white
- Splash of lemon
- Rose petal garnish
Brew two tea bags in one cup of water for about 4 minutes and allow to cool completely. In a cocktail shaker combine all ingredients except for the ice and garnish and shake very well. Then add ice to the mixer and shake again. Double strain into a cocktail glass and garnish with rose petal.
Bloody Mary Bloody Mary
That’s not a typo. An origin theory for the name of this cocktail is that it came from Queen Mary I of England who reigned from 1553-1558. She was nicknamed Bloody Mary because of her execution of over 300 subjects who she deemed heretics and had burnt at the stake. Which averages out to about 60 a year. This made her extremely unpopular among the public. She was striving to undo everything her infamous father Henry VIII had done before her—her goal being to restore Catholicism to England. In the end, unable to produce an heir, Mary’s protestant half-sister Elizabeth went on to rule and restored Anglican faith to England which Mary had murdered hundreds to eradicate.
For the Mix
Makes enough for 2-3
- 3 lbs. tomatoes halved or quartered
- 5 cloves garlic peeled
- Salt and pepper
- Olive oil
- ¼ tsp. cayenne pepper
- ¼ tsp. ground ginger
- 2 Tbsp. olive brine
- ¼ tsp. paprika
- ¼ tsp. chili powder
- 1 tsp. chili garlic sauce
- Juice from ½ lemon
For the Drinks
- Beet ice cubes
- Smoked salt (I used an smoked spice blend from Trader Joe’s) plus lemon juice to rim the glass
- Garnish ideas: roasted mini red pepper, purple heirloom carrot, radish, and roasted beet.
Make Ahead: Juice 5 beets with a 1 inch piece of ginger and 1 half a small jalapeno, seeds/vein removed. Season juice with salt, pepper, lemon juice, and anything else you you’d like. Pour in an ice cube tray and freeze overnight.
Bake tomatoes with garlic, salt and pepper, and a drizzle of olive oil at 350°F for 1 ½ hours. Once they have cooled a bit, blend and strain into a pitcher. Then mix in the rest of the spices and season to your liking. Here is a another good example of homemade Bloody Mary mix.
To make the drinks squeeze lemon juice in a shallow dish and dip a tall glass into smoked salt mixture. Fill glass with beet ice cubes. Pour in 2oz. vodka and Bloody Mary mix, stir well. Garnish and enjoy!
*A note about simple syrup. Simple syrup is made by combining equal parts sugar and water and heating on the stove until sugar is melted. To flavor simple syrup simply add in herbs, lemon zest, ginger, rose petals, etc… and simmer until desired flavor is achieved. Let syrup cool completely before using in drinks.