Blood Moon Birch and Chaga Cocktail
In honor of last night’s Blue Moon/ Blood Moon/ Supermoon, I crafted this very special coconut-chaga cocktail. It was quite easy to make - try it yourself!
The full moon in winter is a thing of beauty: the world is illuminated by the silvery beams reflecting off of a blanket of snow. The landscape of the night is brightened almost enough for you to think that perhaps dawn is coming a bit early, but the long shadows and eerie white glow show us a world that is unfamiliar but beautiful. A full moon ski through white-barked birches and snowy woods makes you feel as if you are in a chilly dreamland.
The moon calls to me. When it is full, I am filled with a restless desire to get out into this dream world. This is when I go on night hikes and middle-of-the-night skis. I am fortunate enough to live in a place where it is safe to do this, but even if I lived somewhere that one should remain indoors during the nighttime hours, I would take myself on a little adventure - even just subconsciously.
How does the moon affect you? Do you feel moody and restless? Do you feel quiet and introverted? Does it make you want to climb a mountain and have wild sex and howl? Start paying attention to how you feel during different points during the moon’s cycle. You may be surprised at how consistent your experiences are.
This cocktail embodies the feeling of a full moon, for me - the chill of the winter night air, the luminous glow of the moon and her beams, the scents of birch sap just beginning to flow.
Birch is a delightful unexpected flavor. It tastes a bit like rootbeer and wintergreen, a fresh and spicy flavor of cold woods. Methyl salicylate is what lends birch its minty flavor and is the pure oil of wintergreen. It is a lot like acetyl salicylate, which is aspirin. It has medicinal qualities, such as anti-inflammatory and fever- reducing. Like aspirin, it is toxic in large quantities - but a little (a few drops of extract) can be both pleasant and delicious (but should not be used by pregnant or nursing mothers or small children.) Birches are full of delightful uses, from syrups, beverages, beer, wine, or vinegar brewed from the sweet sap (like maple) to intensely-flavored birch sugar to teas made out of the leaves or branch tips. Powdered cambium can be added to flour mixtures, and the wood can be used as a flavorful smoke to cure fish and meat. The bark can be formed into everything from cups to canoes and the sap is sometimes used as a form of glue.
To make birch tincture:
Cut up small birch branches into fine pieces and fill a jar about halfway with them. Top with high-proof vodka and let sit about 6 months, then strain.
Chaga (Inonotus obliquus) is the gold of the northern forests. It looks like a strange black growth on the exterior of a birch tree, but once you break it open you discover a golden interior with a pleasant, spicy scent reminiscent of vanilla. It is a fungus that grows mostly on birches, and is typically found in northern climates. It has been praised in Asia for centuries as “the Mushroom of Immortality” because of its many medical uses; It is known to be anti-inflammatory, antiviral, and antiseptic. It strengthens the immune system, promotes digestion, and encourages circulation. It may even be a cure for cancer, and especially useful as it doesn’t harm healthy cells and is safe to consume long-term.
To make Chaga-Infused brandy:
Fill a jar about 1/4 of the way full of dried crushed chaga, then fill the rest of the way with good quality brandy. Let infuse for 4-6 weeks, shaking every few days.
Blood Moon Cocktail:
The ingredients for this cocktail are based on the Southern classic cocktail “milk punch,” a concoction of brandy, nutmeg, and silky whole milk from the days of horse-drawn sleigh riding. It can be served warm or cold - in this case, it’s served cold. It’s positively delightful how this cocktail transforms as you slowly sip it, going from a strong punch of brandy to a more mild creamy sweetness.
1 c. whole milk
1/2 c. cream
1/2 c. coconut cream
2 Tbs. maple syrup
fresh birch twigs or 1/2 tsp. birch extract
1.5 - 2oz chaga brandy (per cocktail; this mixture should make 2-4 depending on the size of your molds)
- In a small saucepan, heat the whole milk, cream, coconut cream, maple syrup, and birch twigs or extract until thickened, just under a simmer. Let the mixture cool to room temp and then pour into spherical molds and freeze until solid, at least 4 hours.
- Carefully unmold the round spheres and place them into martini glasses. Pour 1.5 - 2 oz of chaga brandy into the glass, then grate some fresh nutmeg over the top and serve. Sip slowly.
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