I sat down in the classroom portable after lunch recess and grabbed my book. I don't remember what it was I had been reading-- or pretending to read, more likely-- during Silent Sustained Reading [SSR]. I do remember that my Language Arts & Social Studies teacher, Mr. Burns, popped in a new CD as we sat down to read. He swore it'd be something we'd appreciate. 

We all rolled our eyes at the first track, a dainty sounding piano tune. We were 13 and 14 year olds in the mid-90s, after all, and this sure wasn't Nirvana. I could hear exasperated sighs from my classmates as they asked why on earth he'd make us listen to Yanni. The humanity! 

Then the second track started, and everyone shut right up. 

I probably don't remember what book I was reading that day because I became so astounded by what I was hearing that I don't think I read a word. After SSR was over, I remember sheepishly asking Mr. Burns (who bore a striking resemblance to John Arbuckle-- a fact we young teens never let him forget) what we had just listened to. 

"It's called Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness," he said. "Have you heard of Smashing Pumpkins?"

This is probably the most uncool way to be introduced to a band. You may be thinking, You were introduced to Smashing Pumpkins through your 8th grade Social Studies teacher? Yes. Yes I was. I'm sure I'd encountered the Pumpkins before on MTV or the radio at some point before then, but I have no recollection of that now. All I remember is Mr. Burns brimming with pride at proving the room of middle schoolers wrong. 

Silent Sustained Reading changed my life that day... Just not in any of the ways educators meant it to. 

Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness was released on October 24, 1995, and I turned 13 just a couple weeks later. We're both Scorpios, Mellon Collie and I, which probably says something about why I ended up so obsessed with this album. Wailing guitars, growling vocals, fluttering strings, and melodramatic lyrics combined powers to create a sonic trap for dark teenagers like myself, and set-off a years-long devotion to Smashing Pumpkins that carried me through the throes of high school and being a teenage girl. Their music was my coming of age. 

I'm sure this is informative for people who have met me as an adult. I can hear the echoes of my friends' voices now: "That explains a lot."

You don't even know.  

But I'm not writing this now as a celebration of Mellon Collie's 20th anniversary (though holy shit, I probably should've thought about that sooner). I'm writing about this because it's my birthday. 

I'll explain: When I finally got a copy of the album for myself, I listened to it on repeat. I remember popping the second disc into my CD player taking note of "Thirty-Three" when it came on.


Thirty-three, I thought. Hm. Thirty-three. That's, like, almost as old as my parents. I wonder if I'll ever be that old? 

Well, 13-year-old me: You made it! And one of the perks of making it this far is getting to enjoy a celebratory drink. 

And for a moment I lose myself
Wrapped up in the pleasures of the world
I've journeyed here and there and back again
But in the same old haunts I still find my friends
Mysteries not ready to reveal
Sympathies I'm ready to return
I'll make the effort, love can last forever
Graceful swans of never topple to the earth
Tomorrow's just an excuse
And you can make it last, forever you
You can make it last, forever you


(Excerpt of lyrics from "Thirty-Three")

Thirty-Three: A cocktail inspired by Smashing Pumpkins

Original recipe by Sara Galactica

What you'll need:

  • 1 oz orange honey syrup (below)
  • 1.5 oz gin
  • .5 oz Lillet blanc
  • .25 oz lemon juice
  • 1 oz buttermilk
  • 1 egg white from large egg
  • 3 dashes Angostura bitters

What to do:

Combine all ingredients in an empty cocktail shaker. "Dry shake" (meaning without ice) vigorously for about 20 seconds. 

Fill shaker about halfway with ice, replace lid, and shake it like you mean it for a full minute. I recommend wrapping your shaker in a towel to keep your fingers from freezing off. 

Strain into a cocktail or coupe glass. Garnish with orange twist.

Sip and marvel at your ability to make something that is both pretty AND delicious. Well done!

Orange Honey Syrup

What you'll need:

1/4 cup honey
1/4 cup water or juice from a fresh orange (about 1/2 of an orange)
thick zest from 1/2 an orange
1 strip of lemon zest
1/2 tsp clear alcohol such as vodka or moonshine* (optional)

What to do:

Combine honey with water/juice in a small saucepan and heat over medium, stirring until well combined.

Bring mixture to a simmer. Reduce heat to low and add lemon and orange zest. Simmer on low heat for 5 minutes.

Strain mixture into a jar or other storage vessel. Stir in vodka/other spirit until combined and cool thoroughly before using. 

*Use this if you're planning on storing syrup in your refrigerator for more than a week or so. Discard syrup if it starts to look cloudy. 

Fresno Zephyr, Autumn, 2004.

We don't see the ocean, not ever, but in July and August
when the worst heat seems to rise from the hard clay   
of this valley, you could be walking through a fig orchard
when suddenly the wind cools and for a moment   
you get a whiff of salt, and in that moment you can almost
believe something is waiting beyond the Pacheco Pass,
something massive, irrational, and so powerful even
the mountains that rise east of here have no word for it.

Excerpt from "Our Valley" by Philip Levine

It must have been October because the air conditioning was off. The sky was dark, but for the first time in months the air didn't feel heavy. I had been cleaning my Tower District apartment, motivated by the cooler weather. I tidied the stacks of essays and textbooks littered about my living room, washed the dishes that had surely been sitting in the kitchen sink for too long, and resolved to actually hang my clean clothes up this time. I had a new candle burning. I think it was blue... It smelled blue, like rain-drenched pine branches. 

A bright breeze swept through my windows and screen door. It was a fresh burst of coastal air warmed by its journey into the dry desert of the San Joaquin Valley, and it stopped me in my tracks. Goosebumps prickled my arms as I stood dumbfounded in the middle of my apartment. My lungs rejoiced, like coming up for air while swimming. 

I wanted to capture the elegant fragments of memory from my time in Fresno in a cocktail. I could crack jokes about the smog or poke at the problems I saw, but the truth is I spent some of my most formative years and met some of the most important people in my life while I lived there. There's a sweet spot in my heart when I think of the city, and it deserves higher expectations than it receives. 

Working with smoke. 

This cocktail involves capturing smoke. There are fancy contraptions for doing this now, but you really only need two extra tools to do this painlessly at home: A mason jar with lid, and a lighter or matches. 

Infusing cocktails with smoke at home. |

To capture the smoke, put your dried bits on an overturned mason jar lid (shown above). I used dried rose petals and a cardamom pod with excellent results, but I'll bet dried orange peel or black tea would also work beautifully. 

Use your lighter or matches to get your dried material smoldering (no flame necessary). Once you start seeing smoke, place your upside-down mason jar over the lid. Once filled with smoke, carefully lift the jar and leave it overturned on the counter while you discard the burnt bits of matter from your lid.

Turn the jar back over and place the lid on top (you can tighten the ring or not). Set aside until you're ready to infuse your cocktail. 

Rose Simple Syrup

  • 1/4 cup dried rose petals
  • 1 cup sugar, agave nectar, or honey
  • 1 cup water

In a non-reactive saucepan, combine sweetener and water. Heat on medium heat on stove while stirring regularly until sweetener is dissolved. 

When syrup is about to simmer, add rose petals. Bring to full simmer and allow to bubble on low heat for 5 minutes. 

Remove pan from heat and allow to cool for up to 15 minutes. Strain through a fine mesh sieve lined with cheesecloth or paper towel. Store in a clean bottle or jar for use. 

Combine with seltzer water or club soda for a delicate rose soda.

Keep in refrigerator for up to a month (discard if it begins to appear cloudy). 

Fresno Zephyr, Autumn, 2004

What you'll need:

  • 1.5 oz gin
  • .5 orange liqueur (such as Cointreau or Grand Marnier)
  • .5 oz rose simple syrup (see above)
  • 7-10 drops apple cider vinegar
  • 5 drops orange blossom water*
  • A jar of smoke (see above)

What to do:

Combine all liquids in an empty cocktail shaker, secure lid, and shake without ice for about 10 seconds. 

Pour contents of shaker into the jar of smoke, secure lid, and shake/swirl gently for about 5 seconds. Immediately pour cocktail back into shaker (or into a cocktail pitcher).** Don't leave the cocktail in your smoke jar for longer than 5-7 seconds-- you don't want your drink tasting like an ash tray. 

Partially fill shaker/pitcher with ice, and stir your cocktail with a long handled spoon for 45 seconds. The goal here is twofold, just like with shaking: Temperature and dilution.

I garnished the drink with a single, fresh rose petal, but you could use a dry rose petal or orange twist as garnish instead.


*Yes, I know that the orange trees don't bloom in October in Fresno, but the groves are a big part of the valley (and the blossoms are heavenly come Springtime). Find orange blossom water at middle eastern markets, in some grocery stores (I spied mine at Whole Foods) and online. 

**Your jar of smoke will be enough to infuse around 4 cocktails, so just keep a lid on it until you're done. Simply take the lid off when you're done (you may want to do this outside). 

Boozy Chocolate Milkshake featuring Fernet-Branca!

National Chocolate Milkshake Day is September 12th... Not that you needed an excuse to enjoy a chocolate milkshake!

This is a sponsored post (full details provided at the end).  

Boozy chocolate milkshake featuring Fernet Branca! | recipe at

The milkshake as we know it today is actually a pretty recent invention. If you'd ordered a milkshake in the 1880s, for example, you would've ended up with a whiskey and egg cocktail, not too dissimilar to eggnog. Drinks made with syrups and ice creams gained traction in the early 1900s, and mixed shakes (or "frosteds") were made possible in the 1930s by fancy freezers and electric mixers. Soda fountains of the 1940s and 50s further popularized the drinks, and the shakes we drink today haven't changed much since then. 

I've had lots of great milkshakes in my day, but some of my favorites were ones we made at home growing up. Sometimes my mom would get fancy and break out the blender, but we couldn't always be bothered to dirty another dish. Instead, milkshakes in our house often consisted of dropping a couple scoops of ice cream into a tall glass and pouring milk over top. We'd plunge spoons deep into the glass and slowly stir until the ingredients combined, licking the drips from the sides of the glass as we worked. 

Boozy chocolate milkshake featuring Fernet Branca! | recipe at

The vanilla or chocolate shakes we made growing up were elegant in their simplicity, but I was feeling inclined to try something a bit more sophisticated and complex to celebrate National Chocolate Milkshake Day. 


Fernet-Branca (pronounced fer-NET BRAHN-kuh) is a complex herbal liqueur created in Milan, Italy in 1845 by Bernadino Branca. Bernardino-- a self-taught alchemist-- designed the bitter amaro to settle the stomach. The world's leading digestif, it is a lightly sweet aged amaro (bitter liqueur), deep amber in color. The pungent aroma of bitter orange, peppermint oil, saffron and spice reminds me of walking through eucalyptus groves where I grew up in California, at once earthy and vibrant. 

Fernet-Branca, by Jesús Dehesa on Flickr. 

Fernet-Branca, by Jesús Dehesa on Flickr. 

On the palate Fernet-Branca has deep flavors of butterscotch and citrus, with hints of cocoa. The bold finish leaves hints of espresso and campfire smokiness on the tongue, as well as a light, peppermint mouthfeel. These rich flavors and scents are a perfect match for the deep, dark chocolate flavors I love in a milkshake. 

Recipe: Boozy Chocolate Milkshake featuring Fernet-Branca

... With adaptations for just about anyone! 

By  Sara Galactica

I wanted to enhance the deep caramel and herbal flavors of Fernet-Branca with the addition of coffee liqueur. Experienced bakers and chocolate connoisseurs know that coffee is a natural partner for chocolate, providing a darker, more complex chocolatey flavor.

It's unlikely that you'll taste much coffee or booze in this shake, but you will experience a surprising depth of flavor due to the brilliant complexity of Fernet-Branca. 

Boozy chocolate milkshake featuring Fernet Branca! | recipe at


What you'll need:

Optional toppings: Whipped cream, sprinkles, cherry, chopped nuts, chocolate sauce, whatever!

Special equipment: Blender, immersion blender, or a good, old fashioned tall glass & a spoon. 

*Not sure if you're ready to commit to a full bottle of Fernet-Branca? The miniature bottles I found at my local BevMo would be the perfect way to test drive this complex spirit. Fair warning: You might end up hooked!

What to do:

Combine all ingredients in your blender, immersion blender cup, or tall glass.

Blend/stir carefully until well combined and smooth. 

Top with your favorite toppings, or just dig right in with a spoon or straw! 

Vegan/dairy-free adaptation: Use your favorite vegan or dairy-free ice cream and milks. My homegirl, Kelsey, over at Your Token Vegan Friend recommends Coconut Bliss Dark Chocolate or So Delicious Chocolate ice creams. 

For a milkier, thinner shake: Add 1-3 tablespoons of milk or half-and-half

For an extra chocolatey shake: Add 1 tablespoon of rich chocolate syrup such as the Hot Cakes Dark Chocolate Sauce pictured above (which also happens to be vegan). 


Boozy chocolate milkshake featuring Fernet Branca! Perfect for National Chocolate Milkshake Day. | recipe at

Happy National Chocolate Milkshake Day, everyone! 

I hope you take a moment to celebrate for celebration's sake on September 12th. 

Disclosure: This is a sponsored post in collaboration with Fernet Branca. I received a bottle of Fernet Branca and a gift card for ingredients in exchange for writing this post. I did not receive any additional compensation. I don't not make money from the sale of any products linked on this post. 

Floating in the sun on Lake Whatcom, Summer 2015.

We packed backpacks and tote bags, put on our swimsuits, and headed out for an afternoon at the lake. Once arrived my sisters and I slung our candy-colored floats over our shoulders and made our way down the trail in our sandal-clad feet. A soft breeze stirred the warm air as we sought the perfect spot. We craned our necks to find groups of people frolicking in the tiny coves dotted along the shore, tucked-in between craggy rocks and blackberry brambles. 

We came along an uninhabited nook and secured our bags in the rocks and bushes before gingerly climbing down into the lake. Beers stowed in drink holders we each pushed off into the water on our floats, knees and bellies and shoulders exposed to the sun. Boats and jet skis sent mild waves across the lake, and we bobbed and rocked in the water as we gently kicked our feet.  

North Shore, Lake Whatcom. Photo by my sister, Andrea. 

North Shore, Lake Whatcom. Photo by my sister, Andrea


I'd push out into the lake and let the wind and waves send me back to the shore where I'd grab a handful of cherries or chips before paddling back out into the water. Occasionally I'd take a brief dip into the water so I could dry off as I floated in the sun. When my skin felt warm again I'd let the lake send me back to the shady spots under the lazy trees that arched their backs over the water. I'd gaze into the canopy to watch the birds hop between branches, triumphant sunbeams pushing their way through layers of leaves as the water lapped against the rocky shore. 

North Shore, Lake Whatcom. Photo by my sister (and birthday girl) Emily.

North Shore, Lake Whatcom. Photo by my sister (and birthday girl) Emily.


When I started to think about making a drink in honor of my sister's birthday, my mind drifted back to that day on the lake during her last visit home. Lake floating is one of her favorite summer pastimes, and it was a high priority on her to-do list during her stay. What better way to celebrate her than to capture that experience in a drink? 

North Shore, Lake Whatcom. Photo by me.

North Shore, Lake Whatcom. Photo by me.


This cocktail is bright, citrusy, and light on the tongue. It is warm shoulders, rosy cheeks, and the mirrored sparkle of sunshine on the surface of a lake.

Cocktail: Floating in the sun on Lake Whatcom, 2015. Gin, orange liqueur, pale ale syrup, lemon juice. Recipe by Sara Galactica. |

Cocktail recipe: Floating in the sun on Lake Whatcom, Summer 2015 (a.k.a. "Lake floating")

What you'll need:

  • 1 oz gin
  • 1 oz orange liqueur (such as Cointreau)
  • 1 oz pale ale syrup, recipe below 
  • 1 oz fresh lemon juice

What to do:

Add all ingredients to an empty cocktail shaker. 

Fill shaker halfway with ice, seal, and shake vigorously for 45 seconds.

Strain into a cocktail ("martini") or coupe glass.

If desired: Garnish with a lemon, orange, or grapefruit twist. 

Pro-tip: Cover shaker in a towel while shaking to keep your hands from freezing! 


Pale Ale syrup: 

What you'll need:

What to do:

Combine sugar, water, and honey in a medium saucepan, stirring until just combined.

Slowly add beer to the saucepan, being careful not to allow it to fizz over. Stir gently to combine and place pot on medium-low heat, stirring often.

Bring mixture just to a simmer. Don't leave the stove while heating this mixture. If you aren't careful the fizz can overflow as the mixture heats up, so keep an eye out. 

Reduce heat to lowest setting and allow to reduce to 12 oz of syrup (not quite halfway). Allow to cool before using and store in a clean jar or bottle. Keep in refrigerator for up to 2 weeks. 

The return to rain and cooler weather pleases me, but I'm glad to have this recipe for those days when I need a little sunshine in my life. I hope it is the same for you. 

Cocktail: Floating in the sun on Lake Whatcom, 2015. Gin, orange liqueur, pale ale syrup, lemon juice. Recipe by Sara Galactica. | 

Day 22/33 of the Galactic Challenge

When I started thinking about running a challenge, the motivation was simple: Let's make something. 

It's easy to talk myself out of making things sometimes: I have important things to do, I'm not feeling very motivated, I'm tired, I've got obligations & responsibilities, I just want to turn my brain off for a second... There are lots of excuses not to create, and I actually think they're all pretty good ones (good enough to keep me from doing it, anyway). But when I look back on my day, the level of fulfillment I feel is so much higher when I took the time to make something. Even if it didn't take much time at all. 

So I thought it'd be cool to challenge myself to make something for a little over a month, and I figured it might be fun to have others join in. I'm turning 33 this Fall, and it feels like a Very Big Year to me. I want to run another challenge leading up to my birthday, and thought, Why not 33 minutes a day for 33 days?

What I didn't count on was how incredible it would be to see other people make things and include me in that process. I know that not everyone who is participating is doing so publicly, and that's just fine. But between the emails I've received from participants and the photos tagged on Facebook and Instagram, I get this excited little flutter in my core of cores. My friends kids are making things! Authors are writing! Artists & illustrators are drawing! Knitters are knitting! I didn't realize how very powerful it would be to witness the spark in other people. 

I'd like to bottle that feeling and drink it every morning. 

So in celebration of the remaining days of this challenge, I thought it'd be fun to share a little slideshow of things people have made and tagged with the #galacticchallenge tag on Instagram. 

Thank you to all of the challenge participants for jumping in with me, even if you aren't hash-tagging it up. We've got just a few days left, so let's get this. 

Go forth and make something, 


Boozy Horchata

My good friend, Erik, was born on the 4th of July, and every year we gather at my family's house with a bunch of friends & family and drink in his-- and America's-- honor. This year we decided to go with cuisine that is as American as any barbecue: Sopes, elote, chile, tres leches cake, pan dulce, and of course: Horchata. 

But isn't that Mexican food, Sara?

Yeah, I guess? But also: I've only ever eaten these things in America, often prepared by other Americans who cherish their family's heritage. What is our country if not a messy combination of disparate origin stories, and common hope for a more beautiful future? I like a grilled hotdog as much as the next person, but there's a whole lot of corn and beans in our country's past, too. 

Horchata is a tasty, cold, cinnamon-y rice & almond milk beverage often found in Mexican restaurants and markets. It's refreshing and sweet, and it's the perfect thing to have on hand during the summertime. 

Also: It works really well with booze. 

Now, I'm going to preface this "recipe" with a big old disclaimer: I cheated. I cheated big time. And I'm going to tell you to cheat, too, because the result was freaking delicious. You don't actually *need* to make this from scratch if you don't feel like it. Will you feel proud for taking the DIY approach? If you're that kinda person, maybe you will. But, honestly: If you aren't going to tell, I won't either. 

I made a batch 3x as large as the one I'm sharing here (yield was about 3 gallons), so this recipe is based off of math. Feel free to make adjustments to suit your taste. You might like things more/less boozy, or sweeter, or whatever. That's cool! Follow your tastebuds. 

Also, I'm sorry: My camera that takes the pretty pictures is currently out of commission. Trust me for now. I'll add photos someday. 


Boozy Horchata for a crowd

by Sara Galactica

Serves 10-12

In addition to being delicious, this punch also happens to be vegan and dairy-free (and gluten-free depending on the extracts you choose). 

What you'll need:

  • 1/2 gallon almond milk
  • 20 ounces rice milk/rice-only horchata 
  • 1/2-1 cup heavy simple syrup (use 2:1 sugar to water ratio)
  • 6 ounces rum (gold)
  • 6 ounces tequila (gold)
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 1/2-1 vanilla bean (optional)
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/2-1 teaspoon almond extract (optional)
  • Ground cinnamon to taste 

A couple of notes:

I used "original" flavor almond milk-- not unsweetened, but not sweetened all to hell, either. You can use whatever flavor you like, just make sure to add the simple syrup in small doses to get the sweetness right if you do get a sweetened/flavored one. 

I made rice-only horchata which was completely unsweetened. This is a good recipe for our purposes, but only go as far as straining the horchata if you follow the same path-- no need to add anything else after that. If you want to use store bought rice milk you won't get any judge-y side-eye from me. Just make sure you follow the notes above and take care with your sweetener if you use a rice milk that has sugar added. 

If you want to go full-on traditional and make the horchata itself from scratch, I recommend you start with this recipe by NoshOn.It. I haven't made this recipe, but after researching for A LONG TIME, it seems to make the most sense. 

What to do:

Combine everything in a one-gallon punch bowl, drink dispenser, or pitcher, and stir well (I used about 1 teaspoon's worth of ground cinnamon in the punch). 

Let it all hang out for 2-3 hours in the refrigerator to get nice and cold. 

Stir well before serving over ice in your favorite punch glass or large bucket/rocks glass. Sprinkle with cinnamon if desired.

Yields approximately 10-12 servings (8-ish oz per serving).

Keep any leftovers in the refrigerator for up to one week. 


But, Sara: What if I just want a single drink? 

I get that. You have two options: 

1. Make a big-ass batch (technical term) and drink it over the course of a week or so (y'know... like medicine), or

2. Try this:

Boozy Horchata for one

  • 3 oz almond milk
  • 1 oz rice milk
  • 1/2 oz heavy simple syrup (2:1 sugar to water ratio)
  • 1/2 oz rum (gold)
  • 1/2 oz tequila (gold)
  • Pinch ground cinnamon
  • 3 drops vanilla extract

Combine all ingredients in a cocktail shaker and fill about halfway with ice. Shake vigorously for around 15 seconds.

Strain over ice into a large bucket/rocks glass, or strain into an empty cocktail glass to serve up. 

Garnish with ground cinnamon if desired. 

June Third: A Cocktail Inspired by Gilmore Girls

Anyone who has seen Gilmore Girls knows the significance of June 3rd, but since it's a pretty huge spoiler I'm not going to go into detail. All I'll say is:

  1. If a gimlet and a margarita were to have a baby, it'd be this drink.
  2. Because it as delicious as it is boozy, it's a good one for drinking your feelings. 
  3. You've been warned

June Third: A cocktail inspired by Gilmore Girls. Gin, tequila, Cynar, simple syrup, lime. |

June Third: A cocktail inspired by Gilmore Girls

by Sara Galactica

What you'll need:

  • 1 oz gin
  • 1 oz tequila
  • 1/2 oz simple syrup
  • 1/2 oz lime juice
  • 1/4 tsp Cynar (You may substitute an equal amount of Campari, or 5-7 drops of Angostura bitters if you don't have Cynar on hand)

What to do:

Combine all ingredients in an empty cocktail shaker. 

Fill shaker about halfway with ice. Shake vigorously for 30-45 seconds. 

Strain into salt-rimmed glass. 

Just pretties.

Let's leave words behind for a just a little bit. I'd rather look at pretties. Here a few glimpses from the garden, my embroidery, and upcoming drinks that haven't left the development stage yet. 

Read More

An Ode to Green Gables.

"Every life is a tangled web, a crisscrossing of change and choice, nature and nurture, free will and fate. Studying the pattern of L.M. Montgomery’s life, we can see some obvious threads: her heritage, her position in her family, her marriage, her friends, her foes, her ambition. But weaving through that pattern was an extra strand: the storyteller’s gift, the gift of words. In the face of enormous trial, Montgomery held onto that strand. She used it to knot together all of her puzzling experiences, creating memorable, lovable stories with sunny surfaces and darker shadows. Whatever happened to her, whatever she read or heard, she caught in a net of words."
― Rubio & Waterston, Writing a Life: L.M. Montgomery

Lucy Maude Montgomery in afternoon dress, c. 1911. More photos of her wedding trousseau

Born in 1874 on Prince Edward Island, Lucy Maud (without the "e," thankyouverymuch) Montgomery's life was not too dissimilar to Anne Shirley-- the character she is most famous for creating. Her mother died when she was little, her father leaving her to be taken care of by her extended family. Feeling orphaned, Maud (she wasn't fond of her first name) escaped into stories, both reading and writing them. She published her first poem in the Charlottetown Patriot in 1890, and went on to become a teacher at various rural schools in her late teens and early 20s. She took a job as the assistant postmistress so she could send manuscripts to publishers and receive responses without anyone knowing what she was up to. 

L.M. Montgomery dangled between the "real world" and story world. She understood that few would end up being kindred spirits who would be able to truly relate to her.

“[...] I grew up out of that strange, dreamy childhood of mine and went into the world of reality. I met with experiences that bruised my spirit - but they never harmed my ideal world. That was always mine to retreat into at will. I learned that that world and the real world clashed hopelessly and irreconcilably; and I learned to keep them apart so that the former might remain for me unspoiled. I learned to meet other people on their own ground since there seemed to be no meeting place on mine. I learned to hide the thoughts and dreams and fancies that had no place in the strife and clash of the market place. I found that it was useless to look for kindred souls in the multitude; one might stumble on such here and there, but as a rule it seemed to me that the majority of people lived for the things of time and sense alone and could not understand my other life. So I piped and danced to other people's piping - and held fast to my own soul as best I could.” 
― L.M. MontgomeryMy Dear Mr. M: Letters to G.B. Macmillan from L.M. Montgomery

Maud began writing Anne of Green Gables around 1903. It was finally published in the summer of 1908 when she was 34 years old. I recently began re-reading the books to see how well I was able to relate to them as an adult, and found them surprisingly sturdy. It's no wonder: Montgomery was nearly 30 when she began telling Anne's story, and the lens through which we see Anne's world is unmistakably mature. 

I'll admit that I stumbled into a love for these stories through the Kevin Sullivan productions. Even as a young girl I related to the fiery Anne-- a precocious, clumsy girl with a big imagination, a romantic heart, and a hunger for stories. 

I've wanted to make drinks inspired by Anne and the other colorful residents of Avonlea for awhile now. Anne, Marilla, the "raspberry cordial" that got Diana so drunk, and-- ugh-- Gil (here's to you Jonathan Crombie). But it occurred to me that I needed to begin with the place at the heart of the story, the place that allowed Anne to become who she was meant to be: Green Gables. Because as Anne said, "It's a million times nicer to be Anne of Green Gables than Anne of nowhere in particular, isn't it?"

It sure is, Anne. 

"Green Gables was built at the furthest edge of his cleared land and there it was to this day, barely visible from the main road along which all the other Avonlea houses were so socially situated... Very neat and precise was that yard, set about on one side with great patriarchal willows and the other with prim Lombardies." Anne of Green Gables

There's a quiet little place that I imagine for my future, filled with sprawling fields surrounded by trees. I realized when I was making this drink that Green Gables (aided by my own rural upbringing) is at least partially responsible for planting this dream in my head. 

I didn't want this drink to be too literal. No need to get specific with trees or plants grown there, or specific foods consumed there. No-- I wanted my Green Gables cocktail to taste like what I imagine it'd be like to drink in the surroundings of that idyllic place: The sweet breeze blowing through grassy fields, the flowers and herbs blooming near the veranda... What the morning might smell like when you open the gable windows. 

The Recipe

Green Gables

A cocktail by Sara Galactica


What you'll need

  • 2 oz gin
  • .5 oz fresh lime juice
  • 1 oz thyme simple syrup
  • 1 oz Lillet Blanc
  • 2 drops Angostura bitters

What to do

Pour all ingredients into empty cocktail shaker. 

Fill cocktail shaker halfway with ice. 

Secure lid, and shake vigorously for 25 seconds. 

Strain into a cocktail glass and garnish with a sprig of fresh thyme (or lime twist). 


Two Game of Thrones cocktails: Melisandre and The Night's Watch

Melisandre: A cocktail inspired by Game of Thrones

by Sara Galactica

Melisandre: A cocktail inspired by Game of Thrones. Vodka, pomegranate liqueur, Russian caravan tea syrup, bitters. Recipe at

What you'll need:

  • 1.5 oz vodka
  • 1.5 oz pomegranate liqueur
  • 3/4 oz Russian Caravan tea syrup
  • 9 dashes Dram Black bitters (or 7 dashes Angostura)

What to do:

Add all ingredients to an empty cocktail shaker or pitcher and stir to combine. 

Fill pitcher/shaker about halfway with ice, and stir until well chilled (about 40 seconds). 

Strain into cocktail glass. Garnish with a couple Russian caravan tea leaves, or an orange twist.

The Night's Watch: A cocktail inspired by Game of Thrones

by Sara Galactica

The Night's Watch: A cocktail inspired by Game of Thrones. Gin, Grand Marnier, Cynar, honey, red wine vinegar. Recipe at

What you'll need:

  • 1 oz gin
  • 1 oz Grand Marnier
  • 1/4-1/2 oz Cynar
  • 1/2 tsp honey + red wine vinegar combo (instructions below)

What to do:

To make the honey + red wine vinegar syrup: In a small bowl, combine 1 teaspoon each honey and red wine vinegar. Stir until honey is completely dissolved. 

In an empty cocktail shaker or pitcher, combine all ingredients above and stir to combine.

Fill pitcher/shaker about halfway with ice, and stir until well chilled (about 40 seconds). 

Strain into cocktail glass. Garnish with a cherry. 

Lallybroch: A cocktail inspired by Outlander

Botanist David Douglas was born in Scone [pronounced Skoon], Scotland in 1798. As a young man he apprenticed as a gardener before attracting the attention of Dr. William Jackson Hooker of Glasgow University. Douglas assisted Dr. Hooker in collecting materials for his epic Flora Scotia; or a description of Scottish plants. When Dr. Hooker consulted by the secretary of the Horticultural Society for a person suitable for a Botanical expedition to North America, he recommended Douglas as "an individual eminently calculated to do himself credit as a scientific traveler" (Nisbet, 7). 

David Douglas (1799-1834). Image via

David Douglas (1799-1834). Image via

After proving himself on a collecting trip to the eastern United States (and Canada) in 1823, he was chosen for a second expedition to the Pacific Northwest. He sailed from London on the William and Mary in July of 1824, finally landing at Cape Disappointment on April 9, 1825, eventually making his way to Fort Vancouver (present-day Vancouver, Washington). He explored the area extensively, including: the Willamette, Chehalis, and Cowlitz rivers; the Washington coast; the Columbia Basin; the Snake and Spokane rivers; and the Blue Mountains of Oregon. He traveled thousands of miles and collected hundreds (at least 500) of specimens, many of which arrived back to England before he did. His collection was met with great acclaim. In fact, the popular name of one of the seeds he brought back to the United Kingdom still bears his name today: Douglas-fir

Now, if you want to get technical, the Douglas-fir is actually not a fir tree at all (hence the hyphenated title). Discovered first by Archibald Menzies in 1791 during George Vancouver's expedition (scientific name Pseudotsuga menziesii), Douglas-fir is the second tallest conifer in the world after the coast redwood. In any case, the seeds brought back from the Pacific Northwest by David Douglas were planted in England and Scotland. Many of the tallest trees in Scotland are Douglas-firs that came from Washington or Oregon thanks to David Douglas. 

The Cocktail

I got to thinking of Douglas-fir because I've spied the bright green tips of new growth as I walked about town over the past couple weeks, and wanted to make a syrup from them. You can make a syrup with the regular needles (I've done so out of desperation in the past), but the new growth is more tender and brighter in flavor. The taste of Douglas-fir syrup is very light and delicate-- there's a freshness that feels almost mint-like on the tongue, and a hint of lemon on the nose. I snagged a branch and brought it home one night to make a small batch of syrup without having much of a plan for how I'd use it. 

When I learned that the Douglas-fir trees of Scotland and England have a Pacific Northwest lineage, I knew that I wanted it to become part of an Outlander-Inspired cocktail. Sure, David Douglas was a Scot, but his life as an explorer was what really caught my attention.  His journal entries illustrate a man who paid close attention to his natural surroundings (though, one might argue that he was ultimately undone by them). He was a natural collector and observer who changed the landscape of the world with his travels. 

I think Claire reminds me of him a little. 

I know that David Douglas wasn't born until well after Claire's arrival through the stones, but since when have we little the small problem of time get in our way when it comes to OutlanderDouglas-fir syrup didn't seem like the right fit for a reimagining of a Claire cocktail, though. I wanted to make something that played with a physical location in the books.

Lallybroch is the endearing name given to Broch Tuarach-- the fictional home of James Fraser. Broch Tuarach means "north-facing tower" in Gaelic, and Lallybroch (as the estate is known among those who live there) in turn means "lazy tower," an homage to its leaning nature. When I imagine Lallybroch I see a pastoral, idyllic country estate. 

At Lallybroch itself, I poked about the house and grounds, making myself useful wherever I could, mostly in the gardens. Besides the lovely little ornamental garden, the manor had a small herb garden and an immense kitchen garden or kailyard that supplied turnips, cabbages, and vegetable marrows. (Outlander, ch. 28)

I wanted to develop a drink that would taste like the sweet smells of a summer garden: Botanicals and flowers mingling with sweet orange, a pronounced scent of rose without a rose-heavy flavor.

His mother, Ellen, had planted the late-blooming rosebush by the door. Its faint, rich scent still wafted up the walls of the house to the bedroom window. It was as though she reached in herself, to touch him lightly in passing. To touch me, too, in welcome. 
Beyond the house itself lay Lallybroch; fields and barns and village and crofts. He had fished in the stream that ran down from the hills, climbed the oaks and towering arches, eaten by the hearthstone of every croft. It was his place. (Dragonfly in Amber, ch. 3)

Lallybroch is a place where-- like the series itself-- ancestry and the future collide. It's introduced to the reader as a place of refuge, but it is also Jamie's birthright. This week on the Starz adaptation we will get to see the television interpretation of this place. I'm so excited to taste this drink while I watch Lallybroch come to life on screen. 

Lallybroch: A cocktail inspired by Outlander

By Sara Galactica.

What you'll need:

  • 2 oz gin 
  • 1/2 oz Grand Marnier or other orange liqueur
  • 1/2 oz Douglas-fir syrup
  • 1/2 tsp rose-infused apple cider vinegar (or plain apple cider vinegar if you want to keep things simple)
  • 5 drops Angostura bitters

Rose-infused apple cider vinegar:

In a small bowl, combine 1 tsp dried rose petals with 1 tbsp apple cider vinegar.

Allow petals to steep for about 30 minutes.

Strain & set aside. 

Rose-infused apple cider vinegar for the Lallybroch cocktail. |

What to do:

In an empty cocktail shaker or pitcher, combine all ingredients and stir gently.

Fill container about halfway with ice and stir thoroughly until well chilled (about 45 seconds). 

Strain into coupe or cocktail glass. Garnish with rose petals or orange twist.

Sip & enjoy.


*No Douglas-fir? No problem. Try making spruce syrup, rosemary simple syrup, or just use regular old simple syrup if need be. 

"She lets Jamie learn."

Reader response to this post regarding Outlander's Jamie Fraser:

I've had strong reactions to HIMself MYself, (particularly in later books that I won't go into here) when Jamie's been a thoroughly 18th century ass. 

We, as readers, know there will be more episodes when we find Jamie insufferable, either because of the casual violence. the sense of entitled pride, or the Romish rigidity that characterizes his presence in all the books. But it's of course not really Jamie we're reacting to -- it's Diana's masterful writing.  

In the punishing scene, Jamie responds as a man of his time and place and station did and would. But Diana's smarter than that. She lets Jamie learn. She foresaw the pushback and knows how we feel about what we perceive as abuse and they didn't. Diana strives for historical accuracy within the fictional narrative and she manages to redeem Jamie for us, at least in part, by having him realize that he was reacting as taught -- traditionally, as his father and grandfather would have reacted -- and that his relationship with Claire calls for something different.  

So he swears that hot oath on his blade (pearl clutching indeed, and fanning) and Claire reinforces it when Jamie's at his most vulnerable. Deed done. Historically plausible (mostly), romantically and sweatily satisfying, with Claire in the, um, drivers seat.

I wouldn't want to be in a relationship with Jamie either -- the angst would be exhausting and I mean how many times can you get abducted and rescued, even with tartans and pipes? But Diana knows what she's about -- and as objectionable as it may get, ultimately, she knows what keeps us reading and watching and she knows what turns us on.

Thank you, Ginny, for your fabulous response! 

What do you think? Drop me a line or hit me up on Twitter to keep the conversation going.

Game of Thrones Cocktails... Soon.

I'm working hard behind the scenes on a couple of new cocktails inspired by Game of Thrones, but they aren't quite right yet. I've seen a lot of drinks inspired by this series (show/books). Some look pretty tasty, and others look like a cruel joke you'd play on a friend who's recently reached legal drinking age. Is there ever another reason to resort to Goldschläger?* 

So while I tidy-up my drinks and get them ready for your consumption, I thought I'd share some cocktails other's have made inspired by the same characters/story elements I'll be drawing from: Melisandre & The Night's Watch. Perhaps you'll want to do a compare/contrast? Y'know. For science. 

*Maybe with hot chocolate. Maybe.


Bloody Melisandre by Winter is Coming
The Red Priestess by Old Nan's Needles
Red Riding Hood by Saveur, reinterpreted by Booze, Sugar & Spice

The Night's Watch

The Night's Watch by Doubleneat 
The Black by Learning Mixology 
Not so much a recipe, here's a list of Game of Thrones cocktails from Blackbird in San Francisco. The Night's Watch involves some lovely sounding botanicals...

And for further Game of Thrones Nerdery

You might want to check out History Behind Game of Thrones: A blog devoted to drawing parallels between history and the stories of George R.R. Martin, including great articles, family trees, and resource lists. Though the connections are made by the writers of the blog alone, Martin himself has talked about his historical inspirations:

I am drawing from history, even though it's fantasy. I've read a lot of history, The War of the Roses, The Hundred Years War... I'm drawing largely on medieval England, medieval Scotland, some extent medieval France.


Red Jamie: A cocktail inspired by Outlander

Some minor spoilers ahead, darlings. I'm going to jump right in, so don't say I didn't warn you:

Anyone who's read Outlander* likely remembers the scene where Jamie punishes Claire by spanking her with a belt. This scene was portrayed in the most recent episode of the STARZ adaptation* this past weekend, and I thought it would be a perfect time to talk about Jamie.

Oh hey, Jamie. Hayyyyy. {Image via STARZ}

Oh hey, Jamie. Hayyyyy. {Image via STARZ}

Jamie is fetishized by many women, but he is an imperfect character with real flaws and problems. I was talking to a good friend the other day who is also in love with these books, and she admitted that while the sex would probably be hot she'd, "never want to be in a relationship with Jamie Fraser! It's all about him, all the time. No thank you."

I can hear the collective pearl-clutching across the internet right now. 

Of course he's dreamy, and he has a lot of non-sexy redeeming characteristics, but he sure isn't a perfect man. (Then again no man is, amiright?)

Some, however, would go so far as to say that his behavior is abusive at times, including (but not limited to) that spanking scene I described above. Calling Jamie a wife beater overly simplifies things. Saying that Jamie did nothing wrong overly simplifies things. There's nuance here that is difficult to grapple with as a modern woman. I don't think the "It was a different time!" defense of Jamie is quite adequate, and "She deserved it!" isn't something I ever want to hear when it comes to violence. This scene, however, is an important piece of storytelling, made even more important by the fact that it makes us uncomfortable.

Punishment for our errors. 

In the first Outlander book, Claire is manipulative. I don't mean this as an insult-- she has good reason to be. She's been hurtled 200 years before her time, and she wants to get back to her husband and her life. She finds things about the world of the past that intrigue her, and she starts to feel things for Jamie, but ultimately she's looking for a way to get home. As shown in the most recent episodes of the STARZ series, she puts everyone else in her party at risk to attempt this. 

I can't say that I would've done any differently. She saw an opportunity and she took it. Survival instincts aren't always rational, and she thought she was making a good decision at the time. She was wrong. As well-intentioned as her actions may have been, she was dishonest and she got caught. 

If you continue on in the series, you find that corporal punishment of many kinds is employed freely during Gabaldon's presentation of Scotland of yore. Today in the US we typically think of corporal punishment as being directed solely at children, but it is more broadly employed in the Outlander series. Many characters-- adults and children-- perpetrate and receive this physical punishment to atone for a variety of crimes or mistakes. 

Well, he doesn’t exactly beat her. He’s not punching her in the mouth or throwing her against the wall. He spanks her with his sword belt because she did something incredibly dangerous and nearly got them all killed. This was basically what the Highland justice was like. If you screwed up, you got punished for it, and then you were back in the good graces of the clan. That’s what he’s doing; it’s his duty as her husband basically to correct her, set her on the right path, and mind you, she doesn’t like it because she’s a twentieth-century woman. She’s very affronted that he’s hurting her. {Diana Gabaldon, interviewed by Lightspeed Magazine}

The uncomfortable truth of Jamie belting Claire is that she was held to the same standards of any other character in the books. I don't like violence and don't condone it. I also think it would have been a problem from a storytelling perspective if Claire had been treated differently. Jamie learned right and wrong this way, and was under the impression that this is how he should teach right and wrong. That it was a different time is true to an extent, but it's more that (at least in the version of this world according to Gabaldon) this is the culturally accepted way for men and women alike to take responsibility for their actions. 

Anybody over the age of thirty-five will appreciate both the cultural conflict in that scene—it’s one of my favorite scenes, in fact, because each person in it is completely right according to his or her own view of the situation, and yet, in this untenable situation, they aren’t both going to get their way. When push comes to shove, he outweighs her by eighty pounds. Most people, as I say, above a certain age will appreciate it for the inherent ironies and also for the considerable humor in the situation. {Gabaldon interviewed by Lightspeed Magazine}

Claire is a visitor from another time. Jamie's actions piss her off, and rightly so: This is not the way of a civilized marriage according to her experience. Jamie's actions were physical in nature, but the emotional pain lasted far longer, and Claire taught him that those emotional scars were as important as the physical ones. She demanded better of him. And he became better. Ish.

Was he magically without fault? Did he become the perfect husband over night? Did he never treat her poorly ever again? Nope, nope, and nope. The question of consent between the two characters in future scenes is a valid one. Rape culture plays itself out in front of us to an extent in these books, and it's challenging to know what to do with that as a reader. I am both invested in the story & characters, and conflicted by the choices Gabaldon makes with regard to sexual violence. "Well, rape happened and stuff" isn't a good enough excuse for the number of times it makes an appearance. Realism only goes so far, and rape & sexual violence isn't a strong enough storytelling device to lean on so heavily. 

Indeed, when we tell stories about antiquity (or pseudo-antiquity) we inevitably pick and choose the parts we want to focus on, and the way we frame them. Those aren’t neutral or objective choices, by any stretch of the imagination: they are itself an intentional form of storytelling, and one that demands close analysis and inevitably conveys meaning.
It’s also worth noting, however, that the show’s sexual complexity isn’t confined to women. Although it traffics heavily in stereotypes about dashing, hypermasculine warriors, it also subverts them in fascinating ways. Set in a time when masculinity was steeped in violence and dominance over women, it contains surprisingly complex representations of male sexuality, where male characters—even male romantic leads—are portrayed as virgins, and even rape survivors. {Laura Hudson, Wired}

On the other hand, we see the world (most often) through Claire's gaze, and as such are offered the opportunity to view the past from a fictional first-hand experience of a relatively modern woman. She is a fairly sexually liberated woman with a healthy libido and the confidence to get sexual satisfaction as much as she gives it. Claire is older and more experienced than Jamie, and it is through her gaze that we see him. He argues with her, pleases her, protects her, serves her, annoys her, enjoys her and pisses her off. As the series progresses their relationship deepens, but it is always flawed in a way that I find rather refreshing. We know Jamie through Claire's portrayal, and his story and character development is intertwined with hers (even when they are apart). 

Jamie is as intelligent as he is brawny, and he is constantly required to become a better man to be worthy of Claire. As the books progress, he struggles with his violent past and questions his ability to be a truly civilized man given the things he's done (or things that have been done to him). He's stubborn, cunning, loyal, charming, and conflicted. For all his faults, he is an intoxicating blend of contradictions. And that's why I love him.

The Recipe

Red Jamie: A cocktail inspired by Outlander. Scotch, gin, port, honey, bitters. |

It's taken me awhile to develop a drink for Jamie. I have one for Claire so far (which, honestly, I think I'll end up revising), and I imagine that I'll have a few for each of them by the time I'm done. Their characters go through so many changes throughout the series that one interpretation is woefully inadequate in my mind.

It seemed obvious to me that Jamie's drink involve scotch whisky, but I knew that it wouldn't be enough on its own. Without getting too spoiler-y, Jamie has reason to interact with vast shipments of alcohol during the series, one of the most notable being port. I added Hendrick's-- a widely available Scottish gin-- to bring more depth and complexity to the party. The result is a play on a Scotch cocktail (in the true, old school cocktail sense). 

This drink is all booze, but please don't let that deter you from trying it. It isn't in-your-face strong. I had my mom (who doesn't like tasting any alcohol, thankyouverymuch) test it for me, and she kept drinking it. It is lightly sweet and well balanced. Drink up, Sassenach. 

Red Jamie: A cocktail inspired by Outlander

A cocktail by Sara Galactica.

  • 1 oz scotch (more on this below)
  • 1 oz Hendrick's gin
  • 1/2 oz (1 tbsp) red port 
  • 1/2 oz (1 tbsp) warm water
  • 1 cube (1 tsp) sugar OR 1 tsp honey
  • 3-5 dashes Angostura bitters

Add sugar to the bottom of an empty rocks glass. Add bitters and port over top, stirring until the sugar is dissolved. 

Add scotch and gin, stirring to combine. Fill glass with crushed ice, and stir thoroughly to mix and promote just the right amount of melt (about 50 seconds). If you have it, garnish with heather:

"Heather,” Roger said. “It’s more common in the summer, when the heather is blooming--then you’ll see heaps like that in front of every clan stone. Purple, and here and there a branch of the white heather--the white is for luck, and for kingship; it was Charlie’s emblem, that and the white rose.” {Voyager*}

I used a non-peaty single malt scotch when I made this drink, and it was delicious. Something on the smokier side would likely be pretty sexy, but I didn't test that flavor profile at all. If you've got a good blended scotch on hand, go ahead and use that. And, if you don't have any scotch (shit happens), rye or Irish whiskey could likely work in a pinch.

... But get some scotch, 'k? 

Red Jamie: A cocktail inspired by Outlander. Scotch, gin, port, honey, bitters. |

*Affiliate link. 

March Review: Or, Sara's attempted Sufjan mind-meld.

Where feelings run large, the music is bold, and the drinks are strong:

Thank you for reading, friends.