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).
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.
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 Outlander? Douglas-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.
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.