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. |

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