Red Riding Hood: A cocktail recipe inspired by Once Upon a Time

I was getting ready to head to a friend's house the other night and wanted to bring a little somethin' with me. Have cocktail, will travel, amiright?* So I packed my fun flask with a bit of absinthe, gin, lemon juice and Grand Marnier (y'know, like ya do), and grabbed a bottle of birch beer I bought on a whim last week (apparently it's a thing). Oh: And an orange for zest. Never leave home without your garnish, y'all.

When I got to the party and mixed myself a drink I was so pleased with my little experiment that I made others try it and asked them my favorite drink-related questions: What do you like? What would you change? And my favorite: Who is it? 

Who is it?

It's a fun question for me. I had a hunch I knew what show this drink belonged to (Once Upon a Time), and a few of my friends are big fans of that show as well. It's awesome to hand someone a drink and ask them who it is because it starts a conversation about what we're drawn to in characters, what kind of stories we find attractive, etc. And that's what it's all about, right? Finding a connection to a story and celebrating it with others. Anyone can do it!

Anyway, when I asked who it was, one of the first suggestions was Red. As in Riding Hood. Looking at this drink you might expect it to be obnoxious and over the top. That shade of red, the bit of bubbles. It's sort of how I felt when I first saw Ruby-- a.k.a. Red Riding Hood-- for the first time on Once Upon a Time.

Ruby, Once Upon a Time.

I'll admit: I was being judge-y. It's what happens when I see "That Woman" now. You all know what I'm talking about. That shallow, sexpot distraction of a character who's there to look good in a tight skirt.

But Red is more than that.

Red Riding Hood, Once Upon a Time.

My friend-- I'll call him Francisco-- suggested that Red was a good fit for this cocktail because it's a little surprising. The absinthe makes this drink smell a bit like anise, but the birch beer-- with its fresh, slightly sweet, slightly root beer-y flavor-- helps keep it in check. I'm going to refrain from saying what makes the character Red so surprising because SPOILERS, but I will say that she's a lot more than she seems when the show gets going. There's a woodsy, caring, intelligent woman under that cloak. She's sweet and complex, and she deserves a drink that does her justice.

A note about this drink: You might notice that I left one of the ingredients out of the recipe below that I initially included in my fun flask above. After testing, I didn't feel like the Grand Marnier added anything bold enough to justify leaving it in. Feel free to try it with and without and see what you think! I'd love to know which you prefer.

Red Riding Hood cocktail recipe, inspired by Once Upon a Time

By Sara Galactica

What you'll need:

  • 1 oz gin
  • 1 oz absinthe
  • Lemon juice, 1/4-1/2 oz
  • 2-4 oz birch beer
  • Orange, for garnish

How to do it:

Combine gin, absinthe and lemon juice in an empty rocks glass. Start with less lemon juice. Things are going to taste a little tart at this point in the process, but don't worry, the birch beer will mellow things out. You can always add a bit more lemon after you've added the soda if you like.

Add ice.

Top with desired amount of birch beer. Stir gently.

Add a nice orange twist. I used a vegetable peeler to get this wide piece of zest.

Red Riding Hood cocktail: Gin, absinthe, lemon, birch beer. saragalactica.com #onceuponatime #cocktail
Red Riding Hood cocktail: Gin, absinthe, lemon, birch beer. saragalactica.com #onceuponatime #cocktail

This photo was taken after mixing 3 or 4 drinks, which means you can make a good chunk of cocktails with one bottle of soda. If you were going to make this for a crowd like I did, I recommend using the following technique.

For a crowd

Makes 4 cocktails.

Mix 4 oz each gin & absinthe with 1-2 oz lemon juice in a small pitcher or empty cocktail shaker. Stir. Like I noted above, start with less lemon and work your way up.

Pour equal amounts (a little more than 2 oz) into each glass, over ice.

Add 3 oz birch beer to each glass.

Stir gently & garnish each glass with orange zest.

*Travel first, then have a cocktail, okay? Not the other way around.