The Sir Walter Raleigh

Sir Walter Raleigh (1552-1618) was an English aristocrat who dabbled in everything from exploring, pirating, and politics, to poetry. He was such a part of the court of Elizabeth (during Shakespeare’s time, no less) that he was eventually executed for two various crimes. First, for supposedly taking part in a plot against King James, and second, for attacking a Spanish outpost in Venezuela while looking for El Dorado.

There are lots of stories about him, some of which are probably true and some that are not so likely. What is certain that is that he played a key role in establishing the lost colony of Roanoke, the first attempt at a permanent English settlement in North America. It disappeared, and still no one knows why.

So why do we have a drink named after Sir Walter Raleigh? Well, I got the drink from my 1948 edition of Trader Vic, but some other people think it could be named after Sir Walter Raleigh, an early twentieth-century professor of literature. Me, I think it’s the older Sir Walter Raleigh. One, because I have trouble believing that a professor of literature would have a drink named after him. Two, because the older Sir Walter is awesome. Three, because the drink tastes like the original Sir Walter.

Shake the following ingredients:

  • 3/4 oz brandy
  • 3/4 oz rum
  • 1 tsp lemon
  • 1 tsp grenadine
  • 1 tsp curacao 

Strain into a cocktail glass.

This drink tastes like the master of all, the 16th C. Sir Walter Raleigh. But let’s get the proportions right, my friends. 1 tsp of grenadine is way too much. Go half that much. The sweetness of modern grenadine overpowers everything else. 1 tsp of lemon is a bit too little. Add a touch more, and the result is surprising. Follow these instructions, and you have a bitter, sweet, and interesting cocktail that goes down rather easy yet pleases the most discerning palette.

The only problem I have with the Sir Walter Raleigh is that I can’t taste the alcohol. Instead, I only smell them. The other ingredients take over the taste, which may be a good thing.

I leave with you with this master’s greatest poem, a response to Christopher Marlowe’s rather unironic poem where a shepherd cries out for the love of a nymph. In Raleigh’s version, the nymph replies that, in this world, love just isn’t worth it:

“If all the world and love were young,
And truth in every shepherd’s tongue,
These pretty pleasures might me move
To live with thee and be thy love.”

She knows that the shepherd is just saying what he’s supposed to say, and it may have worked if she were naive enough to fall for it. But his pretty pleasures have nothing for her, nothing that he nor the world can give her:

“Thy belt of straw and ivy buds,
Thy coral clasps and amber studs,
All these in me no means can move
To come to thee and be thy love.”

That’s the Sir Walter Raleigh Cocktail. It goes easy on the tongue and puts you in a point of stasis where you can sit back and wax ironically about everything.

One thought on “The Sir Walter Raleigh”

  1. Thank you for writing about Sir Walter Raleigh. The 400th anniversary of his death is next year, on 29 October 2018. He was an extraordinary individual, and I feel privileged to be living only a few miles from his birthplace, at Budleigh Salterton in East Devon. If you like, I ca add your email address to my bloglist to keep you aware of events worldwide which are being staged as a tribute to him.
    Best wishes
    Trustee, Fairlynch Museum, Budleigh Salterton

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