Perhaps you caught a glimpse of the giant dragon eating the sun?
Today, at least as I write this, the continental United States was treated to a solar eclipse of rare and remarkable extent (the first coast-to-coast total solar eclipse in nearly a century). It caused traffic jams, flooded social media and inspired a rush of breathless coverage across news outlets. It also discombobulated several birds in the path of the totality. Fortunately reports of human sacrifice were limited.
The eclipse also gave tons of people an excuse to slip out of the office/class/operating room to see it – and maybe pop into a nearby bar for a nerve-calming tonic to help ward off the trauma of witnessing day plunge into night. Of course, directly gazing upon the fiery ball of plasma in the sky, even while it’s partially occluded, falls under that broad class of items we like to call “inadvisable”. Optic technology having advanced enough that reasonably reliable light blocking glasses are available (along with a broad variety of largely unreliable knock-offs), many people visored up and headed out to gaze directly at the sun.
That wasn’t the only way to get a look at the excitement without permanently blinding yourself, however. The optics behind the camera obscura cause the crescent of the eclipsed sun to show up in the fields of light cast by the sun’s rays passing through leaves or colanders. Or just plain pinholes in cardboard which you can see across the picture above this article. (Related note to self: camera obscura is a fantastic name for a cocktail: devise and publish the recipe immediately; bask in the acclaim of drinkers around the globe. Somebody has to have done it right? Not according to the first two pages of a Google search and that’s good enough for me.)
The backdrop for those tiny little suns in the photo? My natural choice for accompanying the day’s empyrean anomaly, Mount Gay Eclipse Rum. One of several choices from Mount Gay, this rum was inspired by the double threat of a total solar eclipse and appearance of Halley’s Comet in 1910 . At least that’s the legend which smacks a bit of good marketing, but who am I to, ahem, throw shade on a good story? (The sky was good marketing that year. There was an unexpected comet visible during daylight hours in January, whetting the public's appetite for matters celestial. The fact that there was widespread fear of disaster when the Earth passed through Halley's tail only helped. Nothing sells like fear.)
The Mount Gay distillery, by the way, lays a reasonable claim to being the oldest continuously operating rum distillery in the world. You’ll see the 1703 on the label, which may be enough to take the trophy and there’s documentation of that, but evidence suggests (and here I’m relying on my friend Wayne Curtis’ justly acclaimed and a Bottle of Rum) that a rum distillery was operating on the current Mount Gay site as early as 1663.
The Eclipse is a great rum for everyday use with that perfect combination of reasonable cost, wide acceptability and high quality. How to enjoy? Well, some of us (don’t tell my Human Resources department) may have raised a shot at the height of solar coverage, but no need to wait for the moon to obscure the sun. Wayne suggests that the Eclipse with a bit of ginger ale and a squeeze of lime is a perfect refresher for a summer day when you don’t feel like breaking out the shakers and muddlers. I think he’s on to something.
In the hush of the evening as I write this, I’ve turned to one of my favorite cocktails – and one for which the Mount Gay Eclipse is my go-to rum, Trader Vic’s Royal Bermuda Yacht Club cocktail. The drink which I discovered (as with so many of my other favorite’s) through Ted Haigh’s Vintage Spirits and Forgotten Cocktails, is named (presumably only for effect) after the venerable Caribbean sailing club. It’s a fantastic drink. Of the two key ingredients, the Mount Gay is easily the most accessible. What of that weirdly named “falernum”? It’s a syrup of citrus, spice, nuts and sugar and a mainstay of the tiki world. I have the old stand-by Velvet Falernum in my bar, but there are other commercial products (including some non-alcoholic ones) available. Thanks to the general upswing in serious-ish drinking, I’m finding it more widely than I did 10 years ago. Still, it’s a bit of a stretch, so making it at home remains a great option.
Royal Bermuda Yacht Club Cocktail
- 2 oz. Barbados rum (I use Mount Gay Eclipse, as noted)
- ¾ oz. fresh-squeezed lime juice
- 2 dashes Cointreau
- 2 tsp. falernum
Pour all into a shaker with ice and, well, shake. When chilled, strain into a cocktail glass. Hopefully you know what to do from here.
Photo: Eclipse projections on an Eclipse Bottle
Photo Credit: Steve Morgan