While driving home during a recent blizzard, I found myself perusing my shelves mentally for a toxic cure to the melodrama I had recently suffered. A turgid tapestry of fine liqueurs etched in my mind with nerr' a home nor hearth, and have sat collecting dust.
Sure, there have been a few loves of the Wild Moon Birch - a splendid pairing for a cinnamon whiskey, or a good Scotch - but the others had not yet struck a chord with me. For now, the Lavender is far too powerful a consideration to cultivate; the Cucumber doesn't sit well enough at this venture; and so I ponder on the merits of the Rose liqueur.
The last time I considered this vibrant and verbose visage was in the Spriggan Sprite exploration (Moonriver #21), and it's due for a reclamation.
A Lucky Box
Back in July, I subscribed to Bespoke Post. I admit I was seduced by one of their better ad reels where someone spoke of the bartending kit they received custom-made for them, so I jumped on board...and proceeded to cancel every package they had procured for me until I got a decent bartending kit. After that I promptly unsubscribed to their BS.
But I had what I needed. A shaker of an appropriate size, a stainless steel jigger, a bar spoon, multiple strainers, and a gigantic ice tray. I was quite pleased, and as I set the box aside, something else rolled out.
A tiny bottle of deep blue and purple, its top a simple pipette dispenser. Along its side it reads, in tiny, beautiful script. Bittercube Slow Crafted Bitters, Blackstrap.
Comprised of a few simple ingredients, this mixture brings out notes of smoked cinnamon, kola nut, and nutmeg. It smells delightful, and I long to supplement it with something, perhaps as a sophisticated alternative to the standard Fireball. Plus, the incorporation of a dropper just made my life intrinsically easier. I've been splashing my bitters around from the bottle like an idiot for ages!
The Value Of A Simple Pairing
THE BLACKSTRAP Test
1/2 oz Amaretto
1/2 oz Drambuie
1 oz Stella Rosa Black
1/4 oz Fireball
2 dashes Angostura Bitters
1 draw Blackstrap Bitters
+ It isn't...bad, per se.
+ It's just confused.
+ Sweet notes from the Black
+ The Fireball and Blackstrap create a fruity burst that pushes the sweet over the mountain.
+ Saccarine, to the point of achieving only the flavor of sugar incarnate.
+ The Amaretto ruins it. Just...flattens it completely.
With that tasting scrapped, round 2 post-blizzard yielded two pleasant surprises, and I am forever humbled by the core truth of good ingredients.
There is no need to overcomplicate a mix with multiple additions where only two will do. Simple pairings consistently win over complicated monstrosities.
For our first venture, we don't need much. Dewer's Scotch Whiskey, Wild Moon Rose Liqueur, and that beautiful blue bottle of Blackstrap Bitters. We'll take 1 oz each of the Scotch and Rose, and one draw from the pipette in the Blackstrap. Add 2-3 cubes of ice and enjoy. I'll call it the Soothsayer for now.
+ Bite of the Scotch smoothed beautifully by the Rose
+ Rose notes feel hidden...
+ ...until a subtle entrance at the end.
+ The Blackstrap proves a great way to infuse a smokiness to the drink.
Verdict: I am developing a love of drinks that take their time. Not one to surge down his own drinks, I am growing to enjoy ones that I can sip gently through an evening's long rest. Feel the gentle warmth of the drink, and be pleasantly surprised to discover more flavors long after it disappears down my throat. This is a drink of patience and reward; presence and thought. The best personification I can think of for my father, a firm example of what I deem to be a good man of good heart and intelligence. Someday, I'd love to serve him this drink; I'd be very curious what he thought of it. :)
For another pass at this, I ventured a dash or two in the Rye.
I still struggle with Rye's strange effect on me. The flavorless numb that always seems to coat my tongue...people actually enjoy this? And yet, there's potential here. So I'll be careful as I approach what I've called the Witchdoctor.
1/2 oz Rye Whiskey
1 oz Wild Moon Birch liqueur
1/2 oz Orgeat
3 dashes Angostura Bitters
1 draw of Blackstrap Bitters
*Stir and pour over 3-4 ice cubes in any glass you want (I don't care, seriously, what does it EVER matter?)
+ The Birch is the star here, not the Rye
+ Rye creates the backburn
+ Orgeat was a great choice to smooth the burn
+ Might not need the Angostura Bitters...
+ ...that finish, though.
Verdict: I'll keep this one in my back pocket for my buddies who love their Rye, but I won't reach for it.
Roses, witches, and visions of the future. Huh. Usually we save that stuff for the Absinthe posts.
See you at the table.
Still in process, of course...
A quickie to kick off the New Year.
Some rough days last year. I came home, still deep in my love of Irish Cream, and plopped a freshly-purchased Creme de Cacao on the table. I'd been trying a lot of recipes around that time (ammunition for this blog and for my own education), and I just wanted to make something tasty. But I was exhausted, and I opted out that time.
And many times to come.
Why? Because it isn't healthy to drink when you're sad, and no one wants to become dependent on drinking to function. ...That's the definition of alcoholism. And that's not, or will ever be, what this personal pursuit is.
Fast-forward a few months and I'm finishing up my latest Lore Drop and I've got a hankering for some chocolate mint goodness. So, while taking eyeball measurements, I try some Amaretto with Cacao and Menthe. It's magic, so I try it with Irish Cream. Suddenly, this is fun again, and I jam out the following:
Random Recipe - The Knight Cap
1 oz Creme de Cacao
1/2 oz Amaretto
1/4 oz Creme de Menthe
3 oz Irish Cream
3 oz Vanilla Almond Milk
**Stir well and serve over ice for a splendid night cap.
Now, revisiting a number of successes from last year calls forward another favorite that I'll put here for your enjoyment, as otherwise it has no home.
Homeless Recipe - Irish Goblin
1/2 oz Vanilla Vodka
1/2 oz Creme de Menthe
2 oz Irish Cream
Stay warm, snowdrops.
Recently I had another opportunity to fulfill a trust exercise.
Sometimes my friends and allies ask me to make them a drink or two. By now I've earned a decent mixologist's reputation, and have succeeded in the creation of enough drinks that many friends ask for them by name. And yet, with all of this training, there will come times where I feel no inspiration. No flavors come to mind, and I don't feel a modicum of motivation to try things out; like there are so many possibilities that I enter a choice paralysis.
To combat this "writer's block" of mixology, I wrote up a little exercise to jumpstart my creative process.
An Act Of Trust And Rapport
To place your libation fate in the hands of a person can be scary.
People often covet their liquor, and personal imbibing, after a certain degree or within a certain mood, personal exploration and surprise are avoided. But if you've built a measure of trust, empathy, and satisfaction among one another, one becomes much more adventurous, on both sides of the bar.
In truth, a good bartender isn't trying to make a buck. The act of serving another a drink made FOR them is an act of service and trust. If they enjoy it, there is no feeling like that satisfaction. If they don't, it becomes a personal mission to find the flavors that they will. We're always learning from each other, and that effort adds huge value to a relationship.
Rolling For Aberrant
I split my thoughts into three categories.
Roll a D6 to decide the Core liquor. Doesn't have to be the one with the most volume, but it is going to be the star of the mix.
Roll a D4 to decide the finish of the mix - the Dagger that you may or may not see coming.
Roll a D8 to decide the binding theme or agent to wrap the mix in; maybe it's a feeling, maybe it's a flavor, we'll see what you roll. It's a mystery! Like a...Cloak.
Roll a D6 (CORE)
1 - Tequila
2 - Rum
3 - Gin
4 - Whiskey
5 - Vodka
6 - Brandy
Roll a D4 (DAGGER)
1 - Sweet
2 - Sour
3 - Fruity
4 - Decadent
Roll a D8 (CLOAK)
1 - Holiday
2 - Cream
3 - Gold
4 - Nostalgia
5 - Horizon
6 - Juice
7 - Syrup
8 - Wine
Then, from this mixture of ideas, it is now my job to craft you something delicious. I WILL NOT throw a bunch of liquor into a shaker and send something random your way, your taste buds be damned. If anything, these randomizers act as a challenge to a theme; I get to augment and cultivate my skills by adapting to this challenge.
So of course I forced one of my friends to roll some dice without telling him what I was doing. :)
Aberrant I - Rolls: 5-3-6
1/2 oz Blue Curacao
1/2 oz Midori
1/2 oz Triple Sec
1/2 oz Silver Rum
1.5 oz Vodka (Core)
1 oz Gin
3.5 oz Cranberry Juice (Cloak)
THE EFFECT: First and foremost, the Curacao/Midori/Triple Sec/Silver Rum (Dagger) bomb is THE bomb. Fruity, tasty, and sweet. We smooth it out with the Vodka and Gin, and the Cranberry Juice thins the mix in the best way, elevating every flavor and binding them together.
Aberrant II - Rolls: 1-2-3
3 oz Gold Tequila (Core)
1 oz Irish Honey Whiskey (Cloak)
1 oz Grand Marnier
1/2 oz Simple Syrup
4 dashes Orange Bitters
2 oz Sour Mix (Dagger)
THE EFFECT: As these are more than just a smattering of randomizers and are intended more as a writing prompt, once I had assembled the basic components, the remaining additions easily fell into place, like the words of a poem. Good golly this one was delicious. The tequila is easily complimented by the orange notes of the bitters and Grand Marnier, the sour mix wrapping it all into a lovely potion. The Honey Whiskey is just icing on the proverbial cake.
If the friend on the receiving end was any indication, it was delicious.
Enjoy your randomizers, your writer's block, and here's to a new year. May it suck just a bit less than this one. Please. Thank you.
Sergeant Leonard heard the cries in the brush.
He abandoned his post minutes before the yips began, and even then, he trusted his lightfoot roots to carry him over the marsh to where the child lay. He was certain everyone had evacuated; the militias were ready on the rooftops. Their intel was good, their scouts intact. Someone must have been left behind.
His boots sink into dense muck and mud, noting the deer footprints that surrounded him. He checks the horizon once more, columns of ominous smoke rising. Must be the war party, I still have time. The cries sound again - someone is sobbing. "It's all right, little one! You can come out. It's just me."
The sobbing stops, a choked reply comes shaking, "ArE yoU here TO KiLl mE?"
Poor thing; must be scared all to hell. He sheathes his sword, holding his hands out to the brush. "No one's here to hurt you. See? Just a friendly halfling. Let's get you out of here and home safely." He flashes a warm smile.
"What is it, Sergeant?" A call resounds behind him from the outpost.
He turns. "Just a child. Don't worry, I'll get them..." A stench fills his nostrils. Pungent and rotting, like the bile that spills forth from a rancid stomach. The sergeant's heart drops as his hand grabs the hilt of his saber, a low rumbling chuckle vibrating the tall marsh grass surrounding him.
Powerful, rotting jaws clamp onto his leg. They rend his plated greaves to ribbons and he cries out in pain. He is yanked backwards, his saber flying from his fingers, and his body disappears into the brush. His screams of pain are echoed by the frenetic laughter of hyenas, and the war party crests the hill, charging the town.
Children of Yeenoghu
The first of these creatures came from the hordes of hyenas spilling into the material world during Yeenoghu's rampages. Some of the beasts that feasted on the corpses of the fallen underwent different transformations than the traditional gnolls. Of those twisted amalgamations, Leucrotta were the most numerous.
Clever and cruel, a Leucrotta loves to deceive, torture, and kill. Despite there lupine appearance, these are not pets. In fact, Leucrottas tend to be smarter and more controlled than the gnolls that often surround them. The gnolls are entertained by a Leucrotta's ability to mimic the sounds of a suffering victim, or by its ability to "play with their food," prolonging suffering as long as possible. With such deceptive and terrible intelligence, a Leucrotta can hold an elevated position within a tribe, but rarely leads one. However, a gnoll chieftain might be seen riding one into battle. But this is not a noble steed; this is a tactical advisor - an influencer to draw the most out of a kill. Beware the fleet of gnolls that ride the dreaded Leucrottas - for they will do much worse than kill you.
The Leucrotta is a stinky boi.
Its horrible body of transformed hyena and deer oozes a toxic stench that pollutes and desecrates anywhere it lairs. Its breath is worse. Dripping from its maw, fluid corrupted with rot and digestive juices kills the plant life around it. In place of fangs, it has bony ridges harder than steel that can crush bones and open up a paladin like a soup can.
The stench alone should probably ward off any prey before they get too close, but the Leucrotta has a few advantages on their side. Due to their amalgamation, their tracks are indistinguishable from deer and other fauna. Also, and more alarming, they possess a mimicry ability that they use to duplicate the call and vocal expressions of just about anything they've heard. A crying child, a wounded bird, a missing ally; they'll use anything from their massive library to lure in potential prey and strike while they are confused.
By The Numbers
The attribute suite of this critter compliments the physical well, with a +2-4 in Strength, Dexterity, and Constitution. Unlike other dread doggos we've come across, this one's pretty smart and perceptive, but don't count on it for any Charisma checks. AC and HP are what you'd expect for something with natural armor, but just because most strikers can hit it, don't rush in half-cocked.
With its connections to Yeenoghu, this creature utilizes ferocity and tactics shared by its gnoll cousins, like their Rampage feature - where if they drop a creature, they can move and attack again. Also, a Leucrotta has multiattack, one of those attacks being with its hooves. Couple this with a special feature that allows it to Disengage as a Bonus Action after a hoof attack, and you've got a mobile (50 speed!) threat. And if this thing gets lucky on its bite, watch out - a critical hit from a Leucrotta rolls the damage three times, instead of twice. If you're using doubling rules, they triple their critical hits. OUCH.
Leucrotta In The Ionian Planes
A Leucrotta is a creature of cruelty and killing, but one that enjoys the sport of it all more than its gnoll brothers and sisters. This even minute level of control lends to each greater opportunities for planning, tactics, and learning. I imagine behind the most successful chieftains sits a Leucrotta, bending agendas, granting advice, and guiding the power like a terrible surgeon. Their intellect, though stronger than most of their counterparts, is outmatched by many others, so garnering a pack instead of soldiers is where their above-average wisdom shines. However, at least in Io, packs blessed with a Leucrotta find great value in them, but can only seem to have one at a time. This is less the gnolls's predicament and more the pride of a Leucrotta, for once it has tasted power, it has little want or use for a rival. And if another were adopted into a pack, it is only a matter of time before one ends up dead at the bottom of a ravine.
And that does it for December, and 2020! Up next? Not sure. The polls haven't closed yet.
Celestials and Fiends are extensive. We'll see who wins next week. Happy New Year, friends.
Help support this blog and vote on its Monster Of The Week, every month, every week, by heading over to my Patreon.
Merry holidays from the DM's Den and from behind this smoking, ashen bar.
2020 has been a doozy, and I'm not sure how many more apocalyptic memes I can circulate before the existential dilemma finally reaps my soul.
So instead, I turn to music and art.
Painting has been happening on a daily basis and I have to say, it is one of the few things that has kept me sane in this chaos. Like taking back the shreds of my being from the claws of a world on fire, and gently sewing them back together, one stroke at a time.
And when I publish an LP; a tiny Digital Album of music I made, inspired by deep campaigns and vibrant adventurers, I take back a few more strands.
And when I mix something and hand it to a friend (even if physically distanced), watch them take a sip, and see that smile creep across their face, I am elevated. To know that I made a difference, even just for a little while. A few more strands are pulled back to my heart.
I enjoy creating things. And though I struggle with the higher nuances in cooking food, the liquid chemistry of a good drink is endlessly energizing to me. There is something special about it.
It is an act of service to another.
To mix a drink for someone involves empathetic listening, mixing with care and intent, and being open to feedback. Shot for shot and sip for sip, every flavor and subtle shift is an opportunity to make someone a little happier. It's a good feeling to know you have someone in your corner that's going to make something special for you, because they give a damn.
So today, in this time of reflection, family, and gratitude, I offer you three "gifts." Drinks with a slight theme, but if the flavor serves it, I'll gladly abandon said theme. Confused? That's okay; imagine how a toddler in the cold desert born of a celestial retcon when dividing by 0 felt when three old guys triangulated his position on their shamanic GPS and decided to throw money, weed, and burial herbs at his feet.
Yeah. You heard me.
The Three Kings
The following drinks are presented as shots and I highly recommend that you imbibe them as such.
When a wound on a tree penetrates through the bark and into the sapwood, the tree secretes a resin. Myrrh gum, like frankincense, is such an artifact. It is yellow at first, but darkens with white streaks as it ages.
Myrrh resin has been used throughout history as a perfume, incense and medicine. Myrrh mixed with posca or wine was common across ancient cultures, for general pleasure and as an analgesic.
When consumed, though, it evokes a musty, smoky flavor and maintains a beautiful amber color. It is these notes that inspire this beautiful shot.
1/2 oz Stella Rosa Platinum Wine
1/2 oz Rye Whiskey
1/4 oz Honey liqueur
1/4 oz Drambuie
+ Wary of Rye, but it makes the shot
+ Blends with honey notes, smoky without choking
+ Platinum is a smooth cloak
+ Really nice finish, smooth
Gold is gold. It's gold.
For this one I chose the complete aesthetic: flavor AND visual. It only took a short tasting to finalize this beauty. Bacardi Gold Rum, Honey Liqueur, and Drambuie form a sweet and savory and smooth potion. And though too much of this would ruin the total, a splash of Gold Tequila makes this something special.
The Gold Recipe
1/2 oz Gold Rum
1/2 oz Honey Liqueur
1/2 oz Drambuie
Splash of Gold Tequila
Notes: Since this is equal parts, you can increase each equally and still get the same effect, though I recommend not exceeding 1/2 oz of the Gold Tequila.
Frankincense, also known as olibanum, is made from the resin of the Boswellia tree. It's supposed to have a woody, spicy smell, and people like to rub it all over themselves in ointments, or make tea with it, or even inhale the stuff.
My first exploration into this was exciting.
Pulling out all my weird nature liqueurs: Lavender, Birch, Rose, Elderflower, Honey.
Initial notes: Rose and Birch go really well together. Lavender is SUPER POWERED - just a 1/4 oz and it will overpower your palette in this mix. The Honey Liqueur is lovely...and has a tendency to be the main thing you taste in this mix, even with only a splash. At the end of it all, the Elderflower gets nearly lost.
So I did more research into the flavor palette when one tastes Frankincense.
A memory of pine.
Creamy and sweet.
I think I might know what to do this time. Prepare thyself.
1 oz Irish Cream
1/2 oz Honey Liqueur
3 dashes Orange Bitters
Splash of Grand Marnier
+ Irish Cream and Honey are AMAZING
+ Seriously, best thing I've had for awhile.
+ Many notes of subtle flavor as it flows (nothing on blast)
+ Honey subtle at the finish
+ ...Still finding notes long after.
In my fantasy restaurant, you'd order this as a sequence of three shots. Myrrh, Gold, Frankincense. With time between to enjoy them. Don't muddy these as full drinks.
See you at the table.
It is a dog. No, a hound. Tufts of layered, dense, matted purple fur rolls over wide shoulders and long, hunched neck. A whimpering mule shudders up from the body as I approach. SNAP. My boot crunches the twig and a wince. The muling stops and I watch those shoulders slope forward, the head turning my way...and a pit forms in my stomach. A humanoid, twisted face with burning red eyes stares back at me, jaw hanging open. A mix of flat and sharpened teeth jut out from open mouth, and the moaning returns, rising to a howl. I try to draw my sword, but my body can only shake as I watch the hound rise and float a foot off the ground. Even as it wales, its head tilts to the side curiously. Then it flies toward me.
Gifts Of The Dark Fey
If one impresses members of the Old Guard of Fey, they might be gifted with a Yeth Hound. Such a gift is high praise, as the Yeth is a companion for life, connected telepathically to their master and charged with their protection at all costs.
But these hounds reflect their original creators, and are by no means good creatures. Originally personified by a headless, bloodied hound in some cultures, the origin of a Yeth is one rooted in sorrow, always reflected in their strange, baleful howl. To hear the howl is a warning, but to see its source often spells doom.
According to Volo's Guide, these creatures are large hounds with flat, humanoid faces and features, and though it looks like they may bound quickly, they often HOVER creepily overhead. It is this unnatural mobility that makes them deadly sentries for their masters.
By The Numbers
In terms of raw defenses and hit points, the Yeth Hound isn't that intimidating, but make sure you're packing something silver. Their physical stats (Strength, Dexterity, and Constitution) are noticeably high, but they're dumb as a post most of the time.
Where they become truly dangerous is in their unnatural, creepy mobility and their dreaded "Baleful Baying" howl ability. The thing's got a 300 foot range, so make sure your Wisdom is decent before engaging with one. If you happen to be one of the unlucky low rollers against the howl, that frightened condition does a lot more for the Yeth than it does for you, stacking on extra psychic damage for its scared victims. And I can't blame them; the image of this thing bearing down on you is NOT pleasant.
As an aside, I was actually very intrigued to write about this thing.
There is something wholly unnerving about these large Fey doggos with humanoid faces, who creepily hover overhead and paralyze prey with their baleful howl. It's just such an unsettling image. Add on to this the fact that as long as it's on the same plane as its master, it can ALWAYS contact it telepathically. Woof, buddy.
The Yeth In Io
Sentries Of The Deep Night
As servants gifted by old Fey, a Yeth Hound always has a home in the Feywild. Denizens and visitors alike who gain favor in the Verdant Court may find themselves with a Large, loyal, and evil companion that can't be charmed or frightened away.
Just, imagine for a moment, waking up with this thing sitting in your living room. Just. THERE. Totally silent. And then its red eyes slowly turn your way, like some living furred statue and a voice enters your mind like Dug from Up. "I sat in your living room in the dark because I love you. And now I'll love you FOREVER." The face doesn't change the entire time. Lol.
But not just any Fey can gift you a Yeth. They must be made first, and only one of the four Courts knows how. Skilled in curses and the binding of souls, the Ladies Of Winter, under the instruction of King Oberon himself, have much practice in plucking the unfortunate mortals of deals gone wrong and pipers unpaid, and supplanting their essence into a new form - one to serve the Deep Night and the citizens of Air and Darkness.
If a singular entity can be gifted one Yeth for an impression, imagine the army Winter commands. Hundreds of baleful, wailing sentries silently drifting across the night skies; keeping watch and wary over the fane kingdoms.
Watch for the red eyes and motionless face, and keep your distance, lest the mournful cries of a soul forever trapped in servitude reaches your ears...and rends your mind asunder.
Sleep well, travelers.
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Professional Game Master musician, music teacher, game designer, amateur bartender, and aspiring fiction author.
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