Hello friends. I’m back in the saddle after an indulgent birthday week. There were so many celebrations, so much food, so much drink. My liver is reeling. But I’m not going to let that slow me down.
I have an obligation to give the people what they want. The people want CONTENT and they want the alcoholic content. Today, I’m serving up this bright and seasonal Pisco, Plum & Sage Cocktail.
I kicked off my birthday festivities with a girls’ day at Le Nordik over the long weekend. An incredibly relaxing day spent sipping Cava, eating grilled cheese, and then sweating it all out in a variety of saunas. We concluded the day at North America’s largest outdoor spa with the mettle-testing Aufguss treatment.
The Aufguss treatment is a German ritual that involves throwing snowballs, infused with essential oils, onto the hot rocks of a sauna. There is an Aufguss master, male or female, donning a traditional skirt who uses one or two towels to circulate the infused scents around the room, fanning those seated in the sauna and steadily increasing the temperature over the course of the 15-minute ritual.
As this is typically a pretty well-attended ceremony, my friends and I claimed our seats on the top bench of the sauna and waited 5 minutes before the ritual began. The Aufguss master came in, walked us through the steps of the process, and then threw down the first grapefruit-infused snowball and started to dance.
The dance is an impressive show of dexterity and timing, often spinning two towels at once, circulating the air throughout the room, and sending the mercury rising.
Oh, did I mention that the room is hotter than the surface of the Sun? Yeah, the Aufguss master is basically doing an Olympic rhythmic gymnastics routine in a 45-degree room. Our fearless leader regularly reminded us to “listen to your body.” The 15-minute ceremony spans three hand-selected songs, one song for each infused snowball. After each song, guests can choose to leave the room if they are feeling a bit light-headed or can descend to a lower bench, thereby reducing the intensity of the heat, within the sauna.
Being the stubborn son-of-a-gun that I am, I chose not to pursue either of these courses of action. I stayed perched on the top rung, in an effort to achieve an out of body experience. The second snowball was infused with mint essential oils, By this point, about 25% of the room has abandoned ship. Sweat is coming out of places in my body that I didn’t know could sweat. I think my eyebrows are sweating.
I am entranced by the grace and stamina of our Aufguss master, wondering how he trained for this moment. Does he go long sprints in those plastic sweatsuits? Did he spend summer 2019 in the south of France?
As we enter into the third and final chapter of this experience, the eucalyptus chapter, I am hanging on by the skin of my teeth and the ties on my string bikini. My friends and I are few of the lone survivors on the top bench, we’ve separated the wheat from the chaff and more than half of those that started on this journey with us have thrown in the towel.
Throughout the entirety of the third song, I am on a spirit quest. The Aufguss is a shaman who has brought me to a higher plane of existence. Time is an abstraction.
By the time the music finally stops, I’m tempted to sprint for the door but know I don’t have the presence of mind or coordination to make any sudden movements. We take our time, carefully stepping down from our perch, and then immediately make our way to the cold pool. What previously felt like glacial meltwater is now a lifesaver, bringing my brain down from a rolling boil to a gentle simmer.
“I feel light-headed,” I say to my friends. They nod in silent agreement. After 10 minutes in the cold pool we make our way to lounge chairs and immediately pass out. We were fully cleansed. Then went home for a quick nap and rebooted the pollution with dinner, drinks, and dancing. It was a perfect day.
Pisco, Plum & Sage Cocktail
- ¾ oz honey syrup
- 3 sage leaves
- ½ yellow plum
- 1 ½ oz pisco
- ½ oz lemon juice
- small pinch salt
- 1 dash Mister Bitters Honeyed Apricot & Smoked Hickory bitters optional
- 1 oz dry sparkling wine
- 1 sage leaf for garnish
- 4 oz honey
- 4 oz boiling water
Add three sage leaves to the bottom of your shaker. Top with honey syrup and lightly muddle the sage, thereby releasing its oil into the mixture.
Next, cut the half plum into two quarters and add them to your shaker with sage-honey syrup. Muddle the fruit thoroughly, extracting as much juice as possible.
Add pisco, lemon juice, salt, and bitters to shaker. Fill with ice and shake vigorously for 20 seconds. fill your shaker.
Pour sparkling wine into a chilled coupe glass. Double strain (to remove those bits of fruit and herbcontents of shaker into a coupe glass overtop the sparkling wine. Garnish with a single sage leaf.
Combine boiling water and honey in a heatproof jar. Stir or put the lid on and shake vigorously until honey is dissolved in water. Honey syrup will keep for up to 2 weeks in an airtight container in the fridge.
Recipe adapted from: Todd. “Golden Plum & Sage Cocktail.” Honestly Yum. July 17, 2013.