This Sunday, June 17, will be the 60th anniversary of the mysterious explosion that killed Jack Parsons.
Chatting to Geraldine Beskin of Atlantis Bookshop on my lunch break yesterday, Mister Parsons came up in conversation.
(I was buying a book about him. An actual paper book. From a shop. Which is a thing I still do.)
“We should mark his death day. It would be a real ‘hands across the Atlantic’ thing.”
I say that I think it’s actually coming up. Wasn’t it sometime in July?
Back at my desk, I consult the smackhead akashic library and lo! It is coming up. It’s this Sunday!
So I email Geraldine and say it was a nice idea but we’ve got less than a week so I’m just going to bully a mixologist into inventing a cocktail in his honour.
She emails back and says we actually have a little bit over a year and that I should enjoy the cocktail. Which should be called Rocketman.
Discussing the hypothetical event back in the store, Geraldine suggests that “there must be absolutely nothing earthy about it. It must fizz.” An instruction which, seen written down, looks a lot more like the description of a drink than an event.
That’s a good starting point. We want the cocktail to be very “Air of Fire” as befits the scientist who would recite the Hymn To Pan as his rockets blasted off into the atmosphere… the visionary with a crater named after him on the back side of the moon. (The side with the possibly active alien bases.)
And it must be red. Red for Babalon. Red for rockets!
There’s the food strategist for the 127 year old premium food and wine retailer, there’s the famous London cocktail blogger, there’s the entire community team whose full time job it is to know where to go out and there’s the drunk history nerd. (Me.)
If this sounds like a lot of effort to go to, have a think about this:
Had Jack not met his suspicious and explosive end sixty years ago, witchcraft and western magic in the latter half of the twentieth century -and thus today- would look very different.
Some of his initial channeled information and early writing can only be described as “fourth rate Crowley”.
But these were just the growing pains of what may have gone on to be one of the defining practitioners of the age. Indeed, as Peter Grey points out in his genuinely excellent The Red Goddess, this was precisely Crowley’s opinion of the young Parsons:
Jack’s trouble is his weakness, and his romantic side -the poet – is at PRESENT a hindrance. He gets a kick from some magazine trash, or an ‘occult’ novel (if only he knew how they were concocted!) and dashes off in wild pursuit. He MUST learn that the sparkle of champagne is based on sound wine; pumping carbonic acid into urine is not the same thing.
(Sidebar: Two things. If this isn’t the pot calling the kettle poet I don’t know what is. Also the novel in question was probably Jack Williamson’s Darker Than You Think. It’s worldview very much agreed with Jack.)
This is a man who would go out into the desert at night with L Ron Hubbard for visionary experiences. We were robbed of a major contributor to the western magical canon. And obviously you know I just love that the non-Nazi half of NASA came from a Bohemian Thelemite living in a Pasadena mansion of wizards and artists.
Nazis and wizards put man on the moon. That’s weirder than Discworld and surely worth a drink all on its own. In fact, it’s worth two drinks.
And here they are, courtesy of the inaugural meeting of the London Mixological Brain Trust:
The martini was a west coast creation, just like handsome Jack himself. And it was obviously the drink in the 50s. So it seemed a good place to start. (Note: There is no such thing as a ‘vodka martini’. I’ve asked the brain trust and they agree that’s better called ‘a waste of perfectly good vodka’.)
Adding to that Geraldine’s suggestion that it must be “utterly devoid of earth” meant avoiding anything as base as fruit or wheat or dairy. It’s spirit for Spirit.
- 60 ml gin. (Sipsmith if you’re infusing the gin. See below.)
- 15 ml Noilly Prat Extra Dry Vermouth. A new bottle. Vermouth is wine based so it spoils quickly. Don’t skimp!
- 30 ml Campari. For the red, for the sex appeal, for the pleasing botanical notes.
Tip into a cocktail shaker with a load of ice, stir 7 or 49 times then strain into a glass. Drink in a desert under the stars. (Or, you know, in your shitty west London backyard.)
The Desert Sky
Here’s one that maybe isn’t quite so potent. The colour isn’t as red either, it’s more like those final moments of sunset before the stars fade into view.
- 30 ml gin. (Optional: infused. This will likely alter the taste.)
- 30 ml Martini Rosso. Fresh like the vermouth for the exact same reason.
- Stir, then top with Limoux or prosecco. Do try and find the Limoux. I personally prefer it to champagne and it gets extra points for being grown in view of a sacred mountain.
The optional infusion
Here’s some of Jack’s more famous (and kinda rubbish) lines. For a poet he certainly made an excellent rocket scientist.
I hight Don Quixote, I live on peyote, marijuana, morphine and cocaine,
I never know sadness, but only a madness that burns at the heart and the brain.
I see each charwoman, ecstatic, inhuman, angelic, demonic, divine.
Each wagon a dragon, each beer mug a flagon that brims with ambrosial wine.
There’s no getting around the fact that there are certain lines in the Book Of The Law that Jack really took to heart. Something, something “wines that foam”. You know the rest.
Obviously this blog would never recommend you break the law of wherever you happen to be at the time. Because that in itself is breaking the law. As is detailing how you go about committing a crime such as extracting a controlled substance. Reportage of such a description is perfectly legal. Doubly so if your reportage is of a description of an act that was performed somewhere where it is perfectly legal.
So when I say that my Polish cleaning lady who is currently on maternity leave told me about an alcoholic infusion performed by her friend in Poland that involved crushing 20 ololiuhqui seeds in a coffee grinder and sitting them with a shot of alcohol in a small jar wrapped in foil in the fridge for a day before straining the seeds through a paper coffee filter you understand I am simply passing on idle chat with an employee. (There. That… that should do it.)
BUT if I were to be in Poland this Sunday, and not just in a country where ololiuqui seeds –sacred for thousands of years and endemic to parts of Central America– are completely legal, readily available and even anecdotally used to treat cluster headaches via what appears to be a variant of the Polish method… then I would try and track down my cleaner’s friend.
Because a sacred shamanic aid, especially one with an astral component, would really put the “space” in this space man drink. Also the combination of this aid with the botanicals already infused in the gin and Campari would probably be particularly pleasing.
In lieu of a desert
Sunday is probably not going to be warm in London. “Desert” won’t be the word the weather presenter uses. That “drought” ended immediately after it was announced and we are on course for the wettest June since the reign of Queen Victoria. (Something about Diamond Jubilees, maybe?)
You’re probably in a similar situation. Also, Poland isn’t exactly famous for its deserts. Which means it’s up to you to provide your own set and setting.
Rocketman obviously comes to mind. Which is a fine enough track in the way that much of Sir Elton’s early work is fine enough. But it strikes me that the song is too defeatist for this occasion… it’s the wrong kind of melancholy. We’re supposed to miss him. He was too much of an unrepentant rock star for us to pity him.
So may I suggest Stargazer or something in that vein? However you do it, please raise a glass to the man who is in a very literal sense on the moon.
To Jack. I wish I knew you. This post is for you. One part in particular. Hope you like it.