Beltane is one of the best festivals of the year in my opinion – a celebration of fire, flowers and creativity! It’s also the backdrop for the 1973 Christopher Lee gem The Wicker Man, the film about a hapless policeman investigating a missing child on the mysterious Scottish island of Summerisle. If you’ve never seen it, I urge you to do so, but avoid the Nicolas Cage remake from 2006. Just look at Christopher Lee in his snazzy saffron turtleneck and crazy windswept hair:
First, I recruited a fellow enchantress to co-hostess the party as she is renowned for her faultless kitchen-witchery and having extra hands in conjuring a feast is always more fun!
For party decor I constructed a wicker man out of pretzels and festooned him with flowers:
And built a maypole to adorn the top of my tidbit tray:
I sent invitations to guests summoning them to a Fête of Fire & Flowers and asked them to bring fresh flowers with them. I was delighted to find flower-shaped party plates, too.
Since we were inspired by the film, which takes place in Scotland, we included some Scottish inspired items on the menu, which was thus:
Gravlax with scotch and orange
Asparagus puff-pastry “maypoles”
Goat cheese and honeycomb with oat crackers
Lemon cupcakes (I use Amy Sedaris’s basic recipe and add lemon extract & zest)
Scotch “harebit” (cheese sauce served over hare-shaped toasts)
Crudités with green goddess dip
For liquid refreshment we offered a May Wine punch, rose and elderflower lemonades and three cocktails I devised for the occasion: a non-alcoholic one that I dubbed The Landlord’s Daughter after a bawdy song in the film, consisting of ginger beer with a hibiscus flower in syrup and a dash of Bittermens Burlesque bitters; The Green Man, an herbal gin-tarragon affair which I wrote about in a post last week; and The Wicker Man which I will detail here:
The Wicker Man
2 oz applejack
1 oz lemon juice
.5 oz Barenjager honey liqueur
.5 oz demerara ginger syrup
.5 oz Laphroaig or other smoky Scotch whisky
Pour everything but the scotch into a shaker with ice and shake until it’s too cold to hold. Pour the entire contents – ice and all – into a glass and then float the Laphroaig on top. Garnish with a wooden skewer holding a slice of crystallized ginger wrapped around a cocktail cherry.
It’s a lovely libation. The applejack is a nod to the crop that the residents of Summerisle are trying to revive in the film and the smoky scotch float reminds us of their burnt offerings. It garnered the approval of those tipplers-in-the-know over at Grade “A” Fancy Magazine…
The guests began to arrive at 3pm – a Beltane celebration of the sun should begin in sunlight – and they offered up their fresh flowers to be sacrificed as flower crowns.
And if you’re lucky enough to have a friend who is an incredibly talented jewelry designer, she might just bring the prettiest necklace of roses for you to sport at the party! Look how gorgeous!
Guests were directed to the May Wine punch bowl for immediate refreshment. May Wine is a traditional May Day drink in Germany involving white wine, sparkling wine, an herb called sweet woodruff (or waldmeister in Germany) and strawberries. A lovely recipe for it can be found here.
As punch cups were drained, I prepared rounds of my special cocktails that I had made batches of earlier:
After we were suitably sated and florified, we took turns leaping over a lit candle (the traditional bonfire adapted to a NYC studio apartment) to encourage fertile creativity in the season to come. See the video below courtesy of www.nibblesip.com:
It was a smashing bash, filled with spectacular friends – I know the gods were pleased!
How do you celebrate Beltane? I’d love to hear from you in the comments!