To launch myself on this task, I googled "random noun generator" and pushed the button until I got a word that made sense in the phrase "______ drink".
The first such word: murder.
At first I tried to picture a drink that would make you want to murder. Then I tried to picture a drink that you would imbibe while murdering. Neither made a lot of sense except in a Jekyll and Hyde sort of vein. But a drink that you could use to
murder? That I can do. I had a couple of hours to kill before meeting up with a friend for dinner, so after triple-checking the task description to make sure I didn't have to test
my drink, I hopped on the next train to Glen Park.
Flashback to my childhood. I grew up walking around all the wild places of the Bay Area with my father, who was a big fan of foraging food, and he tried to teach me everything he knew about which plants were delicious. For example, miner's lettuce (Claytonia perfoliata
), which makes a really excellent salad or a nice trailside nibble.
When you're a forager, there's something even more important to know than which plants are delicious, and that is which plants you should absolutely never ever eat. And apart from poison oak (which I learned very early on not to even touch
), the first plant I learned to never put in my mouth was Conium maculatum
. Poison hemlock. And the first place I remember my dad pointing it out to me was in Glen Canyon, so that's where I went to look for a sample.
Looks a bit like parsley, which might account for it being the plant most commonly associated with plant poisonings. It was famously used to execute Socrates, who was given wine that had had hemlock steeped in it. Hemlock contains coniine, an alkaloid toxin that blocks the neuromuscular junction, causing respiratory paralysis, followed by death. Nibbling on a handful of the leaves can give you a high enough coniine dose to be fatal, and the root contains a much higher concentration of the poison, if you're foolish enough to go digging for it.
As I left the park with my prize, a woman with a small child pointed me out. "What do you think he's picked?" she asked him. "Something good to eat?" I gave her a wide-eyed head shake. "Not this one," I told her, very seriously. As it happened, there were some more hemlock plants nearby, and I didn't want her getting any bad ideas.
Back at home, I carefully washed the plant, and refreshed my memory on preparing tinctures. Alcohol would serve to extract the needed alkaloids from the plant, and would have the side benefit of masking not only the flavor of the hemlock but the early symptoms (peripheral numbness, which might be mistaken for a nice buzz, especially if the subject is already somewhat inebriated).
Gin would do the trick nicely -- mostly neutral but with a certain amount of herbal flavor already present. As luck would have it, I have a bit of leftover cheap (plastic-jug-cheap) gin that nobody is going to miss too much. I chopped up the root, put it in the bottom of a glass jar, poured a shot or two worth of the gin over it, and then packed in a bunch of the herb for good measure.
This was left to steep overnight. Then the herb-infused liquor needed to be strained out so there wouldn't be any suspicious sediment floating around in the drink...
Obviously with that greenish color it wouldn't pass for unadulterated gin. To disguise it, I added Rose's lime juice, making it a perfectly respectable gin gimlet.
Ladies and gentlemen, I give you what may be the world's first hemlock gimlet, complete with festive garnish. Crisp, refreshing, and enough neurotoxin to drop an elephant.
The Murder Drink.