The Cordial of Imladris: A Farewell Drink to the Hobbit and Middle-Earth

“The long years have passed like swift draughts of the sweet mead in lofty halls beyond the West, beneath the blue vaults of Varda wherein the stars tremble in the voice of her song, holy and queenly.”

Miruvor

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Ingredients- single portion

  • 2/3 oz (2 dsp, or 4 tsp) dry gin, floral notes preferred
  • 2/3 oz (2 dsp, or 4 tsp) raspberry eau-de-vie
  • 1/3 oz (1 dsp, or 2 tsp) pisco brandy
  • 1/3 oz (1 dsp, or 2 tsp) young agricole rum

Procedure

  1. Chill a 4.5 oz old-fashioned tumbler
  2. Add spirits to tumbler
  3. Swirl lightly to mix

Ingredients- 6oz flask portion (3 full servings)

  • 2 oz (1/4 cup) dry gin, floral notes preferred
  • 2 oz (1/4 cup) raspberry eau-de-vie
  • 1 oz (2 tbsp) pisco brandy
  • 1 oz (2 tbsp) young agricole rum

Procedure

  1. Mix ingredients
  2. Funnel into flask

Yéni ve lintë yuldar avánier/mi oromardi lisse-miruvóreva/Andúnë pella, Vardo tellumar/nu luini yassen tintilar i eleni/ómaryo airetári-lírinen.

So goes a portion of the poem Namarie, in a sequence from the Fellowship of the Ring not fully touched on in the Peter Jackson films. It comes to mind now, however, on the eve of the US release of The Hobbit, the Battle of Five Armies. The Fellowship of the Ring started production in 1997 and was released in 2001, 13 years ago.  Now advertised as “the last Tolkien movie, the end of an era”, it calls for a bit of reflection and retrospection.

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Yep. No more of this guy.

For many, this author included, the Lord of the Rings remains one of the major first fantasy novels, or at least first major doorstopper in the home library. Tolkien was first impressions, and set expectations for stout dwarves, fair elves, myth, might, and magic, in a world with wizards and song. The languages of middle-earth were a draw as well, with “Elvish” taking the hearts and minds of many an aspiring linguist. Honestly, I prefer the sounds of Quenya much better than that of Sindarin (90% of the elvish spoken in LotR), or Klingon, if we’re going to compare conlangs.

Now, adapting that many pages of lore is no small task, and the decisions Peter Jackson and team have made over the years have been received with varying levels of enthusiasm:

  • The paring down of the absolutely enormous cast of the books: absolutely understandable. Goodbye Glorfindel (too bad), Elrohir (so sad), Tom Bombadil (actually, probably for the best).
  • Adding Elves to Helm’s Deep, promoting a border guard named Haldir to captain of a legion of elves…and then killing him: unnecessary, but added to the epic factor so I guess fine.
  • Recharacterizing Boromir’s brother from the best voice of reason in Gondor to Faramir McDouchepants: the exact opposite of the book version, to reinforce the Ring as all-corrupting literally everyone (despite Sam) and to help better empathize with Gollum….[disapproval intensifies]
  • Frodo’s “Go home, Sam”….What? No. Wrong.
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It doesn’t even make sense!

Most especially now, the splitting of The Hobbit, a book one-third the size of Lord of the Rings, the shortest story in the Third Age of Middle Earth, from one movie, to two, to THREE. Granted we at the Nerd Bar are curious about the machinations of Sauron, the Necromancer of Mirkwood and Dol Goldur, but it’s a bit much. It’s almost too easy to pass it off as milking the cash cow to exhaustion, by making a capitalizing too hard on. And it is going to exhaustion, as these movies seem to fall apart a bit more the bigger the budget and the more superfluous CG. Other people have fallen for the more-CG-is-always-an-improvement trick, though:

Hot_Lips_Snootles

Star Wars Special Edition: More CG Alien Face than You Ever Wanted

Overall, though, Peter Jackson has done marvelous work with the Tolkien legendarium, and turned the franchise into a moneymaker many times what it originally was. Casting was incredible all round, including introducing the world at large to Orlando Bloom and Viggo Mortensen, and giving Ian McKellen yet another opportunity to blow everyone away. (Even if they slipped up and let the Uruk-hai take the Hobbits to Isengard). Andy Serkis was a game-changer in the field of motion-capture acting, and Weta Workshop deserves every bit of the credit they got in raising the bar on epic battles with the MASSIVE program etc.

Adapting drinks from Middle-Earth and Arda is similarly challenging. So in the spirit of Tolkien in review, we return to the quote from Namarie. In there, Galadriel refelcts on the passage of time like swift draughts “lisse-miruvóreva” translated as “of the sweet mead”. Miruvórë, the Quenya root noun in question, was supposedly a festival beverage of Valinor prepared from the nectar and dew of the flowers of Yavanna. Yavanna, an Ainu(demigod-ish entity) in Valinor, the sort of Olympus-Heaven analog, was a higher power of nature, of an order (the Ainur) second only to the creator Eru (For more information, read “The Music of the Ainur”). She was powerful enough that when the original lamps that made night and day were destroyed by Melkor (The Great Enemy/Devil/etc), she sang into existence two trees, whose last flowers even after the trees eventual destruction, were bright enough to become the SUN AND THE MOON.

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Now, mead made of other flowers from Yavanna could be a basic fermentation of honey sampled from those flowers, as the western world is familiar with the term. However, I would imagine so much more in strength and flavor from the food and drink of Valinor. If I were to conjecture what miruvore should taste like, I would expect a cross between a new or young Ceylon Arrack, and a honeyjack, or eau-de vie de miel, or honey rum, however you care to describe it. Take (perhaps orange blossom or clover) honey, maybe some coconut palm nectar as well, get them fermenting separately, combine to finish fermentation, distill, and age just slightly in old wood. At present, like miruvórë in-universe, however, no such product exists for the mouths of Men.

Enter the cordial of Imladris:

`Give them this,’ said Gandalf, searching in his pack and drawing out a leathern flask. `Just a mouthful each – for all of us. It is very precious. It is miruvor, the cordial of Imladris. Elrond gave it to me at our parting. Pass it round!’

As soon as Frodo had swallowed a little of the warm and fragrant liquor he felt a new strength of heart, and the heavy drowsiness left his limbs. The others also revived and found fresh hope and vigor.~ Fellowship of the Ring

There isn’t much description of production, but it’s understood to be a separate more mundane variant of miruvórë, miruvor. (It’s actually in Sindarin Elvish rather than Quenya Elvish, though both words stem from Valarin (what the Valar Ainur speak) mirubhōze).

We know that it’s clear and colorless, warming, and fragrant. It’s also tellingly stable enough to survive a long journey traveling in a flask.  It makes sense then to have minimal aromatic additions like bitters, so that the alcoholic heat comes through. High proof provides that heat, so spirits all around, no included dilution and minimal liqueur or cordial-style sweetening and added sugar to keep it stable and safe to store. Certainly no juices or anything that would spoil within a few days on a journey (Of course those would color the miruvor anyway, so they’re doubly out of the question). What we have then is either a thoroughbred or an ensemble, a drink comprised solely of alcoholic products to be served neat, hot, chilled soft and up, or on the rocks, with no extra sweetening or aromatics (bitters/zest/anything). It would be a thoroughbred to serve a single product, or an ensemble, obviously, if the jigger portion has multiple liquors inside. What flavors, then, should it have?

Tolkien Elves have always come across as strong and capable, but…frilly. Where I could see Aragorn or Gimli tear into a steak and a loaf of bread, I’d sooner imagine Legolas and Galadriel eating berries and leaves and flowers. Nothing from the ground is good enough. What I’m getting at is I don’t associate them with grain, meaning no whisk(i)e(y)s. That leaves fruit brandies and nectar/toddy spirits, meaning rums/mezcals/arracks. I don’t think they would use agave (big spiky heavy dirty things), nor would they burn cane juice to refine sugar and get molasses. (For sweeteners I could see either honey or pressed sugarcane juice/nectar used as-is). Fruit-wise grape brandy is always a safe and sure way to go, but in this case, other berries sound appealing as well.

In the end, four components reached a flavor we found satisfactory. The majority of the blend was dry gin and raspberry brandy. While I like to be brand-agnostic, in this case I think it’s worth mentioning I went with Amethyst gin for it’s lavender content, which adds a floral perfume. The raspberry brandy (or raspberry eau-de-vie, depending on your producer) used should have no sugar. In the best cases, like St. George’s label (formerly Aqua Perfecta) they ferment then distill from the fruit, rather than just macerating the berries in neutral and distilling like a berry “gin” geist. The remainder is young Pisco brandy and young agricole r(h)um, to give more fruit depth and a sweet grassy character, respectively.

Testing yielded responses this blend tasted decidedly “Elvish”, though the warming effect described wasn’t universal upon first tasting. We think this might come from the way the flavors blend and smooth out the burn normally present in each. On the other hand, it might just be tasting technique. A hesitant sip will be felt more in the mouth than a confident gulp which will will warm down the throat.

Nevertheless, as promised this is flask-safe, colorless, and warming, and at 87 proof, if you don’t feel it now you’ll feel it eventually. Do play around with the proportions if you think the mix could be improved, and let us know. Only one question remains…

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An Illumination of Namarie by Per Lindberg, collected at Amanye Tenceli 

Sí man i yulma nin enquantuva? Who now shall refill the cup for me?

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