Game of Thrones is the kind of show that inevitably makes you want to drown your sorrows in booze. As we approach the series’ sixth-season finale—and look toward its eventual conclusion—we figured it was time we stepped up our drinking game of thrones. To that end, we turned to Chantal Tseng, one of Washington, D.C.’s best and most innovative bartenders, and asked her to assemble a menu of cocktails inspired by the season.
Tseng works at the Reading Room in Petworth Citizen, a tiny book-lined bar at the back of another bar. Each week, she crafts a new list of cocktails inspired by her recent reading, creating clever (and, crucially, delicious) drinks that take their cues from the likes of James Joyce, Roald Dahl, and Emily Dickinson. (You can listen to an episode of the podcast Working with her here.) She’s also a committed Game of Thrones fan, as you can tell from the three drinks she made for us, which offer smart twists on familiar intoxicants, much as the show itself subverts the conventions of fantasy fiction.
Some notes on those drinks are below. You may have to track down a few ingredients, but you won’t regret taking the time to make them at home as you prepare to mourn your favorite characters—and the show that loves to kill them off.
The Faith and the Crown
1.5 oz. — Dry gin (Hayman’s, if you’ve got it)
1.5 oz. — Dry vermouth (Tseng likes Dolin)
A dash — Orange bitters
¼ oz. — Pickle brine (Gordy’s sells it in cans)
¼ oz. — Yellow chartreuse
Grapefruit peel, fresh rosemary sprigs, and cornichon for garnish
Combine all ingredients in a mixing pitcher. Add ice, preferably large cubes to minimize dilution, and stir. Strain into a pre-chilled Nick and Nora glass. Serve with a crown made from grapefruit peel and rosemary, wrapped around a cornichon and stabbed through with a cocktail sword.
This season in King’s Landing, conflict between the church and the royalty has driven much of the plot. Even as they struggle, however, these two powers remain the twin pillars of the kingdom, standing tall while the world crumbles around them. To capture that drama, Tseng crafts a variant on the classic 1:1 gin martini, the king of cocktails.
For its base, she employs equal parts gin and vermouth, but she dirties it to capture the grimy back-room politics of Westeros’ greatest city. Fittingly, since shared animosity brings the crown and the church together, Tseng binds them with a dash of bitters. In place of olive juice, she subs in pickle brine, which adds a bracingly rough texture that might remind you of the High Sparrow’s manipulative demeanor. She also adds a bit of yellow chartreuse, which gives the final drink of golden, leonine hue that echoes the Lannister’s sigil.
She garnishes all of that with a complex crown.
1 oz. — Absinthe
½ oz. — Byrrh Grand Quinquina
Grapefruit peel for garnish
Pour absinthe into a pre-chilled glass and fill the rest with crushed ice, mounding well over the edge of the rim. Using a swizzle stick, stir to blend. Add more crushed ice as necessary and drizzle with byrrh. Garnish with a door carved from grapefruit. Drink through a straw.
The Hodor brings together two of the season’s most chilling revelations into one frigid beverage. In it, Tseng nods to the lessons of Bran’s journeys through time, making reference to the origins of the series’ gentlest giant and the more sinister creation story of the White Walkers. Though absinthe doesn’t really drive those who drink it crazy, its licorice tang—made subtle by crushed ice—winks at the madness that Bran both witnessed and helped create. Meanwhile, the reddish Byrrh—a wine based aperitif—that she pours over the top spreads through the drink like so much blood on the snow, a visceral reminder of battles won and lost in the frozen North.
Tseng garnishes this drink with a door carved from grapefruit peel. Make sure to keep it closed. There’s no telling what will spill through if you fail to hold it.
1 oz. — Batavia-Arrack
1 oz. — Linie Aquavit
1 oz. — Vermouth rouge (preferably Dolin)
1/8 oz. — Allspice dram
½ oz. — Fresh lime juice
¾ oz. — Fresh grapefruit juice
High proof rum
Dried grapefruit peel
Combine first six ingredients in a cocktail mixer, add ice, and shake vigorously. (This one scales well. Go ahead and make multiple batches if you want to fill a larger bowl.) Strain and pour into a bowl and add fresh ice. Invert a juiced, halved lime and float in the concoction, hollow side facing up. Fill that receptacle with overproof rum and set aflame. If you’re feeling fancy, garnish with a dragon made from a very long strip of grapefruit peel, dehydrated in a warm oven. Drink with straws.
When Daenerys negotiates, she does so with fire. Nevertheless, she somehow manages to gather people of all kinds in her service. To capture that rich mélange, Tseng turned to the traditions of tiki, in which numerous traditions come together to form revolutionary mixtures. Based roughly on the scorpion bowl, the Dragon Diplomacy should be made in a circular bowl and drunk through multiple straws. It unites an exotic array of liquors that should summon up the many cultures of Daenerys’ army. In the middle she floats a basin of overproof rum that she sets alight.
Gather around that fire with your pals and sip together like the Dothraki horde, rushing to see Daenerys emerge from the flames, triumphant.