Today, I’m debuting a regular feature in which I’ll highlight a science fiction-, fantasy- or horror-themed cocktail and discuss its inspiration. Today’s drink is an appropriately hued gin concoction themed around the recent release of Clive Barker’s The Scarlet Gospels.
Barker’s first adult horror novel since 2001, The Scarlet Gospels is essentially a hard-boiled version of Paradise Lost. It matches Harry D’Amour, the private-eye demon hunter who first appeared in “The Last Illusion,” against Pinhead, the lead Cenobite from “The Hellbound Heart,” the novella that launched the “Hellraiser” franchise.
Those expecting the kind of skin-crawling horror Barker executed so well in “The Hellbound Heart” and his groundbreaking Books of Blood will likely be disappointed. Sure, there’s plenty of trademark viscera and lush language. One expects that as the characters trek through through Hell in search of Lucifer, who’s pulled a Howard Hughes-style disappearing act. But missing is the sense of creeping dread that made “The Hellbound Heart” such a compelling read in the first place.
That said, The Scarlet Gospels still succeeds as dark fantasy. Barker’s prose is vivid, even if stripped down compared to his earlier work. The opening scene, in which Pinhead dispatches the last of the world’s great magicians, is alone worth the price of admission. During the course of the novel, Barker does a superb job at making us care about both the dedicated and loyal Harry and the immortal and world-weary Pinhead, even as the demon exacts cruelty after cruelty.
The book’s namesake cocktail combines gin with Cynar, a bitter Italian aperitif made from artichokes. Beyond its color, I chose Cynar because we learn during the course of The Scarlet Gospels that Pinhead isn’t only a ruthless sadist but a rather bitter fellow. Among his many grievances: the hardware store-inspired nickname with which he’s been saddled. The cocktail’s use of blood orange, aside from deepening its red color, provides sweet and sour citrus notes as a foil for the Cynar’s bitterness.
The Scarlet Gospel
Shake the ingredients over ice in a cocktail shaker and drain into a coupe glass. Serve ice cold.