KNOCK ON WOOD’
MELISSA BAUMUNK’S WINNING SIGNATURE DRINK
The inspiration for my cocktail was the wood carved face of a wizardly old man with a tobacco pipe, hung at the doorway of the Willibald gin distillery.
Looking further into this whimsical carving, I found out that they are called wood spirits or “Waldgeist” in German. The spirits are said to inhabit the trees of the forest and are the protectors of those who enter. They are also said to bring good luck when spotted. Part of this lore matches the term “knock on wood.” When hunters or woodsmen would enter the forest, they would knock on a large tree to awaken the Waldgeist to ensure no evil would come to them. You can see the wood spirits today as carvings hung over or near doorways leaning into homes to ensure protection, prosperity and good luck.
This cocktail is smooth and balanced, showcasing Willibald gin. I used Asbach German brandy to accent the cherries and to pay tribute to the German heritage of Willibald. I chose the black cherries as I thought the sweet/tart flavour would pair well with the spices of the gin.
I smoked the cherries with alder wood chips for an extra layer of flavour and as a way to infuse an element of wood in the cocktail. The tobacco bitters level out the sweetness and remind me of the Waldgeist carving smoking the pipe. I chose to use a sturdy Old Fashioned glass to represent trunks of trees in the forest and used large ice cubes for slow dilution. The dehydrated, black smoked cherries on the yellow flower “pick” represent the colours of the Willibald brand.
My tray is homemade of barn wood and I used pussy willows with branches strategically placed to create a ‘W’ for Willibald, and ground cherries and foliage you would find on the forest floor.
We were also asked if we wanted a song to play while we were presenting our drink. I chose “Over the Hills and Far Away” by Led Zeppelin.