Foreword Reviews

Michael Branch's 'Raising Wild Cocktail'


Michael Branch: “Because we dwell on the wild edge of the ecotone where the Sierra Nevada and Great Basin meet, this drink is a refresher that evokes both our home mountains and our home desert.”

Ten Easy Steps to Concocting a Raising Wild Cocktail

  1. Begin with a chilled zombie or highball glass. Add two sprigs of wild giant hyssop, monardella, or any mint-family (Lamiaceae) wildflower you may have gathered on this morning’s hike. All these lovely plants are cousins of Artemisia Tridentata (big sagebrush), named for Artemis, the Greek goddess of wild nature.

  2. Gently muddle the mint sprigs. As you do, the mint should become more muddled; your thinking less so.

  3. Add 2 oz. Barrel Aged High Country Gin, crafted by The Depot in Reno. If you aren’t fortunate enough to live in Nevada, an acceptable substitute is Wilder Gin, which is distilled with wild-harvested, native botanicals including sagebrush and purple sage. Pause to give thanks to the gnarled juniper trees that produced the berries from which this aromatic elixir has been patiently fermented.

  4. Add ½ oz. Sage-Juniper simple syrup, to conjure the shimmering aromatics of the juniper-dotted sagebrush ocean that fills the Great Basin Desert. Pause to contemplate the possibility of keeping your life as simple as the syrup.

  5. Add ¼ cup limeade, not because Raising Wild is an adult beverage, but instead because the flavor of limeade is the taste of childhood. This cocktail should immerse you in the landscape while also transporting your imagination to the horizonless landscape of childhood summers.

  6. Add just the smallest splash of Fever Tree Elderflower Tonic Water, to give your drink the crystalline effervescence of the Truckee River as it tumbles through granite riffles on its way from alpine Lake Tahoe to its spectacular desert terminus in Pyramid Lake, a Pleistocene remnant that reminds us that if life is short, time is long.

  7. Add ice. If you enjoy drinks that evoke humility as well as triumph, used smoked ice, which adds flavor while reminding you of the fast-moving wildfire that very nearly engulfed your home. To make smoked ice, chill water in a large ice cube tray. Just before the water freezes, sprinkle the ashes of your local wildfire lightly over it. (If you don’t have the ashes of a wildfire handy, burn spruce tips above the ice and let the ashes fall on top of the ice cube.) As the ice melts in your Raising Wild cocktail it will release the subtle flavor of burned spruce, juniper, and sage.

  8. Mix slowly with a wooden spoon. If possible, use the graceful, curved-handled spoon carved by your friend from the fallen branch of a mountain mahogany that clings to life in one of the steep, rocky draws on the northeast face of your home mountain.

  9. Garnish with a sprig of…what else?…wild sage.

  10. Go outdoors and enjoy your drink. Clothing optional.


Read our interview with Michael Branch

Michael Branch
Michael Branch
For additional insights on the wild—and how to drink in it—check out Michael Branch’s new book, Raising Wild, from Roost Books. Branch is professor of literature and environment at the University of Nevada Reno. He is the author of a vast body of work.

Michelle Anne Schingler

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