The Cloak of Displacement - A Cocktail for Your Next Quest
Updated: Mar 1
Your party has been traveling three days through wooded foothills and swamps and has faced a couple Green Slaadi, a demon, and an incessant duergar that raids your camp every time you settle down to rest for the night. You finally see your destination a half-mile ahead of you - a well fortified hamlet with inviting chimney smoke billowing from bent pipes above the quaint, slated rooftops. You picture warming your battle-tired bones by a fire in the village's inn when, suddenly, something large rustles the bushes just a few yards away. A displacer beast emerges, cat-like fangs exposed, six legs bounding toward you, tentacles raised and already attacking. Roll for initiative.
Here's the recipe for a potion you'll surely need after the fight.
The Cloak of Displacement:
1 1/2 oz. Cognac
1 1/2 oz. Black Haus Blackberry Schnapps
1/2 oz. Creme de Cassis
1 1/2 oz. pineapple juice
3/4 oz. orange juice
1/4 oz. lime juice
1/2 oz. vanilla/anise simple syrup
1 dash orange bitters
All ingredients into a shaker with ice.
Shake and strain into a goblet or chalice 3/4 full of cracked ice (and LED ice cubes if ya got 'em).
1 dash more of orange bitters on top.
Garnish with an orange wheel, mint and blackberries.
So, let's wrap that story up - your party handily defeats the wretched monster and you're able to peacefully continue on your way. If I were in that party, I'd turn the hide of that displacer beast into a cloak, ride into town with my new duds on, find the nearest pub and order a round for my constituents.
It's a scenario like that, played out in a game called Dungeons & Dragons that inspired the real-life, boozy concoction I call the Cloak of Displacement. If you're unfamiliar with Dungeons & Dragons, or D&D, it's a role-playing game wherein you and the other players in your party create characters that go on adventures searching for magical items and do battle with monsters, demons and dragons under the ruling hand of your Dungeon Master. The Dungeon Master, or DM, devises a campaign or overall objective for the group and determines the setting and the people and monsters with which you'll interact - the rest of the story is up to the players and the roll of their dice. There are many RPGs out there but D&D is the only one that I'm familiar with. Once a week, I get together with a group of my friends for a few hours and we play this much beloved game. Nowadays, due to the Covid-19 pandemic, we meet virtually in a video call but the experience is largely the same and, in some ways, even enhanced by some useful digital tools.
I don't think I've ever participated in a D&D session absent of at least the mention of a tavern or pub - it's where a lot of action, dialogue and scheming tends to happen - and this realization drew me to D&D as a source of inspiration for cocktail making. It's not that far a stretch to draw a parallel between potion making and mixology. So with that in mind, a couple years ago I started dreaming up my own D&D themed cocktail.
I'm obsessed with displacer beasts - a panther-like beast found in the D&D Monster Manual, with six legs and two tentacles with these odd, razor-toothed pads at the end. They strike out with their claws, teeth and tentacles and, as if that weren't enough, they've got a mystical power that makes them hard to hit when attacking them. If you harvest their hide, you can have it turned into a cloak, The Cloak of Displacement, which bestows that evasive power unto you when worn. Early in my first campaign, our party defeated two of these beasts while traveling through a forrest and, from that moment on, my interest in the lore of this monster was officially piqued. This was my jumping off point in terms of inspiration for a drink - a tribute to a mystical, formidable foe.
As I mentioned, the displacer beast is depicted as panther-like, with a coat of sleek, black/purplish fur - this color palette made me think of blackberries. After that connection was made, I really hit the ground running testing out combos of flavors that might compliment a spirit I decided to highlight called Black Haus, a blackberry schnapps based on an old German recipe from the black forrest (if that doesn't fit in with displacer beast lore, I don't know what does). After trying many spirits to pair with this as a base, I arrived at cognac as the most suitable for the job. From there it took on the look of a tiki drink; a healthy dose of pineapple here, splash of lime there, a little bit of Creme de Cassis even made it into the mix to underscore a tart, berry flavor. I probably could have ended it there and had a solid drink but I wanted to add some mystical element worthy of this elusive, shifting creature. Absinthe sprung to mind and I began experimenting by trying a dash or two in the mix but it added a bitter element that I just wasn't fond of, it needed something sweet. At the time, I was messing around with different kinds of syrup and through the use of anise extract to mimic the black licorice profile of absinthe, commingled in a syrup consisting of vanilla extract and turbinado sugar (I'll provide the recipe at the end), I had a solution that really balanced the drink out in a satisfying way.
I took a swig of the final iteration of the drink and knew that I had done it - it truly satisfied the senses. The bouquet of fresh mint from the garnish hit my nose first and, as I sipped the chilly liquid, I tasted notes of blackberry that combined seamlessly with the black currant flavor of the Creme de Cassis. Then I realized just how much the pineapple juice was doing for the drink as that flavor is ever-present, elevating and existing with the berry and orange profiles like a great, harmonious chord. That little splash of lime provides an essential zest to the drink, an element that truly completed the sense of satisfaction I was receiving on that sip. Then, to cap off the experience, I detected a lingering hint of sweetened black licorice hitting late on my taste buds from the simple syrup well after the initial sip had been supped.
I knew the presentation would have to be special for this drink, so I drew up a bold and flashy garnish that utilized an orange wheel wrapped around mint and blackberries, skewered and secured by two sword picks - but I felt that even an extravagant garnish would not be enough. I am especially lucky to know many talented people, one of which is my friend Dillon Reichel, a great musician and cocktail enthusiast. Through hanging out with him, I met the skilled artist/ceramicist Vynessa Wyker. They both have been supportive of my efforts in making these drinks, even taste-testing a couple of my experiments and providing valuable feedback. I was fortunate enough to be able to commission a goblet from Vynessa specifically for this drink, complete with a relief of a displacer beast on the side. It's an incredible piece of art, a prized possession of mine, and the perfect vessel for this drink. If you're interested in Vynessa's work, please visit her instagram - @witchandthewheeler. Now, maybe I should've ended my pursuit of the perfect presentation with the flashy garnish and custom goblet...but this was a drink inspired by a game that relies heavily on the use of magic...naturally, the obvious conclusion would be that the drink must glow. I bought a set of LED ice cubes online, tested them in my new goblet filled with ice, and I was finally satisfied with the look of the drink.
So, with the flavors and presentation all sorted, I feel ready to submit to the world of mixology one of my finest creations: The Cloak of Displacement. I hope that someone out there goes through the effort of recreating this drink; it's an interesting one with a great backstory that I believe any of my characters would enjoy.
The inspiration to this drink came through years of playing a silly game with some great friends; I'd like to thank my party members, past and present: Matt, Kayla, Dave, Steve, Gabe, Kendra, Matty K. and Ethan. I'd also like to thank Vynessa for creating a goblet that totally blew my expectations away.
Thanks for reading and drop me a line if you decide to try this concoction for yourself.
Vanilla/Anise Simple Syrup
1 cup turbinado sugar
1 cup water
1/8 tsp. anise extract
1/8 tsp. vanilla extract
Bring water to a boil
Add sugar, whisk until dissolved
Remove from heat and add extracts
Let cool and bottle it up.