Monday, March 5, 2012

Skyrim Cocktail #1: The White Gold Tower

The White Gold Tower
There is a damp waterfront town in the world of Skyrim by the name of Riften. In the middle of town there is an inn called the Bee & Barb, run by two Argonians: the green-crested Talen-Jei, and the vaguely dinosaurlike Keerava. Ask Talen-Jei what's on the menu, and he describes three drinks to the player: the White Gold Tower, the Velvet Lachance, and the Cliff Racer.

Drink recipes? IN the game? It's Skyrim! And it's Alcohol! Resistance is futile. Lucky you!

This post is the first in a series of all three drinks.

Lexi and I always put a great deal of thought and research into comestibles we redact from fictional sources. We're obsessed with canon, and The White Gold Tower was no exception. Our goals for coming up with the Bee & Barb drinks were to create concoctions that are delicious and yet still embody the spirit of both the game while sticking religiously to the drink's in-game description.

We started with the verbatim in-game description, from Talen-Jei himself:
...we have the White Gold Tower, which is heavy cream with a layer of blended mead, lavender, and Dragon's Tongue on top.
This is a drink which sounds sweet, smooth, floral, and elegant. I had visions of the ancient, somewhat mysterious nobility of the extinct Ayleids, as embodied by the slender spire rising pale and proud above the walls of the Imperial City.

The ingredients seemed straightforward enough, with at least three of them readily available in the real world (mead, lavender, and heavy cream).

Rustling up some Dragon's Tongue proved to be the first challenge. What is it, and is there any comparable analog in the real world? As it turns out, there are a couple of plants named Dragon's Tongue out there. One of them is an heirloom bean, the other a house plant of questionable edibility. The bean is edible, but neither plant actually looks anything like the plant found while wandering the wilds of the Skyrim universe. Rather than the tiny flowers found on real Dragon's Tongue plants, the Skyrim Dragon's Tongue is a tall, orchid-like affair.

Dragon's Tongue, Skyrim. Image: Bethesda Game Studios, via the Elder Scrolls Wiki.
With this wild image in mind, Lexi set off to find a comparable edible orchid that we might use for garnish. Her inquiries led her to Emerald City Orchids, where a very helpful young gent by the name of Ross (a Skyrim fan himself!) helped her to find a number of similar orchids but none that were exactly the same. Here's where you can get a little creative: since the flower in the game is an amalgamation of the features from various orchids but isn't a real bloom in and of itself, there are lots of options for finding a similar flower. We wound up using a sexy orange Cymbidium.

For the lavender, we debated a few options: lavender-flavored syrup, lavender-infused simple syrup, or lavender-infused vodka. Lexi picked up a pre-made lavender syrup, but it tasted too much like soap. In the end I decided to make a lavender-infused simple syrup (because drinks shouldn't leave bits of lavender in your teeth), per the following recipe:

Lavender Simple Syrup
1 cup water
1 cup granulated sugar
2 Tbsp dried culinary lavender

Put all ingredients in a small saucepan. Bring to a near-boil over medium high heat. Reduce heat and simmer for five minutes. Remove from heat. When cooled, strain into a clean jar or other lidded container and refrigerate.

As for mead, there are several brands on the market, each with different qualities. I picked up a Sky River semi-sweet mead. An initial taste test left me thinking that, while not as cloyingly sweet as some meads can be, the drink needed a much stronger honey flavor, and the Sky River was too light. So I suggested that Lexi pick up a bottle of Chaucer's. She also found some dark mead by Hidden Legend Winery so we could mix and match (Talen-Jei does say it's made with "blended mead", after all).

Talen-Jei describes the drink as being heavy cream with the mead and lavender floated on top, but Lexi and I suspected that the lighter lipids in the cream would layer the drink the opposite way, with the cream on top and the mead on the bottom. Initial mixes showed some immediate issues: the cream must be heavy cream (36% milkfat), because a lighter cream, half-and-half, or whole milk will curdle right away, leaving the drink a sweet, clumpy, clotted disgusting mess.

After a few botched attempts, we had the brilliant idea of doing a float over the back of a spoon. The result was infinitely more appetizing:

Heavy cream float on light mead
Once Lexi had the pour down pat, we spent more time tinkering with various mixtures and ratios, and this was the final recipe we came up with.

White Gold Tower
1 part mead (all one brand, or a mix of brands)
1 part lavender simple syrup
Heavy cream (traditional 36%)
Edible orchid

Pour the meads into the glass, letting them mix on their own (if you're using more than one mead).

Pour in the lavender syrup.

Invert a metal teaspoon over the liquid, bracing the tip against the side of the glass; slowly pour the cream over the back of the spoon until it's formed a layer in the mead about 1/4" to 1/2" deep.
Float the orchid carefully on the top.

The White Gold Tower is a golden, creamy drink, with silky textures and a shimmery, amber look to it. It's very, very sweet, best taken in small amounts, as a dessert drink or a shot. It's also quite strong.

With time, the layers of mead, cream, and lavender will swirl and settle beautifully.
Don't skimp on the lavender syrup: it adds the right floral flavor, and stands up against the strong taste of the mead. The milk fat in the cream helps balance the intense sweetness of the mead plus the simple syrup. Lexi and I recommend testing this drink with different meads - one at a time, blends, dark and light, as many as you like. Cut back a bit on the lavender syrup for more emphasis on the honey, or use lighter meads.


  1. This is gorgeous! Thanks for doing this!

  2. This cocktail recipe is indeed a great refreshment for any occasion! A lot of people will surely enjoy mixing and trying this drink. Thanks for sharing.

  3. If I were to use the Sky-River dry mead instead of the semi-sweet, would that make the overall sweetness of the White Gold Tower a little easier to drink in large amounts? Or will the dry mead make it too bitter?

  4. Hi there Cody, thanks for the comment.

    We actually tried this recipe with the Sky River, I think with their semi-sweet version. I am not a fan of Sky River myself, as it tends to leave a sour aftertaste in my mouth, but as I recall Lexi thought it made for a lighter, less overpoweringly sweet drink.

    The above recipe can definitely be cloying in large amounts, and I think it works best as a dessert shot (though I myself could drink it as an actual drink, since I have a thing for extremely sweet mixed drinks).

    But the beauty of the recipe is you can try it with whatever mead you like - it's described in-game as a "blended mead", after all. So by all means - grab a bottle of Sky River and try it out. If you like it better that way, right on - come back and let us know how it turned out!

  5. You could use Ram's Iland lavender lemonade mead. Though the lemon is a bit out of place, the lavender balances the lemon making it smooth and slightly crisp rather than gripping.

  6. Thanks for the recipe!
    I'm a huge fan of Skyrim and of mead, and love playing around with recipes like this :D

    I strayed by adding some loose leaf cinnamon and apple tea to the syrup (as well as lavender) and that was one damn good drink, even before the addition of cream.

    Good stuff! Keep it up, please and thank you so much omnomnom ^^

  7. That. Sounds. Delicious! It's funny, here I am introducing Skyrim to my beau...and then we're trying to go "Okay, how would these drinks appear in reality?"

    Thus far, we have only come up with a Skooma recipe, so I decided to be curious and see if anyone else had the same idea we did re: making Skyrim drinks. And here this is! Amazing. I'm going to try making this thing! It sounds wonderful (I am a bit partial to the sweeter side of drinks. And mellow too, since I like to taste rather than get smashed, so to speak).

    Well done!

  8. i'm making a lavender mead specifically inspired by this recipe. i was also thinking about making meads flavored based on health, magicka and stamina potions.

  9. I'm totally loving everybody's various suggestions and ideas. They all sound delicious! So glad folks are finding us, and the recipe variations sound very creative - I'm definitely a fan of folks messing around with our recipes and coming up with their own. Keep it up, y'all!

  10. Can you make an non alcoholic version of the drink? I really want to taste it, but I'm only 13 years old you see.

    1. Hi Lukas -

      Alas, there isn't any non-alcoholic version of mead that I know of, and it's such a unique taste (since it's made from fermented honey, not grapes) that you're unfortunately just going to have to wait for legal drinking age to try the real deal.

      However, you could certainly try to mix up a version using a mix of sweet white grape juice and honey for the base. It would be very sweet, but would probably also be delicious.

    2. Lucas, I've been giving this some thought too, and if you still want to try it, try substituting the mead with this recipe:

      2 Tbl Honey
      1/2 Cup Water
      1 Cardamom Pod
      1/4 tsp whole Coriander Seeds
      2 drops of vanilla extract

      Heat all of the ingredients in a small saucepan. Bring it to a boil and then simmer for 5 minutes.

      Strain, cool and squeeze just a little bit of lemon into it. It should be close enough to use for the White Gold Tower.

    3. I enjoyed reading your work. I'll come back for more

      Keep up the good work :) from TheStillery, a night bar in stuart Florida