Cocktails and Tall Tales: Inuyasha and The Cosmopolitan
It’s Saturday night about a decade and a half ago and Adult Swim is on, playing some of the freshest anime to broadcast stateside. Today’s tale and ‘tail pairing comes from the feudal era of Japan where shoguns reigned, and from a cocktail with quite the disputed history.
The Adult Swim block of Saturday anime brought my eyes to a bunch of great shows. I remember most of them by name and they all have their place in anime history in my book, at least from an American perspective. Aside from importing directly from Japan or watching horribly subtitled fansubs, the Adult Swim block was a second coming of anime royalty. It began to fill a void that the first legendary anime block, Toonami, left. It also targeted an older audience, something Toonami’s prime after-school timeslot couldn’t do. Late night Saturdays were time to hang out with your homies in the chat and binge some goodness. Yu Yu Hakusho, Fullmetal Alchemist, and Cowboy Bebop (which we’ve already talked about) all premiered on the Adult Swim block. Along with those storied hulks of anime hype came the adventure of the star-crossed lovers bound through time. Inuyasha, the tale of two eras and a ton of swords came to us out of that block and is the subject of today’s pairing with a cocktail whose infamy crosses from the Prohibition Era into the Information age, the Cosmopolitan.
Funny thing about pairings is if the chemistry isn’t there, there isn’t much to be said of the pairing itself. Toss together a burger and a glass of water, boom, that’s a pairing. But there’s nothing there but burger-ey flavor and some water to wash it down. Chemistry, whether in the field with the grass, on the table in the form of condiments, or in the soul with memories of a simpler time- chemistry is what drives pairings. So this pairing matches the intensity portrayed by Inuyasha’s drama with a truncated version of the history of the Cosmo itself.
We can start with the Cosmopolitan, Cosmo for short, and it’s construction. One of the earliest versions of the Cosmopolitan published called for gin, triple sec (orange liqueur), the juice of a lemon, and a spoonful of a raspberry syrup for its iconic color. More modern recipes have the gin subbed for citron vodka, and raspberry syrup for cranberry juice. The Wikipedia page outlines five individual stories for how the cocktail we know found its legs, but what they all have in common is the spirit of the drink. Something with a classy and elegant being made more palatable and approachable. The elegance comes primarily from its standard glassware, the martini glass. Martinis are pretty much vodka and a dash of white vermouth, so unless you REALLY like the taste of vodka, ice, and a whiff of herbal components, you might just wanna be seen drinking a martini.
Inuyasha hits the same way, a story of demons and priestesses set in Japan’s Feudal Era. The show opens up like kabuki theater; red velvet curtains pull back to a flying visual over the verdant treetops of the nation. The orchestral accompaniment and powerful driving drums gear you up for the ensuing drama. We follow Kagome, a young girl from a family line of priests and priestesses, and Inuyasha, the half-demon son of one of the greatest demons the Feudal Era had ever faced. Because of Kagome’s strong spiritual ties (being the reincarnation of the priestess who sealed Inuyasha), she is able to travel through a well at her family’s shrine to the Feudal Era. Her body houses a powerful relic, the Shikon Jewel, which is a prized possession for demons all across the countryside. Inuyasha was sealed by the priestess Kikyo who was then cremated with the jewel itself to keep it out of evil’s grip. That jewel is magically housed within Kagome and becomes the source for most of the conflict that makes up the show.
The series author, Rumiko Takahashi is also known for fun adventures that allow an action packed story to be played out without some of the more annoying fanservice that turn people off from the art style. She even forbade animators to draw Kagome in any compromising poses, in spite of her classically short schoolgirl uniform. That allowed the story of swords and sages to be carried out without breaking the mystique with corny laughter or goofy gasps. For that reason I feel Inuyasha holds up to the test of time as a classic that can be enjoyed over and over by a wide range of fans. But what really brings people in is the dance between half-demon swordsman and the young priestess with a mystical bow searching for power and fighting for peace.
(It's somewhere in that bag of hers)
Sealed? Reincarnation? I’m sure you’re asking some questions right now, or maybe you’re not because you’ve seen it already and just want to get to the drink. But there’s a strange romantic triangle portrayed in this tale across times that is the driving force, the chemistry behind this pairing.
The Shikon Jewel itself is a massively powerful artifact that brought Inuyasha and Kikyo together in the first place. He aimed to use it to become a full demon and Kikyo was having none of that. When Kagome travels to the past, the jewel is torn from her body and scattered all across Japan to keep the complete item from the hands of demons who would use it to ravage the countryside. The adventure to recomplete the jewel brings Inuyasha and Kagome closer together and their romance buds. Inuyasha’s issues with his half demon lineage is explored through strengthening his father's sword, Tetsusaiga and Kagome’s lineage lets her become a greater force of sacred energy.
Re-enter Kikyo’s spirit, vengeful and spiteful against both Inuyasha and Kikyo and there’s enough tension to cut with Inuyasha’s gigantic sword. The harmonic vocals, amphitheater style, and classically tuned Japanese orchestra are what really make this chemistry as heated as it is. Every scene where Inuyasha’s giant sword gains a new ability, the music keeps you locked on the edge of your seat. The juxtaposition of a half demon and untrained priestess wielding some of the most powerful tools of the Feudal Era leaves my mouth watering. The time periods they traverse to help each other achieve their goals is an even stronger driving force in the plot, building the chemistry beyond just your everyday love triangle to a culture clash of present and past proclivities.
Where’s the Cosmo fit with these priests and demons? It’s a perfect romance between old school cocktailing and a new understanding of the drink. The first recipe I described earlier came from Pioneers of Mixing at Elite Bars 1903-1933. Since then, its creation has been self credited to bars in Minneapolis, Minnesota, South Beach, Florida, and even Manhattan as late as 1993. Talk about a family feud! Everyone wants to claim this baby. The Cosmopolitan is a delicious cocktail that takes the elegance of a martini and hits it with a dash of fun! And while it can never be compared directly to a martini since they’re built so differently, it’s a special cocktail that I’ve had experience serving with interesting reception. It has enjoyed more recent infamy to its popularity on the show Sex and the City as the drink of choice for Carrie Bradshaw and her girlfriends. This might also have an effect on how the drink is perceived, with the elegance of the glass complementing the pretty-in-pink vibes that some gents tend to get when faced with the color. The classic cocktail served in a martini glass looks amazing.
Inuyasha can be received similarly, watching a teenaged girl in a sailor uniform falling in love with a dog-eared bad boy is a perfect way to mis-label this anime. But the characters and their adventure is more complex than your everyday teen drama, just like the Cosmo is more than a frilly pink drink. Both can be enjoyed by a wide range of audiences from the delicate palate of the nuanced romantic to the more rugged adventurer connoisseur searching for respite. Inuyasha’s classic Japanese background paired with Kagome’s modern sensibilities lend themselves well to the giggles you’ll catch every time she has to tell her companion to “SIT!” The evolution of Inuyasha’s growth into the rightful owner of the sacred sword from his father are just the kind of action edge to cut through some of the sweetness in the romance of the show. Its theatrical depiction frames the story in elegance and it never deviates from its formula, producing a classically tuned action drama you can watch over and over. The Cosmo’s classic glassware is where the cocktail shines, bringing the same type of elegance to an otherwise just tasty drink. From the Feudal Era to now, or from post Prohibition to the 90’s, both Inuyasha and the Cosmopolitan are tales told across time.
Speaking of time, time for my twist on this lil' lady. Here's a recipe for my Cosmopolitan Priestess:
2 dashes of lavender bitters
.5 oz cranberry juice
.5 oz lemon juice
.75 oz Grand Marniner (It ain't triple sec, but this ain't a normal Cosmo)
1.5 oz Ketel One Citron Vodka
Combine all ingredients in a cocktail shaker and add ice
Shake vigorously and strain (double strain if you have a small sieve) into a martini glass
Garnish with an expressed lemon peel (Peel the lemon and squeeze the zest into the drink)
Do you dig half-demon romances? Have a better drink to pair with them? Let us know in the comments, and we'll see ya next time!