Classic Cocktails and Classical Music: Handel

More than Just a Fat Guy in a Wig

Quick, name a work by George Frideric Handel.

I'm waiting....


Thank you. Took you long enough, considering Christmas decorations haven't even come down everywhere. Oh, and you, the one in the back who mentioned the "Water Music," you get an honorable mention.

Anything else?

"Royal Fireworks Music."

Ok, But something has to be on the B-side of the "Water Music" disk, you know.

QUESTION: Why is Handel so famous if he only had one monster hit over 270 years ago?

SHORT ANSWER: He was awesome.

sketch of George Frideric Handel by David Borden, (c) 2015
"Handel" (c) 2015 David Broden
LONG ANSWER: Handel had a lengthy and lucrative career creating music in genres that have fallen out of fashion: 1. Oratorio and 2. Italian Baroque Opera, featuring castratos (yes, that is what you think it is: castrated male singers). Castratos had the voices of women, but the lungs of men and were famous for impossible feats of vocal gymnastics, such as out-sustaining a note played on an instrument.

Handel was the most famous and influential composer of his day even though he was contemporary with the amazing Angelico Corelli and the incomparable J.S.Bach. He once took a violin from Corelli to school him on how to play a piece properly, which is incredibly arrogant considering that Corelli was the greatest virtuoso alive at the time, and perhaps the greatest of the Baroque era. Handel got into a sword fight with fellow composer and singer Johann Mattheson in the middle of a performance. The scuffle ended when Mattheson thrust his sword into Handel, but instead of killing him, the sword stopped when it struck a large, metal coat button. Coming to their senses after the potentially fatal encounter, the two men made up and remained life long friends.

Handel loved to eat and grew so corpulent as to be mocked for it in the media. He played music for the joy of entertaining; he wrote for money, and took the ideas of others and improved them (often accused of plagiarism, though riffing on and remixing the work of others was common practice in the Baroque era). When Italian Baroque Opera was hot, he cranked them out, utterly dominating the genre. When people bored with his kind of opera, he moved to Oratorio, which he again crushed, producing the "Messiah," which is really the only Handel work still performed widely, and arguably the greatest oratorio every written.

I've got a couple of Concerti Grossi on vinyl, Opus 3 and 6, which are worth getting to know. They share a lot with Corelli and Vivaldi, so if you like the Italian Baroque style, you'll love these. Of course, one must have refreshment to enhance the listening experience. I've selected a drink that goes perfectly. It's based on London Dry Gin, which his fitting considering that Handel, though German, lived in London most of his life. It has a touch of creme de cassis, which adds a mellow sweetness. I find that if this drink is too sweet, I can dry it out by amping up the gin.

Link to Concerti Grossi, Op 6, no. 12:

Mississippi Mule cocktails
Preparing to spin a Handel LP
Mississippi Mule Recipe:

2 oz. London Dry Gin
.5 oz. creme de cassis
half a lemon, squeezed

Shake with ice, strain, and pour. I like to serve on the rocks.

As far as I know, this drink has nothing to do with the similarly named, Moscow Mule. However, it is subtle, sweet, sour, and refreshing.

#Handel #ClassicalMusic #Baroque #ItalianBaroque #castrato #oritorio #concertigrossi #MississippiMule #cocktail #cocktailrecipe #gin #cremedecassis #Messiah


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