May 1st internationally is a celebration of the coming of Spring. It evolved from the Roman holiday Floralia, a celebration for the middle class to the goddess of fertility and flowers. It was a rowdy celebration of Spring turning into Summer, complete with games and other adult festivities. As the calendar evolved, and the beginning of seasons evolved with it, it became a celebration of spring in all of the lands the Roman Empire covered, from Greece to the British Isles. As the empire crumbled and Christianity rose (separate events, to be sure), it became a secular holiday that continued to focus on spring. Each country started to customize it to local tastes and rituals, giving every May Day celebration its own flavor. When Europeans came to America hey brought this tradition with them, but it never quite stuck the way it did in the home land. There are many pockets that celebrate it, just not on the level that Europeans do. Since the labor movement began in the late 19th century, May Day has been used as a day to highlight the international struggles of workers.
Jane Danger was a bartender at Please Don't Tell, the well known yet hidden bar in the East Village in New York City. To get to it, you need to go through Crif Dogs, an equally incredible hot dog shop. In this hot dog shop there is a phone booth, transforming an amazing hot dog experience to a clandestine cocktail experience. Reservations are almost a must, even though the bar is modeled on the idea of a speak easy. The drinks and experience there is cutting edge, developed by the legendary Jim Meehan and maintained by the skilled bartenders behind the stick. Even less secretive, he shared the history of that bar and a wide variety of cocktails in The PDT Cocktail Book. The May Day cocktail was developed by Ms Danger in 2009, and offers all of the colors and flavors that one would expect in a cocktail celebrating the arrival of summer.
May Day (By Jane Danger at Please Don't Tell NYC)
.5 oz./ 7 mL Plymouth gin
.5 oz./ 7 mL Aperol
.5 oz./ 7 mL Lemon juice
1 barspoon simple syrup
3 ds. Fee Brothers Rhubarb Bitters
2 oz./ 60 mL Champagne
Pour all of the ingredients but the champagne into a mixing glass. Stir until well chilled, then strain into the coupe. Top off the the champagne and serve.
This is a summer cocktail. The floral nature of the gin and the orange and citrus notes in the Aperol are just what you'd want when sitting on a patio as the temperature JUST gets warm enough. I thoroughly enjoyed it, though I think gin and champagne are a great pairing in general. Had these ingredients been available during a Roman celebration for flowers and drinking, this cocktail would have made Flora proud.