If the title of this piece conjures up exotic images, that’s all to the good. In fact, I’m surprised that “Alpha Centauri Sunrise” hasn’t been the title of a science fiction story somewhere along the line, but a quick check shows no such reference. Thus when Robert Kennedy (The Ultimax Group) created a drink called the Alpha Centauri Sunrise at our recent conclave in Huntsville, he was breaking new ground. And maybe images of a double sunrise also came to mind, the view from an as yet undiscovered world where Centauri A is a bright flare in the morning sky while a still closer Centauri B begins to nudge up over the hills, flooding the scene with orange light.
And what happened to Proxima Centauri? It would not be a factor in a scene like that, its light so dim that it would not stand out from other stars in a completely dark sky. Only its proper motion would alert local astronomers to how close it was (roughly 15000 AU). But let’s drink to Proxima anyway. I promised the recipe for the Alpha Centauri Sunrise two weeks ago and it’s time to deliver, as a number of readers have reminded me. Here we have it, from the pen (or keyboard) of Robert Kennedy himself:
The Alpha Centauri Sunrise
Best served in a martini glass or a champagne flute to accentuate the color gradient.
1 jigger Tennessee moonshine;
2 jiggers Red Bull (different cognate but Centauri sorta suggests a bull, plus one of the stars is reddish);
4-6 oz. orange juice;
½ tsp. grenadine (to make the red-to-yellow color gradient);
three little red berries (to represent the three suns of the triple star system: α Centauri A, α Centauri B, and Proxima Centauri.
If, after all these puns, your customer still doesn’t crack a smile, then instead of three little red berries, give him a big raspberry (literally or figuratively).
With an Alpha Centauri Sunrise in hand, you might want to recall some of the great science fiction venues where drinks like this might be served. Callahan’s Place is the creation of Spider Robinson (it’s immortalized in Callahan’s Crosstime Saloon), a place where time travelers make the occasional appearance and aliens from a variety of worlds might wander in at any time. Robinson devotees will recognize ‘Callahan’s Law’: “Shared pain is lessened, shared joy, increased – thus do we refute entropy.” And I would say that refuting entropy is a task worth accomplishing.
Callahan’s, of course, had forerunners, among them Gavagan’s Bar, which was the work of Fletcher Pratt and L. Sprague de Camp, depicted in a series of tall tales (most of them, I believe, written for John Campbell’s Unknown) and collected into a 1953 book. The one that comes most readily to my mind, though, is Arthur C. Clarke’s Tales from the White Hart, a 1957 collection that brought science fiction and pub culture to a triumphant peak. These stories are still lively today, and recall a time when the members of the British Interplanetary Society and science fiction fans met regularly at such venues.
Image: Alpha Centauri Sunrise creator Robert Kennedy with the finished product.
Of course there are wonderful movie and TV bars in science fiction, from the Mos Eisley Cantina on Tatooine (Star Wars) to Star Trek’s Ten Forward, which is where I would have spent my time on the Enterprise whenever possible. But Britain’s pub culture gave birth not only to Clarke’s Harry Purvis, the raconteur who spun his tales, but also to the British Interplanetary Society’s later work on Project Daedalus, the fusion starship design. Much of their work took place in a pub called the Mason’s Arms, where propulsion concepts and target stars offered just as magical a look at reality as anything in the White Hart. Thus it’s written SF and the White Hart I come back to when thinking of starships and bars.
Harry Purvis could hardly have had better companions than I had in Huntsville. Looking toward next week, I’ll be tapping the ideas of one of these, Ken Roy (The Ultimax Group), whose thoughts on colonizing outer system and deep space objects dovetail beautifully into my own thinking on gradual expansion into the Oort Cloud. Ken is a frequent contributor with colleagues Robert Kennedy and David Fields in venues like JBIS and Acta Astronautica. We’ll soon be looking at an unusual take on terraforming and how it might transform human expansion.
Image: Robert Kennedy’s co-author Ken Roy (left) and ‘neighbor/fellow habitué of the Friday Night Dinner Club’ John Preston, with Alpha Centauri Sunrises in hand.