January 18, 2022
You know (cause you know things) I love Dickens, and have many Charles Dickens Cocktail Talks on this very blog thingy, and cause of that (the love), I tend to re-read his books on the regular, and one of my favs is one not quite as well know, Dombey and Son. To get all the particulars of why it’s a fav, to read loads of cocktail and spirits (and dog!) quotes from the book, well, let me point you to the Dombey and Son Cocktail Talks Part I, Part II, Part III, and Part IV, instead of prattling on again here. Instead, I’ll just prattle that I’ve recently re-read the book once again (and I will again, I’m sure!), and had to have at least one more Cocktail Talk. So, here it is, featuring Cap’n Cuttle himself, along with his bestie Sol and said Sol’s niece Walter.
‘Ah!’ he said, with a sigh, ‘it’s a fine thing to understand ’em. And yet it’s a fine thing not to understand ’em. I hardly know which is best. It’s so comfortable to sit here and feel that you might be weighed, measured, magnified, electrified, polarized, played the very devil with: and never know how.’
Nothing short of the wonderful Madeira, combined with the occasion (which rendered it desirable to improve and expand Walter’s mind), could have ever loosened his tongue to the extent of giving utterance to this prodigious oration. He seemed quite amazed himself at the manner in which it opened up to view the sources of the taciturn delight he had had in eating Sunday dinners in that parlour for ten years. Becoming a sadder and a wiser man, he mused and held his peace.
‘Come!’ cried the subject of this admiration, returning. ‘Before you have your glass of grog, Ned, we must finish the bottle.’
‘Stand by!’ said Ned, filling his glass. ‘Give the boy some more.’
‘No more, thank’e, Uncle!’
‘Yes, yes,’ said Sol, ‘a little more. We’ll finish the bottle, to the House, Ned – Walter’s House. Why it may be his House one of these days, in part. Who knows? Sir Richard Whittington married his master’s daughter.’
–Charles Dickens, Dombey and Son
January 14, 2022
Way back last year (haha, I kid, I kid – I mean, it was last year, but solely weeks ago, not months) right before Christmas I had a recipe for a delicious (said humbly) Homemade Irish Cream Liqueur. It was so delicious (said, again, humbly, or ‘umbly, if you’re feeling like Uriah Heep in David Copperfield), and a hit around the holiday fires, that I had to make another one to satisfy all the requests. But instead of making another batch of the same version, because where would be the fun in that?, I decided to tweak the recipe, and then tweak a little more, to move into new territory. It is the new year! Though, admittedly, my tweaks did make this almost more winter-holiday-y, which leads to the name Holly Jolly. See, I went with a few winter-y spices (cinnamon, ginger), and also changed the base to vodka slightly infused with mandarin orange zest and juice (mandarins seem a little winter holiday-y to me, too). But it’s still lush and lovely and velvety and creamy, just veering off in the flavor hints. A hit, me thinks (humbly, of course).
Holly Jolly Homemade Cream Liqueur
1-2/3 cups vodka
Peel (pithless as possible) and juice from 1 mandarin orange
14 ounces sweetened condensed milk
1 cup heavy cream
4 Tablespoons chocolate syrup
1/2 teaspoon almond extract
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
1. Add the vodka and mandarin peel and juice to a good-sized glass container with a lid. Let sit in a cool, dry spot at least a week, swirling occasionally.
2. Strain the combo from Step 1 through cheesecloth into a pitcher, and then pour the mandarin-bit-less vodka into a blender (or just strain straight into the blender, but do make sure you get the bits strained out).
3. Add all the other ingredients to the blender. Blend well. Pour the mixture (using a funnel if needed) into a large (at least 1-1/2 liters) or a number of small bottles or jars. Seal, and put into the refrigerator. Consume within two weeks.
January 7, 2022
Look, look, lookieeee! A new year has started. Which is good, cause, between us, last year, well (excuse my expressioning expression), sucked. Really! Not that there weren’t good and tasty and cuddly moments, I hope, for all, but it wasn’t the finest year IMHO (as they say). So, here’s hoping this here year will be better, and to help it on its way, I’m going to drink this lovely drink, called Three Wishes, after its three tasty ingredients: dark rum (I’m going with Diplomatico Reserva, which is so delicious), Rhum Clément Creole Shrubb (a beauteous blend of rums, bitter orange, and sweet), and amaretto (for me, wishing usually has an Italian component – I’m using Lazaroni). How will me drinking this help? Well, lesser-know fact: when you drink this, you can actually make wishes, and all mine will be for a lovely 2022 for us all. Yeah, I’m that way, but the good part is, you can have one of these and also wish for the same!
Three Wishes, from Ginger Bliss and the Violet Fizz
2 ounces Diplomatico Reserva dark rum
1 ounce Rhum Clément Creole Shrubb
1 ounce Lazaroni amaretto
1. Fill a cocktail shaker or mixing glass halfway full with cracked ice. Add the rum, Creole Shrubb, and amaretto. Stir well.
2. Strain into a cocktail glass. Make good wishes.
January 4, 2022
Here’s an interesting tidbit – when I picked up this Pocket Books book (which is actually pocket-sized), called The Last Score, I didn’t even read the back-cover summation closely, taking it for granted that it was both written by Ellery Queen (which is in fact one pseudonym for two people writing together: Frederic Dannay and Manfred Bennington Lee) and starring their mystery writer/crime solving main character Ellery Queen. A strange state of affairs I find amazing, even though I haven’t read a ton of Ellery Queen books (also strange, as those books and stories I’ve read starring Mr. Queen I’ve enjoyed, which is probably why I picked up this one). Which is why when I started actually, you know, reading, I was surprised to find he’s not in this book at all. I kept trying to find him, but nope. Instead, it stars Texan travel agent (adventure travel only, that is) Reid Rance, who goes as a chaperon/bodyguard with a rich Texas lass who wants to live the on the road lifestyle a bit, and then trouble ensues, as you might expect. More adventure, less mystery, perhaps not what I was expecting, but not too bad. I did keep thinking, “well, Ellery Queen’s gonna show;” but nope, he never did. And I have now learned to read the back book cover more closely! Though if I had in this situation, I might have missed the below Cocktail Talk, I suppose.
He felt the vulture claw in his belly again then a sudden thirst. Locals were used to American tourists drinking in mid-morning.
Reid turned away from the plaza and walked into the bar of the Hotel Mexico. There he ordered a straight Bacardi, drank it quickly, ordered a second. The second he drank slowly, chasing it with Tehuacán.
–Ellery Queen, The Last Score
December 31, 2021
Goodbye crappy 2021 (I won’t go into all the reasons my 2021 wasn’t a high-roller, actually, pretty sucky, but let me say I hope dearly that your 2021 was a dreamy dose of dandy-ness), and nearly hello to 2022. Time is crazy friends! 2022, hard to imagine. Let’s give this upcoming year the benefit of the doubt, as it hasn’t even started yet, and say it’s gonna be a hum-dinger in the best ways for all. But, but, but, just in case there’s a day or two in the upcoming year where it isn’t the bestest, and where you feel you just need a break, or to break away from it for a moment, well, I want you to have this drink on hand, as it provides (as the name implies!) a Temporary Getaway, what with its juicy juices, floral notes, apple hints, and bubbles. A getaway-ing combo indeed. As a bonus! If you don’t yet have your drink picked out for this evening (New Year’s Eve and all that dontcha know), this bubble number does it right, right.
The Temporary Getaway, from Ginger Bliss and the Violet Fizz
3 apple slices
1/2 ounce freshly squeezed orange juice
1/2 ounce freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 ounce St-Germain elderflower liqueur
4 ounces chilled brut Sekt or other sparkling wine
1. Place 2 of the apple slices, the orange juice, and the lemon juice in a cocktail shaker or mixing glass. Using a muddler or wooden spoon, muddle well.
2. Fill the cocktail shaker halfway full with ice cubes. Add the St-Germain and, using a long spoon, stir well.
3. Pour the chilled Sekt into the cocktail shaker. Using that same reliable spoon, stir briefly, being sure to bring up the fruit on the bottom when stirring.
4. Strain into a flute glass or cocktail glass (in this instance I like the way the latter breathes, but a flute’s more traditional), through a fine strainer if you want to avoid the fruit bits. Garnish with the remaining apple slice, putting a little notch in it if needed for rim balancing.
December 26, 2021
If you can, picture this: it is 86 years ago today (you have to use your imagination here, people). You are with the family, or friends, or just solo, and decide to go to a movie. What do you pick? Why The Philadelphia Story, of course. Romance, comedy, and the legendary trio of Katharine Hepburn, Cary Grant, and Jimmy Stewart? How could you go to anything else! And then, while watching you get to hear the below quote, which is an ideal Cocktail Talk. Of course, it being today and not 86 years ago, you can just stream up said movie. Go to!
Champagne’s funny stuff. I’m used to whiskey. Whiskey is a slap on the back, and Champagne’s a heavy mist before my eyes.
–Jimmy Stewart, The Philadelphia Story
December 23, 2021
Here we are, Christmas Eve Eve, and if you’ve been putting off your holiday gift buying, well, I’ve been there (this is all if you’re someone who celebrates this particular winter holiday). I am, however, this time, here to help. Because, the best gifts – or at least near the top of the list – are homemade liqueurs that you’ve made yourself with care and love and give to someone. I can hear you saying, “wait, A.J., don’t homemade liqueurs take time to make and to get all the goodness good?” and you, friend, are right, in the main. However! There are a few delicious delights in Luscious Liqueurs (the book I wrote of homemade liqueurs, if that doesn’t sound too haughty), not a lot, not even a handful, that are meant to made right before consuming. Meaning, you can make them today, and gift them tomorrow or the next day. One of them is the very recipe below, for homemade Irish Cream Liqueur, a recipe that I first got the bones of from old pal Tara. It’s good to have old pals! And this recipe – again, if it doesn’t sound too haughty – beats the virtual pants off any big brand Irish Cream Liqueur. So, whip (or blend) it up, put on a nice label and bow, remind the gift-receiver to keep it in the fridge, and bask in the glow of their thanks and praise for your tasteful present. Then maybe they’ll give you a sip.
Homemade Irish Cream Liqueur, from Luscious Liqueurs
Serves 4 to 6
1 14-ounce can sweetened condensed milk
1 cup heavy cream
1-2/3 cups Irish whiskey
1 teaspoon instant coffee (see Note below)
2 Tablespoon chocolate syrup
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 teaspoon almond extract
1. Add all of the ingredients in any order you want to a sturdy blender. Blend on a medium setting for a full minute, making sure that everything is completely combined.
2. Pour the mixture (using a funnel if needed) into a large (at least 1-1/2 liters) or a number of small bottles or jars. Seal, and put into the refrigerator before gifting.
A Note: Last time I made this, I used coffee itself instead of the grounds (it was Bustelo, if you know that lovely stuff), and it worked a treat. You be you.
December 21, 2021
As we wind our way into the final Some Slips Don’t Show Cocktail Talk (by the way: love the book cover here!), we find ourselves back at a situation touched on briefly in the book’s Cocktail Talk Part I (don’t miss Part II, either), where the real star of the series, detective Donald Lam (don’t tell his partner Bertha Cool I said he was the star, though), is getting cuddlier with one of the murder suspects in this here tale. And, as happens in the books (written by Erle Stanley Gardner writing as A.A. Fair), this cuddling, or prelude to cuddling, happens over drinks. Doubles, even.
A waiter came over and she ordered a double Manhattan.
“Single for me,” I said.
“Bring him a double, she said, smiling at the waiter. “I don’t want to get ahead of him.”
The waiter nodded and withdrew.
We nibbled pretzels and did a little verbal sparring until the waiter came back with the Manhattans. They were both doubles.
–A.A. Fair, Some Slips Don’t Show