September 27, 2022

Cocktail Talk: Kill and Tell, Part II

kill_and_tell_rigsbyLong ago on this here blog (the ol’ Spiked Punch, around longer than makes any sense, haha), I had a post with two quotes – in one post! What was I thinking? – from the Howard Rigsby book, Kill and Tell, the Pocket Book edition, 1953. Well, recently, I decided to re-read said book, brought back to it by the swell cover and the name, and cause I didn’t remember exactly how it turned out. I’d also forgotten what a, interesting, mid-last-century pocket-y mystery it is, just as the protagonist Tim Wilde is perhaps more thinky, or considered (if that makes sense) then some of his more hard-boiled shamuses of the time. Plus, it ends fairly sadly (not so strange, but the way it gets there I found different enough to be interesting). There are two murders, small town shenanigans, car smacks, monkeys (!!), piano playing, and more. Worth checking out. Plus the nice usage of the word “mottled” in the below!

I went up the stairs and he was standing there on the landing in a dressing gown. He had, as usual, a drink in his hand, a highball. His face looked mottled and feverish. “Well, I made it,” he said. “I made the inquest.”

“How was it?”

“Come in here,” he said. He turned and went into the sitting room and I followed him. He waved a fresh bottle of Scotch. “Pour yourself a drink.”

–Howard Rigsby, Kill and Tell

September 23, 2022

What I’m Drinking: A Tempest of Provocation with Jikuya White Sweet Potato Shochu

The world of spirits, liqueurs, and the cocktails one makes with them has undergone a wonderful internationalizing over the last, oh, 15 years (that number is not scientific, but more a musing digit that might approximate an impossible-to-actually-measure figure). By that I mean, so many products from around the globe once only consumed in their particular region or country are now being accessed by thankful drinkers in other spots. Make some sense? And this internationalizing is still rolling out, with more products showing in more spots. Again – thankful drinkers, including me! One type of produce that we’re finally seeing more of in WA (where I’m at) and the US in general is Shochu, the distilled tipple popular in Japan and made from a number of things: rice, sweet potatoes, buckwheat, and more. I’ll fully and readily admit I’m not a Shochu expert, but what I’ve had, I’ve enjoyed for its earthy, rich flavors (varying depending on the base product distilled) and friendly drinkability.

So, I was very excited recently to receive some Shochu in the mail (don’t be upset with me! I know I’m lucky), from Honkaku Spirits, which is one of the companies helping to spread the word and accessibility of Shochu, along with other Japanese spirits. They’ve been around since 2020, and are focused, amazingly enough, on working with family-run distilleries, which is awesome! One of their newly released imbibables is Jikuya White Sweet Potato Shochu, which is what I’m sipping today. Crafted at the Jikuya distillery (around since 1910! And specializing in sweet potato Shochu “completely sourced and produced in Kagoshima, among other specifications”!) by fourth generation Master Brewer-Distiller, Ms. Maiko Jikuya at the base of Mount Shibi, this Shochu clocks in at 25% ABV, and delivers a lovely flavor. Starting with a light-on-its-feet herbally, flowery (not heavy perfume flowers, but wildflowers) essence, it flows into notes of red berries and hints, just hints, of tea. Neat! Very approachable, very drinkable. And, delicious over ice, solo or with sparkling water (sidenote: there is also a Jikuya Black Sweet Potato Shochu, which is earthier, and well worth trying, too).

Shochu is often served neat, with ice, or with soda water (as well as with warm or room temp water), sometime with fruit juice added to the latter. It’s not as often utilized in cocktails. Not to say it isn’t! Just, from what I’ve seen, not as often. But while I enjoyed/enjoy it solo, I had to test it out with a few other ingredients, cocktail-style, because, well, that’s what I do! And after a little finagling, I came up with a combo that I think lets the Jikuya White Sweet Potato Shochu shine, but also lets it play nicely with others. This Shochu has such a delicate but memorable (hah! That’s a funny combo, but it works for me) nature, I wanted the cocktail to match, so it took a bit to find the right pairings. I landed on maraschino liqueur (I went with Luxardo Maraschino), whose somewhat lighter nuttiness was a swell fit, Dolin Blanc vermouth, due to the floral notes and bit of cuddle it always brings, and Scrappy’s singular Cardamon bitters, whose light spices and more florally goodness shone with the others. This foursome together sings a (if I can say this while being humble) liquid delight! It manages to be both layered in flavor, spice, floral, fruit, and maintain that delicate, brightness from the Shochu. You may want to have another the minute you finish the first. As you do, give a toast to the whole world, which – for thankful drinkers – has become a smaller place.

tempest-of-provocation

A Tempest of Provocation

 

Cracked ice

2-1/2 ounces Jikuya White Sweet Potato Shochu

1/2 ounce Luxardo Maraschino liqueur

1/2 ounce Dolin Blanc vermouth

Dash Scrappy’s Cardamom bitters

 

1. Fill a mixing glass or cocktail shaker halfway full with cracked ice. Add everything. Stir well.

2. Strain into a cocktail glass. Enjoy.

September 16, 2022

What I’m Drinking: Good Luck In Pisticci

It’s the middle of September! Hard to believe my friends. Time, it flies by like a flock of Peregrine Falcons (meaning: fast)! Not only are we in the back half of 2022, but we are also nearing October, which for me means fall trips to Italy (I hope for you, too), and truffles, and pasta, and art, and well, you know. It also means Italian drinks, wines, limoncellos, grappas, Italian beers, and of course amari. It’s funny, in a time flying way, and in a “sometimes things do change for the better” way, how many more of the latter, the amari (and other digestif-y and aperitif-y Italian brothers and sisters, not the grappas, sadly), are available now in the US than when I first made this here drink, Good Luck in Pisticci, like 7 years ago. Amari explosion! And if you expand that time frame (short in the overall realm of time) to the first time I went to Italy when I had my first amaro (I believe it was Montenegro), like 25ish years ago, well, it’s a big bang style explosion! An herbal, bitter and bittersweet, and lovely explosion!

Without which, I couldn’t make this drink, itself herbally rich and flavorful, but also citrus-y, bubbly, and jolly, in a way! It leans heavily on a particular amaro, Amaro Lucano created in 1894 by cookie baker Pasquale Vena (an aside: amari and chocolate chip cookies are a pleasant pairing) using an herbs and spices. Eventually, it became the sipper of choice to ancient ruling family the House of Savoy, which is neat, and it’s swell to sip solo, but also swell here with a few WA ingredients, Kur gin (delicious – read more of me talking about it) and Scrappy’s Grapefruit bitters (if you aren’t aware of how awesome Scrappy’s bitters are, then you have a wonderful future finding out), and classic orange stalwart Grand Marnier, and soda, and mint. Good Luck indeed!

lucky-in-p

Good Luck In Pisticci

 

1-1/2 ounces Kur gin

3/4 ounce Amaro Lucano

1/2 ounce Grand Marnier

2 dashes Scrappy’s Grapefruit bitters

Ice cubes

4 ounces chilled club soda

Mint sprig

 

1. Add the gin, Lucano, Grand Marnier, and Scrappy’s to a mixing glass. Stir well.

2 Fill a highball or comparable glass three-quarters full with ice cubes. Pour the mix from step 1 into the glass over the top.

3. Top with soda water. Stir briefly. Garnish with the mint sprig.

 

September 13, 2022

Cocktail Talk: What Rhymes with Murder?, Part III

what_rhymes_with_murderFor our final What Rhymes with Murder? Cocktail Talk (and don’t miss What Rhymes with Murder? Part I and Part II to get some more boozing, sure, but also to learn more about this Jack Iams’ 1950 mystery, where a British flirty poet gets shot, a reporter hero tries to track down the murder as he’s a suspect, and where the society page grand dame reporter might be the best shamus of the bunch!) I have what I’m thinking is one of the finest moments in the however many years I’ve been writing here: the mention of grappa in a 1950s pulp pocketbook! Really! Amazing! I love grappa, being like one of the big grappa pushers I know, and someone who brings back bottles of obscure-in-the-US grappas in my suitcase when traveling to Italy every year. So, when I saw the below, I was very, very happy. You will be, too.

I went around the corner to Frascini’s, a restaurant where a lot of newspapermen and politicians and cops hung out. It was crowded, and I had a feeling that people were staring at me, and after a bowl of minestrone, I didn’t want anything more.

“Whatsa matter, you sick?” asked Tony Frascini.

“No, just shaky.”

“Have a grappa. Fix you up.”

 

–Jack Iams, What Rhymes with Murder?

September 6, 2022

Cocktail Talk: What Rhymes with Murder?, Part II

what_rhymes_with_murderAs a good reporter and editor (much like Rock Rockwell, the intrepid editor of The Record, and hero in this here mystery book from 1950), I’m going to start this Cocktail Talk by referring you to the reference point of the What Rhymes with Murder? Cocktail Talk Part I, where I dig into the idea of reporters/mystery heroes, and a little more about the book as a whole. Here, I wanna just dive into the Cocktail Talking, so the only background on the book I’m putting in this paragraph is the tagline from the back cover, cause it’s one the finest taglines ever: “When a lusty lothario sings his serenade, romance rhymes with death!” Oh, and in the below they talk about overly-bittered Old Fashioneds. Also, memorable. Read it!

A voice at my elbow said, “Cocktail, sir? Old-Fashioneds and dry Martinis.”

“Old-Fashioned,” I said, hardly noticing the neat figure in black and white who spoke.

“Okay, but there’s more bitters in them than whiskey.”

I started and looked around. From under a frilly cap, the face of Amy Race was peering at me impishly. “I’m sticking to straight whisky myself,” she said. “That’s the trend below stairs.”

In spite of myself, I burst out laughing.

 

–Jack Iams, What Rhymes with Murder?

September 2, 2022

What I’m Drinking: The Americano

Is today, the 2nd of September, the ideal time to drink an Americano (the Italian stalwart and precursor, perhaps, to the now, perhaps, better-known Negroni, a drink, the Americano, which used to be known itself as the child of the Milan-Torino, or Milano-Torino, which boasted Campari and Punt e’ Mes vermouth, sometimes other vermouths, perhaps, but skipped the soda, which itself was added and then the trio, Campari, Punt e’ Mes, soda, became a favorite of American servicemen, and then became the Americano), the very moment when one should drink this drink? Perhaps! I say so due to the fact that while it’s refreshing with the ice and the soda and the bubbles, making it good-or-more-than-good when the sun’s out, it also has those lovely rich herbal-and-bitter-and-botanical notes from the Campari and vermouth. Those notes point to the fact that fall, and then, always, winter are coming no matter the sun. So, to me, this Friday, the 2nd, seems to straddle those moments in a way, much like the drink can straddle the seasons, in taste, sure, but also in feeling. Drinks are about more than just taste, after all.

americano

The Americano

 

Ice cubes

2 ounces Campari

2 ounces Punt e’ Mes sweet vermouth

Chilled club soda

Orange slice, for garnish

 

1. Fill a highball glass three-quarters full with ice cubes. Add the Campari and vermouth. Stir gently.

 

2. Add club soda to the glass until the glass is almost full. Garnish with an orange slice.

 

 

August 30, 2022

Cocktail Talk: What Rhymes with Murder?, Part I

what_rhymes_with_murderRecently was re-reading the 1950s Dell Mystery pocket-sized book What Rhymes with Murder?, by Jack Iams, and thinking: why don’t more books have mystery-solving-reporters anymore? Let me step back: Jack Iams was a novelist (mysteries and others), teacher, and maybe most of all: reporter and journalist, for Newsweek, London Daily Mail, New York Herald Tribune, and others. So, perhaps not a complete surprise that some of his mystery books features Rocky Rockwell (amazing), City Editor and writer for The Record, one of two dailies in the small city this yarn and others take place within. Not only a writer/editor, if you wondered, but also a man not afraid to mix-it-up, both with circulation war heavies and such and with the dames – mostly his fiancé here, but also a wee dalliance with a writer for the other paper in town. He’s not the only newspaper person/mystery solver in pulp book history, either, though we don’t see as many now (I hope that’s right. It feels right!), which is a shame. Of course, not as many newspaper folks in general, sadly. But I digress! To get back to the matter at hand, this book, where Rocky gets mixed up with the murder of a visiting overly-amorous British poet (the ‘overly-amorous’ may have been implied with ‘British poet’)! It’s quite a swell mid-century piece of mystery fiction, moves quick, has some feints and counter-feints, ends up with two murders, Rocky rescues a paperboy from a hoodlum, and of course spends some well-earned time drinking up in clubs and hotels and homes. So much so that I’m gonna have a couple What Rhymes with Murder? Cocktail Talks, starting with the below pink gin-ing. Or desire for sure.

 

Across the room, alone at a table, sat Ariel Banks’s secretary Clark-Watson. A waiter was trying to explain something, then the clipped, high-pitched British voice said distinctly, “Dash it, I am simple asking for a pink gin.”

“But he don’t know how to make it,” said the waiter.

“That is scarcely my fault,” said Clark-Watson.

Amy chuckled and said to me, “I think I’ll get into this act.” She got up and strolled to Clark-Watson’s table. I could hear her saying, “I’m Amy Race of the Eagle. Perhaps I could be of assistance?”

“Can you tell this chap how to make a pink gin?”

 

— Jack Iams, What Rhymes with Murder?

 

August 26, 2022

What I’m Drinking: The Violet Fizz

Is it bad (bad might even be too pejorative a word, maybe, ill-advised, or self-aggrandizing, or silly, would be better words) to be having a drink on this here Friday that is called out in the title of a book written by my-own-self? That okay? Here’s hoping cause this little beauty is obviously in the book Ginger Bliss and the Violet Fizz, but it’s also a treat for the late summer days we’re living within at the moment. Why, you ask? I’m taking it that you mean the latter part, not the book part, so gonna go that route. It’s a summer hit, like most of the Fizz family (a hot weather family if ever there was one), due to its effervescent nature via the addition of club soda and ice! But, the florally crème di violette fits the blooming nature of summer (perhaps that’s diminishing in late August, but still, blooming bloomers), and the gin helps cut the heat metaphorically, if not literally. Add the teeniest lemon and simple, and boom, a drink you should have this time of year (as well as other times), even if you do feature it in a book title. I am!

violet-fizz

The Violet Fizz

 

Ice cubes

2 ounces gin

1/2 ounce crème de violette

1/4 ounce freshly squeezed lemon juice

1/4  ounce Simple Syrup

Chilled club soda

 

1. Fill a cocktail shaker halfway full with ice cubes. Add the gin, crème de violette, lemon juice, and simple syrup. Shake extra well.

2. Fill a highball glass three-quarters full with ice cubes. Strain the mixture into the glass.

3. Fill the glass with chilled club soda, stir well, and drink quickly, before those bubbles have a chance to fade.

 

Rathbun on Film