October 20, 2020
I’ve had a Death of a Red Heroine Cocktail Talk post, years ago, and a few other Cocktail Talks from Qiu Xiaolong’s Chief Inspector Chen Cao series, which is a fantastic melding of police mysteries, poetry, epicurean delights, and great insights into changing Chinese culture starting in the late 80s, and focusing mainly on Shanghai, but moving around China here and there. They’re very enveloping and involving reads, and Death of a Red Heroine is the very first, and a fine (as you might guess) way to start the series – you’ll want to read them all, in a row. I recently (like I do with books I like lots) re-read it, and now am plowing fast into a few other Inspector Chen’s, too. And, I found another Cocktail Talk-worthy quote in the re-reading, which is both a good hangover note, and a good look into the books in a way, not that it comes from Chen (or his partner, the wonderful Detective Yu, who is a co-star really, with lots of plot coming from his point-of-view), but from a classic Chinese poet, as the books are dotted with quotes. This one is from Liu Yong, from the Song dynasty.
Where shall I find myself
Tonight, waking from the hangover –
The riverbank lined with weeping willows,
The moon sinking, the dawn rising on a breeze.
Year after year, I will be far,
Far away from you.
All the beautiful scenes are unfolding,
But to no avail:
Oh, to whom can I speak
Oh this ever-enchanting landscape?
–Liu Yong, quoted in Death of a Red Heroine, by Qiu Xiaolong
October 16, 2020
You know I like to make drinks, and I know you know, and you know I know you know, ad infinitum. However, I have to say – I also like drinks made for me. This is perhaps obvious for those who followed my past escapades writing about Seattle bars (the finest bars in the cosmos), but here I’m not talking about professional slingers and shakers and strainers making me drinks; instead, I’m talking about home-bartending pals. Now, due to our circumstances (sucky, circumstances, that is, so do your part to help) it’s not as easy as hopping off a whiskey barrel to have fine drinks made by said pals. However (part II), I was just lucky enough to have a nice socially-distanced evening in the lovely back yard of two pals. Julie and Leroy, and during said evening Leroy made me an absolutely tasty Aviation. I hadn’t flown the friendly Aviation skies for far too long, so it was a treat on multiple levels. It’s such a swell cocktail, the gin base botanicals mingling with the lemon tang, maraschino nuttiness, and crème de violette’s bouquet. Pretty, too, though my pic does it no justice. Forgive me, but I was more interested in distanced-chatting that in picture taking! Now, I didn’t watch up close how Leroy made his high-flying Aviation, so for the ol’ Spiked Punch blog, I’m going to use the recipe from Ginger Bliss and the Violet Fizz. It might not soar to the same heights, but it’ll get you there!
The Aviation (using the recipe from Ginger Bliss and the Violet Fizz)
2 ounces gin
1/2 ounce freshly squeezed lemon juice
2 teaspoons maraschino liqueur
1 teaspoon crème de violette
Maraschino cherry (as long as you can get a good one, from Luxardo for instance), for garnish
1. Fill a cocktail shaker halfway full with ice cubes. Add the gin, lemon juice, maraschino liqueur, and crème de violette, and shake well.
2. Strain the mixture into a cocktail glass and garnish with the cherry.
October 13, 2020
The third of our Cocktail Talks from the Trollope collection Early Short Stories (be sure to catch up on Part I and Part II, so as not to cause Trollope any sadness in the great library beyond) takes place in Rome, amongst a group of writerly and artistically and wannna-be ex-pats, and includes a little, oh, confused affection let’s say, and some bubbly, and some ruins, and Trollope’s eye into human foibles and drive, and ability to picture the 1800’s scene perfectly. Oh, before you pour the below though, don’t miss the array of past Anthony Trollope Cocktail Talk posts, which are oodles of fun, too.
She did not come among us on the occasion of this banquet, possibly because we had no tables there to turn in preparation for her presence; but, had she done so, she could not have been more eloquent of things of the other world than was Mrs. Talboys. I have said that Mrs. Talboys’ eye never glanced more brightly after a glass of Champagne, but I am inclined to think that on this occasion it may have done so. O’Brien enacted Ganymede, and was, perhaps, more liberal than other latter-day Ganymedes, to whose services Mrs. Talboys had been accustomed. Let it not, however, be suspected by any one that she exceeded the limits of a discreet joyousness. By no means! The generous wine penetrated, perhaps, to some inner cells of her heart, and brought forth thoughts in sparkling words, which otherwise might have remained concealed; but there was nothing in what she thought or spoke calculated to give umbrage either to an anchorite or to a vestal. A word or two she said or sung about the flowing bowl, and once she called for ; but beyond this her converse was chiefly of the rights of man and the weakness of women; of the iron ages that were past, and of the golden time that was to come.
— Anthony Trollope, “Mrs. General Talboys”
October 9, 2020
As the air chills and winter phantoms start to haunt the hills (rhyme!) our (mine! yours! everybodies!) tastes begin to turn away from lighter things to alight onto more serious matters. In this case, to take away the high-flaunting language, I’m try to say that brown cocktail season is upon us, or nearly so (though, admittedly, I’m all for hanging on to sunlit days a little longer, and, really, I’m happy to drink whiskey or brandy or other darker-spirited cocktails anytime, but let me go with this). Which means dust off the Scotch, bourbon, Irish, Indian, Japanese, Washington, and other whiskeys – it’s time to warm up from the inside out. Starting with one of my favorite tipples in this vein, the Scotch-y/single-malt-y Rob Roy. It’s absolutely ideal for when the temperature gauge begins to plummet, with a hearty dollop of the base spirit (Scotch, that is) combined with the herbally loveliness that is sweet/red/Italian vermouth, Angostura bitters, and a waft of lemon. Ah, what a treat, not only in my mind. The creatures see of flood and field / And those that travel on the wind (thanks Wordsworth)! For the Scotch here, I’m going with Auchentoshan 12-year-old Scotch, partially cause I had a bottle on the front of my shelves, but moreso cause its smoothness and vanilla/citrus/nutty notes go so well with our other ingredients, especially to me with Carpano Antica, which I’m using for the vermouth and which I love due to its rich, lush, herbal goodness. Dive on in! Oh, wait, before you don your face paint and start drinking, here’s one fun idea: switch Angostura bitters for Scrappy’s Orange bitters, and sip a Highland Cocktail. Or have both!
The Rob Roy
2-1/2 ounces Auchentoshan 12-year-old Scotch
1/2 ounce Carpano Antica sweet vermouth
2 dashes Angostura bitters
Lemon twist, for garnish
1. Fill a cocktail shaker halfway full with cracked ice. Add the Scotch, vermouth, and bitters. Stir well.
2. Strain into a cocktail glass. Garnish with the lemon twist.
PS: The Rob Roy bar in Seattle is one of the best bars in the world, and probably even more memorable than this drink. Just wanted to make sure you knew.
October 6, 2020
Recently, I had a Cocktail Talk from a story within the Anthony Trollope collection called, easily enough, Early Short Stories, a collection I picked up not long before that posting, thereby getting my complete Trollope collection that much closer to actual completion (and it’s pretty close!). Just to take a peek into the breadth of the Trollopean shelves, don’t miss the past Anthony Trollope Cocktail Talk posts, and for that matter don’t miss the Negus-packed Early Short Stories Part I post. But don’t miss this one, either, which takes place in Spain, which we visit alongside our English narrator. It’s one of my favorite stories in the collection, a comedy story of sorts, but also with the eye for detail and place most Trollope stories contain, and having the nice below sherry description.
I landed at Cadiz, and was there joined by an old family friend, one of the very best fellows that ever lived. He was to accompany me up as far as Seville; and, as he had lived for a year or two at Xeres, was supposed to be more Spanish almost than a Spaniard. His name was Johnson, and he was in the wine trade; and whether for travelling or whether for staying at home—whether for paying you a visit in your own house, or whether for entertaining you in his—there never was (and I am prepared to maintain there never will be) a stauncher friend, choicer companion, or a safer guide than Thomas Johnson. Words cannot produce a eulogium sufficient for his merits. But, as I have since learned, he was not quite so Spanish as I had imagined. Three years among the bodegas of Xeres had taught him, no doubt, to appreciate the exact twang of a good, dry sherry; but not, as I now conceive, the exactest flavour of the true Spanish character. I was very lucky, however, in meeting such a friend, and now reckon him as one of the staunchest allies of the house of Pomfret, Daguilar, and Pomfret.
–Anthony Trollope, “John Bull On The Guadalquivir”
October 2, 2020
Here’s a fine kettle of various ingredients mixed with booze. I had the mad/smart/odd/random/bored/inventive/normal idea not more than a couple weeks ago that I should make up a wine-based liqueur or aperitivo if you like (I like, so I’m gonna call it that), and that it should have basil in it (cause my basil plants were doing so well then, if, admittedly, not as well now as summer has dwindled), and maybe orange (cause I had an orange), and a roasted peach (which also was around and needed to be used, sans pit, but the roasting felt important), and some spices but not too many, and a hint of bitterness cause the best aperitivos (or many of them) tend to have that, and it should be pretty as that hour on a sunny late-summer day when night is nearly there, but not quite there, the hour you realize once again that summer and all things are transient, ephemeral, lovely. Whew, seems like a lot to ask of something made in a big glass jar!
But, you know, it worked out quite well. Not sure I reached the full heights I wanted, but came close-ish, to my taste, which might be different than yours. The basil is the strangest part of the equation, as it lost some of its, well, basil-ness if that makes sense. There’s not overriding basil smell or taste, or any, or very little; instead, it adds a slightly vegetal minty-ness. Interesting! The orange notes come through strong, with a little other citrus (thanks to lemon) and a dream of toasty peach, and the spice notes (tiny bits of ginger, star anise) are more inferred than active, if that makes sense. Oh, I should have started with: the wine I used as the base was an Orvieto Classico white wine, which I love, and which is dry-ish, but fruit-y-ish (more peach notes here), and grape-ish enough to bring a lot of flavor. I also added some vodka, as the wine solo didn’t seem to have enough umph for the end-of-summer delicate sadness I wanted. Sure, I’m weird! Gentian, the bittering agent of choice for so many things, underlines that thought, as well as balancing the sweetness. Really, all joshing and flighty language aside, Caducitivo (caduco in Italian meaning transient or ephemeral) was an awfully fun, and tasty, experiment, a fine pre-dinner, sipper, with a layered, light, orange-citrus-herb flavor containing a friendly bitter back end. Heck, I think I’ll make it again next year! And, with the below recipe, you can try it, too. I like sipping it at room temp, but think it’s best over ice, or chilled a bit. While I haven’t tried it yet, my guess is it’d be great with Prosecco, and also as a cocktail ingredient.
2 cups basil
1 roasted peach (see Note)
1 whole star anise
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
3 wide orange twists
2 wide lemon twists
2-1/2 cups Orvieto Classico (I used Ruffino, which is nice, solid, and not overly pricey)
1/2 cup vodka (I used Prairie Organic vodka, which is swell and came in the mail)
1 cup simple syrup
1/4 teaspoon crushed gentian
1. Add the basil, peach, star anise, ginger, and citrus twists to a large glass container with a good lid. Muddle nicely. Add the wine and vodka, stir, and put that lid on it. Store in a cool dark place away from the sun. Let sit two weeks, swirling occasionally.
2. Open it back up, add the simple syrup and gentian (see Second Note), and stir well. Place it back in the cool dark place, and let sit two more weeks, swirling occasionally.
3. Strain – I went once through a decent fine strainer to get the fruit out, and then through cheesecloth to add more clarity. You might need a third straining, too.
A Note: For the peach, I just baked it at 425 F until it was slightly roasted, not charred. Also, I didn’t use the pit, just the peach itself.
A Second Note: You could add this in Step 1, but I had unexpectedly ran out, so couldn’t. And there’s something (probably nothing) in adding that bittering agent later, letting the other ingredients meet up first.
September 29, 2020
Oh, Anthony Trollope, what more can I say? I mean, I’ve had a whole bar’s worth of Anthony Trollope Cocktail Talk posts, with many words unfurled on my love of and like of nearly every book in the Anthony Trollope canon, as I own nearly every single book he wrote, which is saying something as he was prolific as apple pie (whatever that means; he wrote lots of books). But there are still a few books out in the book wild by Trollope that I don’t have, and every time I discover one, I am happy as, oh, a kid at their birthday. And guess what? The other day I did indeed find a Trollope book I didn’t have, the Early Short Stories collection. A couple stories in it I had read (in the Lotta Schmidt and Other Stories collection), but most I hadn’t, and it’s been a treat reading them, a treat! Many take place all-round-the-world, though the one we’re Cocktail Talk-ing today takes place in Ireland, where Trollope lived for years, and set a few early books, and is called “The O’Conors of Castle Conors,” and ends on a happy note and with at tray of . . . well, you’ll see below.
“And Patsey,” said she, “ride for your life; and Patsey, whatever you do, don’t come back without Mr. Green’s pumps—his dancing-shoes you know.”
And in about two hours the pumps did arrive; and I don’t think I ever spent a pleasanter evening or got more satisfaction out of a pair of shoes. They had not been two minutes on my feet before Larry was carrying a tray of Negus across the room in those which I had worn at dinner.
“The Dillon girls are going to stay here,” said Fanny as I wished her good night at two o’clock. “And we’ll have dancing every evening as long as you remain.”
— Anthony Trollope, “The O’Conors of Castle Conors”
September 22, 2020
If by some strange twist of fate you missed The Dirty Duck Part I Cocktail Talk, then by all means, please, take a moment of time to read and reflect on it before you dive in here. Don’t worry, I’ll wait. Okay, back? If so, then you know more than this post will tell you about the book The Dirty Duck by Martha Grimes, as well as, perhaps, if you followed the link trail more about the book The Man With a Load of Mischief, also by said Martha. All of which would be good for you to know, me thinks, cause within both books good pubs feature prominently – heck, they provide the names for the books! And the actual Dirty Duck pub, and much/some of the action, is in lovely and Shakespeare-y Stratford Upon Avon. What I didn’t mention earlier is that in both books, Grimes has a character drinking old favorite Campari, which doesn’t make it into nearly enough books. I’m not 100% sure that our author loves the red bitter aperitivo as much as I do, though she seems like a decent person, and what decent person wouldn’t? Not a one.
Her eyes actually seemed to be twinkling at him over the rim of her glass. What was she drinking? Naturally, Campari and lime.
–Martha Grimes, The Dirty Duck