February 3, 2023
I love this drink – love it! And, as it’s the lover’s month, so to speak, felt I should kick things off with a drink I love. And this is it! Funny enough, was thinking about it recently over the past holiday season, when making it for some holiday pals. See, I always couched it in a sorta murder mystery persona (if cocktails have personas, which I believe they do), the drop of crimson blood on the slippers giving Miss Marple the needed clue (or whomever detective you desire, I’m feeling Marple-y) to solve the mystery. But, during this holiday season and discussion, a thought popped into my addled mind – wouldn’t Santa have slippers the color of crimson? Maybe? Maybe! So, that meant this could be a holiday drink, too. Either way, I love it. You will do. No matter what holiday you’re sipping it on.
The Crimson Slippers, from Dark Spirits
2 ounces dark rum
1 ounce Campari
1/2 ounce triple sec
Dash of Peychaud’s bitters
Lime slice for garnish
1. Fill a cocktail shaker halfway full with ice cubes. Add the rum, Campari, triple sec, and bitters. Shake well.
2. Strain into a cocktail glass.
3. Squeeze the lime slice over the glass and drop it in.
January 31, 2023
This quote’s from another story featured in one of the British Library Crime Classics anthologies, edited as always by the indefatigable Martin Edwards (see a couple past British Library Crime Classics Cocktail Talks). This particular collection is called Guilty Creatures, and is roaming with mysteries that circle or feature or highlight or spotlight animals in some way. Being an animal-lover myself, it was an ideal mix of stories for me. Not a lot of Cocktail Talking as you might expect, and (also as you might expect in a collection featuring a range of stories from early-to-middle last century) with a few stories that don’t hit such a high mark, though many, many do. This particular story actually wasn’t one of my favs, but was fun in a way, and has the amazing title “Pit of Screams,” and has snakes playing a big part, and a warning on brandy and Champagne in the below quote that while I can’t agree with, I can certainly understand!
In Togarapore to this day they will tell you that the snakes hypnotized the Rajah so that he fell. But what do you think?
He was giddy from the drink and the sun? Yes, that’s another possible explanation. It is bad to drink brandy and Champagne at midday. But neither is correct. What really killed the Rajah was a tear running down the cheek of that girl wife.
I was a young man in those days, very strong and with hot blood. When I saw that tear I bent, unnoticed, and jerked his ankles so that he somersaulted like the rat he was into the Pit of Screams.
— Garnett Radicliffe, “Pit of Screams”
January 20, 2023
This pretty amazing gin drink is sadly not one you see around these days – a crying shame, as it’s delish. Let’s work together to bring it back! It’s from the legendary Patrick Gavin Duffy’s Official Mixer’s Manual (1940 edition), one of the big and necessary books from the early-middle of last century. A tome all cocktail lovers should have, me thinks, full of drinks and drink-making history and wisdom (and Duffy’s genial crankiness). This one features a heavy dollop of gin as the base, and then smaller amounts of maraschino, sweet vermouth, and Cointreau. So, you’ll want a gin you’re really fond of: I’m using Monkey 47 Schwarzwald Dry Gin, whose smooth juniper, citrus, spice, pepper, botanicals, and berries balance is a treat. Add in the nutty maraschino, sweet and orange-y Cointreau, herbal vermouth, and a little lovely lemon oil and you end up with a cocktail fit for, well, a lord!
The Lord Suffolk
2-1/2 ounces Monkey 47 Schwarzwald gin
1/2 ounce Luxardo maraschino
1/2 ounce Cocchi Torino sweet vermouth
1/2 ounce Cointreau
Lemon twist, for garnish
1. Fill a cocktail shaker halfway full with cracked ice. Add everything but the twist. Stir well.
2. Strain into a cocktail glass, and garnish with the twist. Give a toast to the past, and then the future.
January 17, 2023
Last week, I had a Vanity Row Cocktail Talk (don’t miss that or past W.R. Burnett Cocktail Talks), the book that shares a cover in the swell Stark House two-books-in-one reprint with this week’s highlight, Little Men, Big World. After mentioning the book in said past Cocktail Talk, felt I should give it a moment of its own. So, here we are! Of the two books, I like them . . . both the same amount, which is a lot. This one jumps around more in narrative perspective, though it also circles again within crime and politics (more the former maybe) in a Midwestern city, with a few different characters from various sides of the scene taking the main role depending on the chapter and such. One of which is veteran newspaper man, Ben Reisman, who used to write the crime beat, but who now is a well-known columnist, though one who still desires to dig up a juicy story. And desires whiskey, too.
Sudden success some people said. Sudden success, after twenty-five years? And was this success? How about the plays he’d intended to writer, the novels? Reisman groaned and stared into his glass of Vichy water. The others were drinking whisky. He, too, liked whisky, and some nights he even got drunk. But the doc told him it would kill him and sometimes he was afraid. Why did he have to have ulcers? Young Downy did not have ulcers. Young Downy had pink cheeks and optimism. Not much in the way of brains. But what are brains? A liability.
–W.R. Burnett, Little Men, Big World
January 13, 2023
Here’s a nice kettle of booze. Perhaps (due to its minty-crushed-ice-y-fruit-y nature) this is more of a spring and early summer – or late summer – number? But I was feeling the need for some summer feeling, and so decided to revisit it as a mid-winter splash of sunshine. And really, the whiskey base certainly helps warm those winter blues. Maybe it should just be had on sunny winter days? Or maybe whenever one darn well feels like it! Drinking should be fun and not an ever-involved thought exercise, anyway. The first time I made this, I utilized Tommyrotter Distillery Triple Barrel American whiskey (which had happily shown up via the post), but this time I wanted to try a bourbon, and wanted to go local, and so went with Woodinville Whiskey’s award-winning (and always reliable!) Straight Bourbon. The slight sweetness and memorable spice went decidedly well with the fruit and mint notes (might be hard in winter to find good mint, depending on where you are, but stick with it! To the bold come the spoils and all that) I felt. Really, a lush lovely drink, no matter when drunk.
My Final Offer
1-1/2 ounces Woodinville Whiskey Company Straight Bourbon
3/4 ounces Rothman & Winter Orchard apricot liqueur
2 dashes Fee Brothers Peach bitters
4-1/2 ounces club soda
Mint sprig, for garnish
1. Fill a cocktail shaker or mixing glass halfway full with ice cubes. Add the whiskey, liqueur, and bitters. Stir well.
2. Fill a highball or comparable glass with crushed ice (or cracked if needs must). Strain the mix from above into the glass.
3. Top with the club soda. Garnish with the mint.
January 10, 2023
I’ve only (I think – but I may be still a little tired from New Year’s Eve) had one other W.R. Burnett Cocktail Talk, he being the writer whose very first book, Little Caesar, was an overnight sensation in 1928, being made into a movie that was also a sensation (and is great), after which he went on to write many novels, screenplays, and more. Including the book we’re quoting from today, Vanity Row, which is thankfully easily available in a two-books-in-one book from Stark House (the other book included is Little Men, Big World, also swell). Vanity Row takes place in an un-named middle-sized Midwestern city, and centers around the murder of one of the town’s movers-and-shakers, following along as police captain (and political chess piece) Roy Hargis tries to solve it, having his own life shaken up in the process. It’s dark and noir-y, showing political underbelly as it was (and is, at heart), moving rapidly around, and boasting a number of memorable moments and characters, including an English reporter named Wesson, highlighted below.
“What should follow perch, Lloyd?” he called to the little black-haired Welsh bartender.
“That a questions, Mr. Wesson, sir?” said Lloyd, hurrying back eagerly to talk. “A good brandy perhaps.”
“The very thing, Lloyd.”
The bartender returned with the brandy. “Didn’t you say one night you’ve never been in Cardiff, sir?” Lloyd treated Wesson with exaggerated deference which was very unusual for him. He was considered an expert bartender and for that reason was kept on, but he was a surly, fantastical character. There had been many complaints about him from patrons.
–W.R. Burnett, Vanity Row
December 23, 2022
There are holiday traditions, there are wonderful holiday traditions, and then there’s having the legendary Fish House Punch at the end of each year (or the beginning) – that’s a tradition nearly above all others, at least in the U.S., where this venerable punch has been punched up and sipped for hundreds of years, starting way back in the year 1732 (according to yore – I wasn’t actually there, though I am rather old) at Philadelphia’s Schuylkill fishing club, where I am sure (because sometimes the world is actually okay – meaning, I am not really sure, as I wasn’t there, but feel sure anyway, and want it to be true) folks sipped it by the bucketfuls around this time of year, much like I am now in the habit of doing, thanks to pals Eve and Curtis, who are annual Fish-House-Punch makers and distributors, and so I raise a glass in cheers to them, and to those who consumed this mix in the past, and to you, naturally, and to this sentence, which much like this year is now finally ending.
Fish House Punch, Serve 10
Block of ice (or cracked ice)
1 750-milliliter bottle dark rum
15 ounces cognac
7-1/2 ounces peach brandy
7-1/2 ounces freshly-squeezed lemon juice
7-1/2 ounces Simple Syrup
1. Add the ice to a punch bowl (fill about three quarters full if using cracked ice.) Add the rum, cognac, brandy, juice, and syrup. Stir 10 times, while humming holiday tunes.
2. Stir 10 more times. Serve in punch cups or wine glasses or what have you.
December 20, 2022
I’ve only yet had one other Cocktail Talk (The Case of Oscar Brodski Cocktail Talk, from the Blood on the Tracks anthology) from a British Library Crime Classics collection, though I hope to have more. These collections (there are a fair amount now, themed often in various ways) bring together some more famous, some less famous, some oft anthologized, some mostly forgotten mystery and crime stories written by British authors mainly in the early part of the last century. They’re loads of fun. Not all the stories are top shelf, but I haven’t read one yet (and I have three of the collections now) that didn’t have some merit. In them, better-known names (the awesome Arthur Conan Doyle for one) sit alongside lesser-known authors, some of whom were renowned during their times, then faded from public knowledge as years passed. As happens! Just today, I was reading the collection called Settling Scores, which contains murders and crimes around various types of sports and sporting events: tennis, golf, squash, boxing, and more, including rowing, which is where our Cocktail Talk comes from, as might be guessed from the story’s title, “The Boat Race Murder.” It was written by David Winser, who had a burgeoning writing career (and doctoring career) cut tragically short by a bomb in WWII. The series editor (and well-known mystery writer in his own right) Martin Edwards provides helpful bios for each author, along with picking the stories. You might think, “sports,” and expect a lack of Cocktail Talking (training and all) – I didn’t expect to find a quote quite right myself. But then came across the below, which is perfect.
You must try and picture a fizz night at Ranelagh. Someone, the coach or some other old Blue, had suddenly produced a dozen bottles of Champagne, and the coach has said that the crew’s been going so well that it damn well deserves the filthy stuff. Actually, as he and everyone else knows, the main purpose of the fizz is to stop the crew getting stale.
–David Winser, The Boat Race Murder