January 12, 2021
As mentioned just two weeks ago right here on the Spiked Punch blog, we’re going into a little turn through the Dickens’ classic Little Dorrit, a book I hadn’t featured here (some how?) until just that post two weeks ago (by the way, don’t miss the Little Dorrit Cocktail Talk Part I, so you can catch a little more about the book, and be sure to see all the Dickens Cocktail Talks to learn more about my love for Dickens and his love of drinks, pubs, drinkers, and dogs). In this particular quote, there’s a character named by his profession (which happens some in this book, to swell effect), and some sherry (which also happens), which is turned into a cocktail of sorts, which I am all for, as, I hope, are you.
Bishop said that when he was a young man, and had fallen for a brief space into the habit of writing sermons on Saturdays, a habit which all young sons of the church should sedulously avoid, he had frequently been sensible of a depression, arising as he supposed from an over-taxed intellect, upon which the yolk of a new-laid egg, beaten up by the good woman in whose house he at that time lodged, with a glass of sound sherry, nutmeg, and powdered sugar acted like a charm. Without presuming to offer so simple a remedy to the consideration of so profound a professor of the great healing art, he would venture to inquire whether the strain, being by way of intricate calculations, the spirits might not (humanly speaking) be restored to their tone by a gentle and yet generous stimulant?
–Charles Dickens, Little Dorrit
January 8, 2021
Welcome to 2021! Well, I’m a little late with the welcome, but it’s already been (to put it mildly) a strange week, and following up 2020’s strange year (and then some), well, tardiness is probably okay. As is drinking Fish House Punch. Luckily (for me!), some pals (Curtis and Eve!) made a big batch of Fish House Punch, and then bottled it for lucky folks (like me!), since they couldn’t, for obvious current reasons, have a big party as one usually would when making a big batch of this favorite that goes all the way, way, way back to Philadelphia’s Schuylkill Fishing Company sometime in the 1700s. There’s something about drinking a mix that traces back that far that’s wonderful, connecting us to drinkers from many years before, and then you can up the wonderful quotient ten times when it’s made by friends, and you get to share the drink with them (as well as those 1700s drinkers) in a communal, if distanced by both time and space, way. I’m not 100% sure if this is exactly the recipe they used, but it’s the one I use, from Dark Spirits. If you aren’t super thirsty, and want to do a bottling, I’d still mix with a little ice, or just add a little water, as water is one of the ingredients here (as with all chilled drinks). Let’s hope the rest of the year is as swell as this historical sipper.
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 fishy songs or hymns to Pennsylvania.
2. Stir 10 more times. Serve in punch cups or wine glasses or bottle it to give to friends (in a distanced way).
December 29, 2020
I can’t believe it’s the end of 2020 (a crappy year, as you know, with some redeeming factors), which means there have been, well, 2,020 years plus a few more years of recorded Western history (I’m not here to debate history, and realize I’m generalizing in a big way, but hey, I write about drinks), and in all those years I haven’t had a Cocktail Talk from the immortal Dicken’s classic Little Dorrit! That’s an outrage! What have I been thinking? I haven’t, obviously. While Little Dorrit isn’t my all-time favorite Dickens, it’s definitely in the middle-high range, and as I love most all Dickens books a heck of a lot, that’s saying something! Be sure to read all the Dickens Cocktail Talks to hear more. But be sure to come back, too, cause you don’t want to miss these quotes from Dickens fairly-dark novel that’s unflinching in its views of his society (which is remarkably like ours, in some sad ways), while still being wonderfully comic, character-driven, lyric, and descriptive, with layers of stories that disconnect and then connect again and characters you won’t easily forget. Dickens! And, of course, there are some drinks, as he liked drinks and pubs like few other authors. Our first Little Dorrit Cocktail Talk – and there will be more, don’t you fret – features the hero (in a way of speaking) of the book, Arthur Clennam, sitting down for dinner with a now-much-changed love from his youth, and with her father.
Once upon a time Clennam had sat at that table taking no heed of anything but Flora; now the principal heed he took of Flora was to observe, against his will, that she was very fond of porter, that she combined a great deal of sherry with sentiment, and that if she were a little overgrown, it was upon substantial grounds. The last of the Patriarchs had always been a mighty eater, and he disposed of an immense quantity of solid food with the benignity of a good soul who was feeding some one else.
— Charles Dickens, Little Dorrit
December 25, 2020
Recently (speaking here of just weeks ago, as opposed to minutes ago) here on the Spiked Punch blog, I had a drink called Far More Red, featuring Trentodoc sparkling wine, or wine crafted particularly finely within a particular spot within the Trentino region, if I have everything correctly. The drink was tasty (I say, without hopefully overly-tooting-my-own-horn), and I hope you try it. But today, just days before (well, nearly a week before as the calendar tells us), the bubbliest night of the year (New Year’s Eve, natch), and maybe then, too, I’m having sparkling wine in a non-cocktail-form. That’s right, straight up! But, I’m sticking the a Trentodoc sparkler, so if you haven’t read the Far More Red recipe, then do, cause it has more Trentodoc info, though here I’m having a different wine (that showed in the mail, also, probably from Santa) than there. Today, it’s: Monfort Riserva Brut. Made in the same classical method, sure, but here we have a grape combo of 80% Chardonnay and 20% Pinot Nero, grown in vineyards that lie between 400 and 600 meters above sea level on hills where lie the towns of Meano, Vigo Meano, Cortesano, Gazzadina, and other spots I need to visit. What’s it all mean? A full frizzante, a delicate but flavorsome wine, a mix of floral, strawberry, pear, Honeycrisp apples, and an echo of fresh pastry (well, that’s my take), a sparkling wine ideal for pre-dinner sipping, but also, to me, one that’s ideal for sipping with that special someone as one year ticks away into another. Try it next week and see! Also, happy holidays!
December 18, 2020
Just weeks back, I had a Cocktail Talk from Qiu Xiaolong’s excellent Enigma of China, starring Chief Inspector Chen (be sure to read past Qiu Xiaolong Chen Cocktail Talks), in which we had a quote about classic Chinese poet Wang Xizi and a wine poem games he and other poets played, which is about the most amazing thing! Said poet from many years gone by (and the poets who played the wine poem game described) mostly hung out in the Chinese city (as it’s called today), Shaoxing. Now (and trust me, I’m bringing this all together, somewhat), also a few weeks back, some pals of mine from the wondrous Teacher’s Lounge dropped me off a bottle of what, it turns out, is Shaoxing wine! Also amazing. A fermented rice wine, it’s one of (I’ve read) the most famous of the genre, and one often used for cooking as well as drinking – actually, it’s a key cooking ingredient, due to its herbal-ish, funky-ish, fruit-y taste. But I believe that taste means that it can make a swell cocktail, too, and I think in this drink here, The Orchid Canopy (the name’s a shout out to Wang, too!), proves it. I felt something as personality-rich as Shaoxing wine needed a drinking partner that could stand up to it while mingling, and after some testing, came up with: port! Specifically, Sandeman 10-year-old Tawny port, which is a lush number that’s also fruity, with hint of nutty, too. Those notes, with more emphasis on the “fruity” but stone fruity (equaling a little nuttiness, too), are echoed in our third and last ingredient: Rothman and Winter Apricot liqueur. With these three ingredients, we have a cocktail that’s fit for a gathering of poets. Heck, they might even play a cocktail poem game with it!
The Orchard Canopy
1-1/2 ounces Shaoxing rice wine
1-1/2 ounces Sandeman 10-year-old Tawny port
3/4 ounces Rothman and Winter Apricot liqueur
Orange twist, for garnish
1. Fill a cocktail shaker or mixing glass halfway full with cracked ice. Add our three poetic ingredients, and stir well.
2. Strain into a cocktail glass. Garnish with a good-sized orange twist. Drink, write poems, drink more.
December 15, 2020
Just over twelve years ago, life was a little different. We were younger, of course, and, electricity hadn’t been invented, and dinosaurs walked the earth, and Atlantis still stood strong, and well, it feels that long ago, at least, doesn’t it? But that (back in 2008) was when I last read what some consider to be Charlotte Bronte’s best novel, Villette. How do I know that fact? Cause I had a Villette Cocktail Talk way back then! Amazing, right? Amazing. I decided to delve back into the book when in a CB mood recently, and found the below quote I must have missed first time, one that’s ideal for right now as it features Wassail, a traditional holiday drink in many parts of the globe. Oh, but before that – in my earlier Cocktail Talk I said Villette was in France, but I think I’d spent too much time around the Wassail-bowl, cause really, it’s a stand-in name I believe for Brussels. Oh, also, if you haven’t read it, Villette is a somewhat reflection of part of C. Bronte’s life, and presents a picture different than many books written at the time, as the heroine is way independent for the time period, and caused a fair amount of disapproving looks at the time – though some highly approved, and I do too! Oh (part three of the “Oh”-ing), I have one or two more Charlotte Bronte Cocktail Talks, too, so don’t miss them.
So, while the Count stood by the fire, and Paulina Mary still danced to and fro—happy in the liberty of the wide hall-like kitchen—Mrs. Bretton herself instructed Martha to spice and heat the wassail-bowl, and, pouring the draught into a Bretton flagon, it was served round, steaming hot, by means of a small silver vessel, which I recognized as Graham’s christening-cup.
“Here’s to Auld Lang Syne!” said the Count; holding the glancing cup on high.
— Charlotte Bronte, Villette
December 11, 2020
Bit chilly out dontcha know? Wind coming in quick and cool from the north, nipping at your nose, toes, and panty-hose? Perhaps a flake or two of snow wisping on the currents of air here and there (but not yet everywhere)? Fluffy orange mittens mittening on your hands? You know, winter (for those in the hemisphere where it is winter) is here, so, not so surprising if you’re thinking of thicker socks and watching the mercury mingle lower, and wondering – how might I warm up? If I can be a bold as an impertinent icicle, can I suggest the Rumoddy? Which (shhhh, don’t tell) is, to speak the cold truth, a rum toddy with maybe a wrinkle or two (like a warm shirt that has been in the closet a long time). And Rumoddy is such a warming sounding name, yummy. And this is yummy! With dark rum, lime, and rosemary simple syrup I had nearby, and which you could make if you want (and why wouldn’t you, rosemary being such a swell winter herb), but if not, you could go with regular simple (rosemary simple recipe below btw), and then hot water to take that chilly mentioned way back in sentence one far, far away – for a few moments, at least.
2 ounces dark rum
1/2 ounce freshly-squeezed lime juice
3/4 ounces rosemary simple syrup (recipe in Note)
5 ounces hot water
Lime twist, for garnish
1. Add the rum, lime, and syrup to a cocktail shaker (no ice!). Shake well.
2. Strain through a fine strainer into a pre-warmed (just by running it up warm water) sturdy mug.
3. Top with the hot water. Stir to combine. Garnish with a lime twist.
A Note: To make rosemary simple syrup, add three-quarters cup fresh rosemary to a saucepan. Muddle a little bit with a muddler or wooden spoon. Add 1-1/2 cups sugar and 1 cup water to the saucepan and raise the heat to medium-high. Stirring regularly, let the mixture come to a low boil, and keep it there until the sugar is dissolved. Simmer for ten minutes, remove the heat, and let cool completely. Strain out the rosemary, and pour into a container with a good lid. Store in the fridge for up to two weeks.
December 8, 2020
Well, it’s nearly time after a fair number of swell quotes to say so-long (for now – he’ll be back) to Raymond Chandler, with one last Cocktail Talk from a story within the collection Trouble Is My Business and Other Stories, this time “Red Wind,” which starts with the below quote that has a wind indeed in it. It’s a twisty kind of tall, beginning with that wind and a bar that’s across the street from Chandler’s PI Philip Marlowe’s apartment. Then there’s a lady, various angles, and lots of gumshoe-ing. Start it off with the below, and then read the whole story whydontcha? Oh, and also don’t miss all the other Raymond Chandler Cocktail Talks, cause you deserve to read them.
There was a desert wind blowing that night. It was one of those hot dry Santa Anas that come down through the mountain passes and curl your hair and make your nerves jump and your skin itch. On nights like that, meek little wives feel the edge of the carving knife and study their husbands’ necks. Anything can happen. You can even get a full glass of beer at a cocktail lounge.
I was getting one in a flossy new place across the street from the apartment house where I lived. It had been open about a week and it wasn’t doing any business. The kid behind the bar was in his early twenties and looked as if he had never had a drink in his life.
–Raymond Chandler, “Red Wind”