October 22, 2021
I have a deep fondness (I know, this is, oh, a little patting-yourself-on-the-back-y) for some of the headnotes (the intro paragraph/graphs before the recipe, though you probably knew that) in Ginger Bliss and the Violet Fizz. Including the one for this drink, which is short, but still I hope fun, and introduces the players and such. So much so that I’m going to just do the ol’ cut-and-pasting of said intro right here:
Featuring the bracing and bountiful bam! of Italian digestivo Fernet-Branca over a layer of rumbling dark rum and a lovely lash of apricot liqueur and a tiny tang of lime, the Whip should be unveiled only when attempting world conquest (in the board game Risk, that is) or having a marathon video game session when the games are medieval or oriented earlier (such as Prince of Persia, say) or having a double elimination (’cause every player needs a second chance) shuffleboard tournament where the winner triumphs thanks to the singular method of ricocheting the puck off the sidewalls to hang gracefully on the board’s edge—without falling over. A conqueror indeed.
The Whip of the Conqueror, from Ginger Bliss and the Violet Fizz
1 -1/2 ounces dark rum
1 ounce Fernet Branca
1/2 ounce apricot liqueur
1/4 ounce freshly squeezed lime juice
Lime twist, for garnish
1. Fill a cocktail shaker halfway full with ice cubes. Add the rum, Fernet Branca, apricot liqueur, and lime juice. Shake while longing to be the conqueror.
2. Strain through a fine strainer into a cocktail glass, and garnish with the twist.
October 19, 2021
It’s a smidgen odd that I haven’t had more Peter Lovesey Cocktail Talks here on the ol’ Spiked Punch, just as I read and re-read his books (especially his Peter Diamond mysteries) as much as nearly any written words. Though, on the flip side, he doesn’t dwell in the bars and boozes as much as some, so maybe not so strange? Anyway, before I ramble so far we end up lost in the English countryside, today we are having a Lovesey Cocktail Talk, with a quote from the story “Bullets,” which I recently re-read when I was re-reading his killer (hahaha) collection, Murder on the Short List, a collection full of mysteries and mysterious deaths, some featuring a couple of his classic characters and some not. While I may shade my favoritism towards the longer works, many like his stories best, and he is a master – all of which is to say, pick this book up if you see it. This particular short story starts with an inspector getting ready to talk to the relatives of man found dead in his study, supposedly (!) by suicide.
They were sitting at the kitchen table in 7, Albert Street, their small suburban house in Teddington. They had a bottle of brandy between them.
The inspector accepted a drink and knocked it back in one swig. When talking to the recently bereaved he needed all the lubrication he could get.
–Peter Lovesey, “Bullets”
October 12, 2021
I wasn’t sure we’d have two An Old Man’s Love Cocktail Talks, as it’s a quicker read (especially in comparison with many Trollope gems). However, here we are! I had to feature the quote in Part I (read it, to find out why, and to find out more about the book, the last full novel written by the English great, and for even more, check out all the Trollope Cocktail Talks), and then when mulling things over, didn’t want to miss the below, either. In it, we learn our lead character has had drinking whiskey as a doctor’s recommendation – something that doesn’t happen enough today!
He had, indeed, felt but little his want of success in regard to money, but he had encountered failure in one or two other matters which had touched him nearly. In some things his life had been successful; but these were matters in which the world does not write down a man’s good luck as being generally conducive to his happiness. He had never had a headache, rarely a cold, and not a touch of the gout. One little finger had become crooked, and he was recommended to drink whisky, which he did willingly,—because it was cheap. He was now fifty, and as fit, bodily and mentally, for hard work as ever he had been.
–Anthony Trollope, An Old Man’s Love
October 5, 2021
First published in 1884, An Old Man’s Love was the last novel completed by the Spiked Punch’s pal Anthony Trollope, published after his death (there’s one more unfinished novel, too – oh, and check out all the Trollope Cocktail Talks to learn more, in an overall way, while having oodles of reading fun), and also one of the few novels by him that I’d yet to read, until recently! It’s a short novel, and almost could have slipped into novella size, though I’d hate to miss all but a few of his last words. I wouldn’t put it into the super-awesome tier of Trollope, as it’s fairly one-path’d as opposed to his thicker, more layered pieces. But it’s a good study of just what the title would have you believe: an older gentleman falls for his younger ward and nearly marries her – but then a past love of her’s shows up, and stuff ensues, as you’d expect. There are a few other pertinent characters, including the old man’s (Mr. Whittlestaff, that is), housekeeper, with whom he has some funny exchanges, and her drunken reprobate of an estranged husband. The latter is featured in the below quote, which itself also features one of my favorite phrases, “drunk as a lord.” This phrase usage is really why the below makes it to Cocktail Talk status. Drunk as a lord! I’ve been there, my friends.
On the next morning, when John Gordon reached the corner of the road at which stood Croker’s Hall, he met, outside on the roadway, close to the house, a most disreputable old man with a wooden leg and a red nose. This was Mr. Baggett, or Sergeant Baggett as he was generally called, and was now known about all Alresford to be the husband of Mr. Whittlestaff’s housekeeper. For news had got abroad, and tidings were told that Mr. Baggett was about to arrive in the neighbourhood to claim his wife. Everybody knew it before the inhabitants of Croker’s Hall. And now, since yesterday afternoon, all Croker’s Hall knew it, as well as the rest of the world. He was standing there close to the house, which stood a little back from the road, between nine and ten in the morning, as drunk as a lord. But I think his manner of drunkenness was perhaps in some respects different from that customary with lords. Though he had only one leg of the flesh, and one of wood, he did not tumble down, though he brandished in the air the stick with which he was accustomed to disport himself. A lord would, I think, have got himself taken to bed. But the Sergeant did not appear to have any such intention.
— Anthony Trollope, An Old Man’s Love
October 1, 2021
It was, say two months ago, basil season (I take it to be late August, though your basil-ing may vary), which is a fragrant green season indeed. Usually, one thinks: basil, an herb, used in cooking, see pesto, etc. However, I (and maybe others, too) also think: basil, an herb, used in making liqueurs and other drinkables, see Basil Grappa, etc. I first made Basil Grappa way back in the halcyon days of writing a book called Luscious Liqueurs (I originally saw the idea in a small Italian language pamphlet of liqueurs, and then tweaked it up a tiny bit), and it’s featured in said book, and I’ve been making it fairly regularly ever since – including this very year! It’s a straightforward recipe, just basil, grappa, simple syrup, and a little lemon juice for balance, and one that’s a little less sweet than some liqueurs. Why? Cause while I love the basil, I still wanted to let the grappa shine through, and not have its grappa-ness (that lovely grape-ness, vineyard-ness, and wine’s-older-brother-ness) completely smoothed away. This liqueur is, for those grappa neophytes, an easy path into the world of grappa by the way, grappa being a spirit that is mostly misunderstood here in the US, but one also that has many varieties (as many as wine itself, I suppose). While not always super available here (if you are US-based, that is), I’m finding more grappas around, but if you can’t track down a bottle, hound your local liquor store until they bring some in!
Basil Grappa Liqueur
1-1/2 cups fresh basil
1 Tablespoon lemon juice
3 cups grappa
1/2 cup simple syrup
1. Add the basil and lemon juice to a large glass container. Using a muddler or wooden spoon, muddle them together cozily.
2. Add the grappa to the container, and stir well. Put it in a cool dry place, and let everything get acquainted for two weeks, swirling occasionally.
3. Add the simple syrup to the container, stir, and put back in that cool, dry place, once again, swirling.
4. Strain the Basil Grappa. I’d suggest once through a fine mesh strainer, then through cheesecloth – into a glass bottle, or a number of small bottles if you’d like to share (sharing is nice)!
September 28, 2021
Recently (not today recent, but just weeks ago), I had a few Cocktail Talks from the A.A. Fair book Owls Don’t Blink (you can read Part I and Part II as desired). A.A. Fair of course being an alias of Erle Stanley Gardner, who is/was/will be mostly famous for his series of books featuring dashing and mystery-solving attorney Perry Mason. I’ve written before here on Spiked Punch (check out past Erle Cocktail Talks for evidence) how I generally like the Perry Mason television show better than the books, in a twist, and how I also tend to like the A.A. Fair books better. Hey, I’m strange! I don’t dislike the Perry Mason books, but sometimes our loveable lawyer is a little too, oh, cool? I dunno. I will say this: the Perry Mason books are worth reading, A: to make up your own mind, B: cause some (like The Case of the Cautious Coquette) are dandy reads, C: they all tend to move fast and frolicsome, and D: the versions in the 40s, 50s, maybe even early 60s usually have outstanding covers. This one, featuring our red-headed heroine holding a smoking gun and wearing a smoking pantsuit, is no different. The tale itself features a mysterious letter, woman, murder, gun, car wreck, and more. And an un-mysterious drink for Perry.
He arose as Mason entered the room, said, “Mr. Mason, the lawyer?”
The man extended his hand. “I’m Stephen Argyle. I’ve very glad to meet you. I have heard about you. Won’t you sit down and join me in a drink?”
He was thin to the point of being bony, with long fingers, high cheekbones, bleached out eyes, think hair which was well shot with gray. He wore glasses which clamped on the bridge of a high nose with a black ribbon hanging from the side, giving him an expression of austere power.
Mason said, “Thank you. I’ll have a Scotch and soda, please.”
Argyle nodded to the butler, who walked over to the portable bar, dropped ice cubes in a glass, mixed a Scotch and soda, and wordlessly handed it to Mason.
–Erle Stanley Gardener, The Case of the Cautious Coquette
September 24, 2021
It is (please don’t shun me), pretty rare that I get itching for a drink (well, that’s not rare, this next bit) and decide what I really want is to pour ingredients over the back of a spoon slowly, one at a time, so they make pretty layers, Pousse-Café style. Not that I don’t believe there are many drinks made like such that are wonders, because there are and I do, with each layer’s spirit or liqueur delicately (usually) unveiling itself, mingling slightly with the former or next layer, a little more, then a little less. It’s a memorable experience, but one that sadly I’m just not that awesome at making. I probably need to make more! But because of such, the rarity mentioned above is the norm on most days. But not today! Today, I woke up dreaming about an Eve’s Garden, and spoon-back-pouring skills or not, that’s what I’m having.
This particular pousse-styler comes from one of the legends in the bar firmament: Charles H. Baker, Jr., who wrote two classics: An Exotic Drink Book and An Exotic Cookery Book—first released by Crown in 1939 as A Gentleman’s Companion. In the drink book, there’s a section called “Ten More which Are Not Called Angels,” right after a section called “First a Brief Company of Six Angels,” which is where you’ll find our Eve, and of the drink he says “This sort of thing only goes to show what grown men will do to keep from devoting their time to something constructive in life.” It takes, friends, a steady hand. But in the end, is worth it, as the ingredients do their mingling on the tongue when sipped slow. One of the ingredients, by the way, is Crème Yvette, which for years wasn’t around. It is around more, now, but if you absolutely can’t find it, you could go crème di violette. Baker won’t mind, much.
1 ounce Damiana
1 ounce Crème Yvette
1 ounce Cognac
1/4 ounce heavy cream
1 sour cherry, for garnish
1. Add the Damiana to a cordial or other similar attractive glass. Slowly top it with the Crème Yvette, pouring over the back of a spoon if needed—you don’t want them to mix, because layering as much as possible is desired as alluded to above a bunch.
2. Pour the Cognac on top of the crème Yvette, again pouring over a spoon if needed so that they don’t mix.
3. Slowly spoon the cream on top of the cognac, and gently place the cherry on top of the cream.
A Note: In Mr. Baker’s book, this is garnished with a green cherry, but I like the sour cherry (and am a bit wary of the green cherry). But if you want to substitute the green for authenticity, I won’t stop you.
September 17, 2021
A few short weeks ago, I had a Friday Night Cocktail that was actually a homemade aperitif called Fugger’s Revenge. Based on the Italian white wine Est! Est!! Est!!!, with herbal and fruit accents, I suppose it could be nearly thought of as a vermouth, though not so much so that I would do it. I’ll stick with a white wine-based aperitif moniker, thank you very much. Anywho, it was pretty neat-o, and I’ve enjoyed it over ice nicely. And hopefully will again, while also trying it out in cocktails, starting with this one right here in front of your peepers, a drink called Martin’s Folly. If you go back to the Fugger’s Revenge, you’ll get the full story, but let me abbreviate, until such time as you have time to do such browsing. There was a jolly (I may be making that part up) German bishop, Johann Fugger, who was traveling to Rome, and wanted to be sure he hit up the best wine at the best bars on the way, so he sent along his pal (one hopes) and assistant first, to scope out the wine score, and one particular wine was so good, said adjunct wrote in big letters on the bar with this good wine, “Est! Est!! Est!!,” or “there is.” Good wine here, that is. And that wall-writer and wine-searcher’s name? Martin!
In the Martin’s Folly, I mixed the Fugger’s Revenge house aperitif with Wildwood Spirits’ Kur gin, a favorite gin of mine made here in WA with local wheat. It carries a robust gin flavor, highlighted by juniper (‘natch), spices and such, and a hint of Seville oranges. I didn’t want to get too far afield from our original bishop’s journey, outside of the gin, and didn’t want to add too many more ingredients, either. So, I fiddled with a bit of this, a splash of that, and didn’t find the right choices until I decided to tie back to the wine – with grappa. The grappa-grape-ness (or grappa-ness, to be technical) worked wonderfully, as did the final part of the folly, a lemon twist.
2 ounces Wildwood Spirits Kur gin
3/4 ounces Fugger’s Revenge white wine aperitif
1/2 ounce grappa
Lemon twist, for garnish
1. Fill a mixing glass or 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.