July 11, 2017
Hey, it’s time for another Cocktail Talk featuring George Simenon’s legendary French detective Maigret, the stoic, large, over-coated, café-visiting crime solver. If you haven’t yet, check out past Maigret Cocktail Talks. This particular one, though, is from the very first of his books, which I was super excited to find in a little bookstore in Edmunds, WA. Sometimes the world lines up in great ways. And sometimes you have to drink an absinthe substitute with guttersnips in a dive bar.
Overall the man fitted a type that Maigret knew well: the migrant low-lifer of Eastern European origin who slept in squalid lodging houses and sometimes in railway stations. A type not often seen outside Paris, but accustomed to travelling in third-class carriages when not riding the footboards or hopping freight trains.
He got proof of his insight a few minutes later. Fécamp doesn’t have any genuine low dives, but behind the harbour there are two or three squalid bars favoured by dockhands and seamen. Ten metres before these places there’s a regular café kept clean and bright. The man in the trench coat walked right past it and straight into the least prepossessing of the bars where he put his elbow on the counter in a way that Maigret saw right through.
It was the straightforwardly vulgar body-language of a guttersnipe. Even if he’d tried, Maigret couldn’t have imitated it. The inspector followed the man into the bar. He’d ordered an absinthe substitute and was just standing there, wordless, with a blank stare on his face. He didn’t register Maigret’s presence, though the inspector was now right next to him.
–George Simenon, Pietr the Latvian
March 18, 2016
Well, it’s the day after St. Patrick’s Day, so you may be up to your ears already in drinks utilizing Irish whiskey this week – but really, can you have too many? Not when you’re using some deliciousness like The Quiet Man Traditional blended Irish whiskey, which is re-casked in first-fill bourbon casks. It carries a very approachable nature, along with a vanilla, honey, apple, spice, and oak flavor that’s sippable, sure, but which also plays well with others – as in this drink. This drink, by the way, you’ll sometimes see with other ingredients (mostly a sloe gin variety). Well, the name you’ll see on other ingredients I suppose would be proper. But this time of year, this is the only way to go, as many have gone before you (it is a fairly old drink). Have a few, and you’ll be telling stories in no time. Unlike The Quiet Man founder Ciaran Mulgrew’s father, John Mulgrew, who this whiskey was named after and who worked many years in the Irish bar world, and who, as they say “told no tales.” A good story! Which also always makes a drink taste better.
The Blackthorn, using the recipe from Ginger Bliss and the Violet Fizz
2 ounces Quiet Man Traditional blended Irish whiskey
1 ounce sweet vermouth
1/4 ounce absinthe
3 dashes Angostura bitters
Lemon twist, for garnish
1. Fill a cocktail shaker halfway full with ice cubes. Add the Irish, the sweet vermouth, absinthe, and bitters. Shake well.
2. Strain into a cocktail glass. Twist the twist over the glass and let it drop in.
March 1, 2016
I know many of the Cocktail Talk posts here (at least 89.6%) follow along one or two lines. Either a pulp-hardboiled-detective-murderous-noir selection, or a Trollope selection, with the occasionally Dickens thrown in for good measure. Sure, there are some others, but I usually run my routes with precision. But once in awhile, we need to shake things up. Combine that with the fact that I was doing an event not long ago and about half of the folks there had never had absinthe, and, well, we end up with the below quote which I love from the famous politician, historian, and journalist:
One’s emotions in Rome were one’s private affair, like one’s glass of absinthe before dinner in the Palais Royal.
Henry Adams, The Education of Henry Adams
October 16, 2015
This drink comes from one of my favorite old cocktail books, Crosby Gaige’s Cocktail Guide and Ladies Companion. If you can track it down, it’s well worth investing in, as it’s jovial as a good cocktail party, and it has some random but delicious recipes that I haven’t seen elsewhere. One of those is this one, Headlong Hall.
It’s really a distant cousin of the Martini, as it’s heavy of gin and half-as-heavy of vermouth, but then taken down a curvy boozy road by the addition of two whispers: one of Bénédictine, and one of absinthe. Which gives it a personality all of its own.
Of course, with the main players being such to the front of the stage (wow, I am all over the place on the metaphors and such), however, you need some serious actors – or, seriously flavorful gin and vermouth. Recently, I was in the UK, and in the lovely city of Bath, in a lovely little wine and liquor store, I picked up a bottle of Psychopomp Wōden gin, which is made at a “micro-distillery” in Bristol, not far from Bath. The gin is singular – don’t get me wrong, it starts with a rich juniper, but that’s backed by a mingling of coriander, grapefruit zest, angelica root and cassia bark, and fennel seed, the last of which really delivers on the back end when sipping. If you’re in the UK, track it down.
To go with it, I picked La Quintinye Vermouth Royal, the extra dry version (full disclosure and bragging – I received this in the mail not too long ago). Made in the Charente region of France, La Quintinye extra dry vermouth is crafted from 27 plants and spices on a base of white wines and Pineau des Charentes Blanc. Lush is a good way to describe it, with floral and citrus notes all coming together and delivering a result that’s fantastic in cocktails (especially I think matched with a flavorful gin), but also dandy before dinner over one or two pieces of ice. Combined with the Wōden gin and our two whispers in this drink? Well, try it, but I sure found it all fantastic.
2 ounces Psychopomp Wōden gin
1 ounce La Quintinye Extra Dry Vermouth Royal
1 teaspoon Bénédictine
1/2 teaspoon absinthe
1. Fill a cocktail shaker or mixing glass halfway full with cracked ice. Add everything. Stir well.
2. Strain into a cocktail glass. Drink, but not in a headlong manner (no matter the title. Sorry Crosby).
September 25, 2015
I am very sorry, dear readers, for what’s to come in the next few sentences. The kids these days call it “venting,” and I shouldn’t do it here, but we’re all in this together, and trust me, the payoff is good. So, tally ho! To all those who feel that they need to have early morning work meetings where they can be totally self-centered, churlish, idiotic, preening, demanding, aggressive, annoying, smelly, rude, obnoxious, piggish, full of sophomoric one-up-manship, self-absorbed, beastly, un-jovial, un-jolly, un-jiggy-with-it, grabby, grandstanding, stinky, vainglorious, un-fun, stoopid and stupid, pompous, jealous, vindictive, douche-y, territorial at a level way beyond petty, pushy, primpy, powermad, and just plain fatheaded, to all y’all that fit that – please, just let me know far, far, in advance when you’re scheduling your morning meetings, so I can make a Morning Call, or two, and thereby just ignore your sorry ass.
The Morning Call, from Ginger Bliss and the Violet Fizz
1-1/2 ounces absinthe
3/4 ounce maraschino liqueur
3/4 ounce freshly squeezed lemon juice
1. Fill a cocktail shaker or mixing glass halfway full with cracked ice. Add the absinthe, maraschino, and lemon juice. Stir well, and hang up the phone.
2. Strain into a cocktail glass.
PS: Sorry about the rant. But the drink is worth it, one hopes.
July 23, 2013
Some say (or, said, cause after I caught up with ‘em they didn’t say any more.*) that the Cocktail Talk posts here shade too much to the pulp, noir, and mystery side, with only the occasional 1800’s English writer for balance. Pish posh, I say. But, I do believe in balance mostly and mainly, so this time, a little something that could be said to be more lit’rary. And French. And what’s more lit’rary than that? Nothing. This quote is gold, too, and reminds me of many an afternoon that started so purposeful and ended up sorta derailed. I’ll bet you’ve had those days, too, yes?
They entered a small café and took an absinthe together, then resumed their walk along the pavement. Morissot stopped suddenly. ‘Shall we have another absinthe?’ he said. ‘If you like,’ agreed Monsieur Sauvage. And they entered another wine shop. They were quite unsteady when they came out, owing to the effect of the alcohol on their empty stomachs. It was a fine, mild day, and a gentle breeze fanned their faces.
— Guy de Maupassant, Two Friends
*Kidding! I’m not so tough. I’m a cuddler.
December 8, 2010
Isn’t the name here ominous? Well, the book, by Eric Ambler, is less so, though Dimitrios is a rough character. This mystery-international-intrigue novel actually isn’t as cliff-hanger-ish as it wants to be, but it does globe trot across some interesting southern-European, Northern African, Easter European locales, and they drink it up somewhat along the way, which I have no problem with—heck, I don’t even have too much problem with the lack of mystery, as long the scenery is so jumping. Here are two quotes that round out this book’s particular bar:
‘Will you have a drink?’ said Latner. The Russian’s eyes flickered open and he looked round like a man regaining consciousness. He said: ‘If you like. I will have an absinthe please. Avec de la glace*.’
She had had a Mandarine Curaçao in front of her and now she had drunk it down thirstily. Latiner had cleared his throat.
—A Coffin for Dimitrios, Eric Ambler
*If you wondered, this means “with some ice.”
June 2, 2009
I wanted to call this post “Drinking Cats” as a balance to the below two cats drinking, but then I figured I’d get all kinds of weirdo traffic flowing in (instead of the regular weirdo traffic–ba-dump-bump. I kid, I kid). And who knows if that weirdo traffic would enjoy this newly minted (or, at least, fairly newly shaken) combination of gin, absinthe, pineapple juice, and a touch of simple syrup, accented by a lemon twist if you’re feeling it. And I’m feeling it, so you should be too (said in my drunken-two-year-old voice). I say hit up the Aviation gin here if you can, cause House Spirits rocks the party. Oh, and it tastes freaking great, like a springtime daydream. I used Lucid absinthe, which is pretty darn swell, too. But if you want to play around with other gins (Bluecoat might be interesting, and Dry Fly) or absinthes (like the mighty Marteau) then start experimenting with your Panther’s Paw. It won’t bite. Though after a couple, you may feel slightly paw’d. But maybe you like that? Wait, I know the answer to that question already.
1-1/2 ounce Aviation gin
1 ounce Lucid absinthe
3/4 ounce pineapple juice
1/4 ounce simple syrup
Lemon slice, for garnish (optional)
1. Fill a cocktail shaker halfway full with ice cubes. Add the gin, absinthe, pineapple juice, and simple syrup. Shake well.
2. Strain the mix into a cocktail glass. Garnish with the lemon slice if that’s what makes your panther purr.