We are back at the Maypole (be sure and see the Barnaby Rudge Cocktail Talk Part I for more on the pub in question – lovely place that it is – and more on the book, and while you’re at it, check out the Barnaby Rudge Part II Cocktail Talk, and for that matter, all of the Dickens Cocktail Talks) for our third installation of tipsily delightful quotes from Dickens lesser-read, sadly, but still classic novel. This quote centers on the flip. Not the acrobatic movement, but the drink, very popular at one point in history, but not seen as much today, which is a shame, as you’ll see in the below that it isn’t just delicious, but also changes the whole atmosphere in a swell manner.
Nay, it was felt to be such a holiday and special night, that, on the motion of little Solomon Daisy, every man (including John himself) put down his sixpence for a can of flip, which grateful beverage was brewed with all despatch, and set down in the midst of them on the brick floor; both that it might simmer and stew before the fire, and that its fragrant steam, rising up among them, and mixing with the wreaths of vapour from their pipes, might shroud them in a delicious atmosphere of their own, and shut out all the world. The very furniture of the room seemed to mellow and deepen in its tone; the ceiling and walls looked blacker and more highly polished, the curtains of a ruddier red; the fire burnt clear and high, and the crickets in the hearthstone chirped with a more than wonted satisfaction.
Well, bubbly ones, we don’t talk enough about beer (you know, beer) here on Spiked Punch, outside of the occasional beer-cocktail, and we probably should have talked more about those in summer, and look, it’s fall, what was I thinking; I wasn’t, obviously. But today, I’m drinking Shepherd Neame’s Spitfire Amber Ale, and I’m darn happy about it! Made in historic Faversham, in the county of Kent, in the UK, I was first introduced to the idea of Spitfire by my jolly pal Joel, who mentioned it after he’d been on a British sojourn, and then the next time I was over the pond (so to speak), I tried it, and loved it. First knocked out as a one off release by the Shepherd Neame brewery (oldest continuous producing brewery in the UK, by the way, and well worth touring if you’re there) back in 1990 in honor of the Battle of Britain’s 50th, where its namesake airplane soared in the skies. The beer was a smash success, so they (smart brewers that they are), kept making it, and now it’s garnered a Royal Warrant and protected status as a Kentish Ale, and has two younger beer siblings, Spitfire Golden Ale and Spitfire Lager, both darn tasty as well. But today it’s the eldest, which boasts 100% Kentish hops (Target, Challenger, East Kent Goldings, and First Gold if you’re into hop specificity) and water from a well deep, deep beneath the brewery. It’s a fine, fine sipper of a beer, with a bittery orange marmalade and toasty biscuit and toffee-y caramel-y taste, and smooth dry finish with a touch or pepper. A treat, and one I wish was available in Seattle! A beer-drinking boy can dream.
Out final Vanity Fair Cocktail Talk, before we leave the legendary Thackeray (at least until I re-read or read another book of his!) in whatever afterlife bar he’s hanging out in today. But before leaving him and the book, we’re going to go along with one of the book’s large cast of characters for what I can only call a mighty mighty impressive day of drinking and eating. It’s, well, legendary (as are the Vanity Fair Cocktail Talks Part I, Part II, and Part III, which you should read).
Having partaken of a copious breakfast, with fish, and rice, and hard eggs, at Southampton, he had so far rallied at Winchester as to think a glass of sherry necessary. At Alton he stepped out of the carriage at his servant’s request and imbibed some of the ale for which the place is famous. At Farnham he stopped to view the Bishop’s Castle and to partake of a light dinner of stewed eels, veal cutlets, and French beans, with a bottle of claret. He was cold over Bagshot Heath, where the native chattered more and more, and Jos Sahib took some brandy-and-water; in fact, when he drove into town he was as full of wine, beer, meat, pickles, cherry-brandy, and tobacco as the steward’s cabin of a steam-packet.
Back a few years now (not a century’s worth, but a few, which over the last decade can feel nearly like a century at time – at other times, barely a second. Time? It’s a strange one), I had a Nightfall Cocktail Talk, and it was peachy! But I just took a re-read into this noir-ish book by David Goodis (nearly the noirish-est). It’s a dandy read, by the way. A twisty-ish, nearly character study in a way. I mean, there’s a murder that’s happened, and a crime (in Seattle! Of all spots. Though the action as it is takes place in NYC). And a beating. And some hidden? Lost? Spent? money around somewhere. And love, too! And maybe camaraderie. It’s interesting, in that (as mentioned in the early Nightfall Cocktail Talking), you feel there is no way it’s gonna work out happily for anyone, I felt that multiple times. but . . . well, I’m not giving it away. Read the book yourself! I will give away the below Cocktail Talk quote, however.
In this particular Village place there wasn’t much doing. Four men at the far end of the bar were having a quiet discussion concerning horses. A young man and a young woman were taking their time with long, cool drinks and smiling at each other. A short, fat man was sullenly gazing into a glass of beer.
Vanning turned back to his Gin Rickey. A peculiar sense of loneliness came upon him, and he knew it was just that and nothing more. He wanted to talk to somebody. About anything.
If you haven’t read Wall of Eyes Cocktail Talk Part I, then by all means, take the time to do so. In it, I talk a bit more about this book by Margaret Miller, and my feeling about it (and how they went through a metamorphosis of sorts while reading!), and talk about teetotal-ing definitions. But here’s something I didn’t mention there – the book takes place in Canada! Toronto, I think? I don’t want you to doubt my reading prowess, but I have to be honest – I didn’t completely realize the story was taking place northerly, until the below Cocktail Talk quote. I am very embarrassed. But at least I picked up on it when seeing the Molson product placement!
“I owe you a beer for flying off like that.”
He hadn’t had a drink all night. Maye that was why he’d acted so crazy all for nothing. Hitting a policeman –
“Thanks,” he said. “A beer would be swell.”
When they sat down the man looked across the table at Stevie and smiled sheepishly. “Well, what’ll it be?”
Here’s something a little different for your St. Patrick’s Day revelry – today is St. Patrick’s Day, by the by, if you’ve forgotten! But you probably haven’t, being good with dates and reasons for gathering and tippling. Bit of a classic in the manner that it’s been consumed for a few fair years, though not in the manner that everyone knows about, so you can still add a little element of individuality to your St. Patrick’s party by serving it. It may look a little odd at first glance, but the slight berry notes of the framboise mingle with the stout’y Irish Guinness in such a swell way, with that hint of mint on the nose, trust me, you’ll be pleasantly pleased. Oh, one thing: Sometimes this is mixed using the French black raspberry liqueur Chambord, but I like the slightly stronger framboise (which is usually made from rgular red raspberries and has a bit more kick). But if you want to go the Chambord route, it’s not a bad way to travel, and still brings the spring into the stout, to get poetic about it.
Whoa. This is one of the weirder days in my history. I’ve just realized I’ve never had a Bleak House Cocktail Talk on Spiked Punch before. I mean, you’d think I’d know, right? I write the posts! But there have been many, many posts on here, too many, really, and lots of Dickens Cocktail Talks, and my memory (writing about drinks and all) isn’t as up to snuff as the snuffiest, and I just on some level in my mind took it for granted that I’d had at least one Bleak House Cocktail Talks, but never stopped to check, until today, as I’m rereading said book, and so did indeed double and triple check and, well, weirdly, I never have had a quote from Bleak House on here. Whoa. See, Bleak House may be my favoritest Dickens book of the whole lot of ‘em. Maybe. Hard to say, and I am as we all are different people in some small manner on different days. But it is an all-time classic of the written world, an immense treasure for anyone who likes reading, and if you don’t, well, then check out the BBC Bleak House mini-series, cause it is the absolute tops. Bleak-Freaking-House! Not the peppiest, but I’ve laughed lots when re-reading. Cried, too. Jarndyce and Jarndyce man, it’s a killer. I don’t feel I need to outline the book, cause it’s well-known enough, but I do feel I need to have multiple Cocktail Talks from it to make up for my missteps in not having any on here already. I’m going to start with a dinner recitation from a ‘Slap-Bang’ dining house, where three chaps have been dining out: Guppy (a somewhat central character, who it’s hard not feel for, though he’s a little silly with his slicked-down hair, and a little, not un-savory, but not someone completely trustworthy), who works in one of the central law firms, and his pals Mr. Jobling (less central, law stationer), and Mr. Smallweed (lower clerk in the same firm as Guppy, and grandson to one serious shaking villain).
Mr. Smallweed, compelling the attendance of the waitress with one hitch of his eyelash, instantly replies as follows: Four veals and hams is three, and four potatoes is three and four, and one summer cabbage is three and six, and three marrows is four and six, and six breads is five, and three Cheshires is five and three, and four pints of half-and-half is six and three, and four small rums is eight and three, and three Pollys is eight and six. Eight and six in half a sovereign, Polly, and eighteenpence out!
Not at all excited by these stupendous calculations, Smallweed dismisses his friends with a cool nod, and remains behind to take a little admiring notice of Polly, as opportunity may serve, and to read the daily papers: which are so very large in proportion to himself, shorn of his hat, that when he holds up The Times to run his eye over the columns, he seems to have retired for the night, and to have disappeared under the bedclothes.
It’s strange and not strange that I haven’t had any Cocktail Talks from Catherine Aird, a master in the British small town mystery genre (though really, that qualification probably does her a disservice, as she’s just pretty masterful). I read a short story of hers not but a few years back in some anthology or other which escapes me, after which I picked up the first book she wrote (A Religious Body), which I loved, and since then have been slowly filling out my Aird library, and liking all the books. Featuring Detective Inspector C.D. Sloan, who operates in the made-up (but very familiar in a way) English region of Calleshire, working with the slightly bumbling, but funny, Detective Constable Crosby, they solve many well-crafted small English village murders. But, while pubs always show up, there haven’t been many/any Cocktail Talking moments in the books I’ve read, until the below quote from Passing Strange (where a murder happens at a flower show!), a quote which I found delightful, and relatable, too!
By closing time he had been fortified by an unusual quantity of beer. He had had to concentrate quite hard when the time came to leave the King’s Head. The little flight of steps which had presented no problem at all when he had arrived demanded careful negotiation when he left.
The Man Behind the Evening's PlansA.J. Rathbun is a freelance food and entertainment writer, poet and author, a frequent guest on the Everyday Food program (Martha Stewart Living/Sirius satellite radio), and is a contributor to culinary & entertainment magazines such as Every Day with Rachael Ray, The Food Network Magazine, Real Simple, Wine Enthusiast, and many others. Of course, there's so much more to it than that...Read More