June 21, 2022

Cocktail Talk: The Groom Lay Dead, Part II

groom-lay-deadIt was recently my anniversary (thank you to my wife for marrying me!), which seemed the perfect time to re-read the 1944 mystery by George Harmon Coxe (a fairly well-known mystery writer from mid-last-century) called The Groom Lay Dead! It’s a nicely-paced (not breath-takingly-paced like Day Keene, but it keeps things moving) mystery around the death of a somewhat asshole-ish rich guy, with our protagonist being a slightly shell-shocked (this the WW II era) play director. So, there’s glamorous folks, an interesting upstate New York Finger Lakes setting, a few potentially shady (or moreso!) potential murderers, as well as a sort-of cult-ish health farm run by a hypnotic man – always a good addition. Worth checking out, especially if you can get the cover pictured here. I had a The Groom Lay Dead Cocktail Talk on here after the first time I read it, many years in the past (do, don’t miss that, ya’hear?), but I’d forgotten about this minor character I liked, and felt he (George Vernon, vaguely trapped up the health farm/cult) and his night out deserved a second Cocktail Talk quote.

 

Apparently it had been quite a while since George Vernon had been out and he’d made up his mind to enjoy himself. He had four drinks at the bar in addition to the two he’d had at Yager’s house: he had another Scotch and soda with his dinner and called for brandy with his coffee. Parks was doing all right, too. He got a lot of laughs of Vernon, who long ago had insisted that we call him George.

 

— George Harmon Coxe, The Groom Lay Dead

June 14, 2022

Cocktail Talk: Phineas Finn

phineas-finnThis, friends, is a solemn time here on the Spiked Punch. I’ve just now this moment realized that I’ve never had a Cocktail Talk (unless I’ve lost it over the years, which is possible as my mind is old and there are many posts on there) from the immortal Anthony Trollope novel Phineas Finn. Or, from the also immortal Phineas Redux. What in the world? Y’all know I love me some Anthony Trollope (you know this from reading the many Trollope Cocktail Talks), and of all the Trollopian fictional gems, the two Phineas books – which are the second and fourth I believe in the Palliser series of novels by Trollope, books which revolve around politics, and how those taking part in them acted and talked and such, of his time in the main, while still being fiction – may well be my favorite. Not saying they are the best or making any canonical pronouncements. But they may be my favorites. I’m not even sure I can type out why! But I have a soft spot perhaps for the hero (Phineas), an Irish-born fella who makes his way into the London political world and has adventures and mis-adventures and romances and at least one duel and fox hunts and trials and ups and downs and brandy and all kinds of things. Perhaps I just love the scope and insights into the time period? Or how the characters mingle through the books, some coming and some going until there’s this whole feeling of being a part of the world Trollope is creating, or how the motivations seem to mirror modern ones (with different trapping of course)? Or his “complete appreciation of the usual” as they say? All of that? The one thing I know for sure is that I can’t believe I haven’t had a quote in the form of a Cocktail Talk from either Phineas book! Well, let’s remedy that with the below, shall we? This particular one doesn’t actually feature said hero, but one of the other fairly important, let’s call them sub-main characters, Lord Chiltern.

 

He told nothing to Captain Clutterbuck of his sorrow, but Captain Clutterbuck could see that he was unhappy.

“Let’s have another bottle of ‘cham,’” said Captain Clutterbuck, when their dinner was nearly over. “‘Cham’ is the only thing to screw one up when one is down a peg.”

“You can have what you like,” said Lord Chiltern; “but I shall have some brandy-and-water.”

“The worst of brandy-and-water is, that one gets tired of it before the night is over,” said Captain Clutterbuck.

 

–Anthony Trollope, Phineas Finn

June 7, 2022

Cocktail Talk: Can You Forgive Her?, Part III

can-you-forgive-herAs I was re-reading Can You Forgive Her?, the first in what’s commonly (though there is nothing common about them!) known as the Palliser novels, by long-time Spiked Punch pal Anthony Trollope, I realized that I couldn’t just have one more Cocktail Talk, oh no, I had to have at least two more. This being the second, and you being the reader that (if you haven’t read them) needs to go back and read the Can You Forgive Her? Cocktail Talk Part I (way back for that one) and then Part II (less farther back). That way you’ll be all caught and perfectly ready for the brilliantly named Burgo below, and for a little cherry brandy.

 

“Burgo, you had better eat your breakfast,” said Sir Cosmo.

“I don’t want any breakfast.” He took, however, a bit of toast, and crumbling it up in his hand as he put a morsel into his mouth, went away to the sideboard and filled for himself a glass of cherry brandy.

“If you don’t eat any breakfast the less of that you take the better,” said Sir Cosmo.

“I’m all right now,” said he.

 

— Anthony Trollope, Can You Forgive Her?

 

May 31, 2022

Cocktail Talk: Can You Forgive Her?, Part II

can-you-forgive-herHello Anthony Trollope fans! Which is everyone! Who likes to read, at least (which is also hopefully everyone)! Speaking of reading, long-time readers of this blog (which is everyone!) know that I love reading Trollope novels in the main, and know this due to the many many Trollope Cocktail Talks from years past. A long list that includes one Can You Forgive Her? Cocktail Talk. However! I was re-reading this book – the first in the amazing Palliser series, or series-esque – recently, and realized I needed way more in the way of Cocktail Talks from it. So, another is happening today, with the below quote. First a quick note: the novel is about a lady who goes a bit back-and-forth, not in her affections per se, but in how she decides to deal with them and her life, with a few other stories intertwined (including one which introduces Glencora Palliser, who shows up in most of the other books, and re-introduces Plantagenet Palliser, who shows up even more in them). All good Trollopian stuff! Including the below.

 

On the night before Christmas Eve two men were sitting together in George Vavasor’s rooms in Cecil Street. It was past twelve o’clock, and they were both smoking; there were square bottles on the table containing spirits, with hot water and cold water in jugs, and one of the two men was using, and had been using, these materials for enjoyment.

 

–Anthony Trollope, Can You Forgive Her?

May 10, 2022

Cocktail Talk: Mr. Pinkerton Goes to Scotland Yard, Part II

mr-pinketon-scotland-yardOur second Cocktail Talk from David Frome’s fits-in-the-pocket-sized-book (be sure to read Mr. Pinkerton Goes to Scotland Yard Part I to learn more about the books, the murdering, and such) is brandy-based. It’s a little long, but wanted to set the whole scene, because it calls up multiple deficiencies in modern life. First: not enough people have brandy at hand like this for emergencies. Second: people don’t use the word “nip” enough to refer to a small drink. And third, people also don’t use the phrase “stiff peg” enough for a slightly larger strong pour of spirits in a glass. Let’s all work on bring these three things back into daily life, shall we?

 

“That Ellinger woman says my sister’s dead – is that true?

“Quite true, Mr. Ripley,” Bull said quietly. “Steady on, sir!”

He caught Hugh Ripley round the shoulders as he swayed in the doorway.

Superintendent Miller jumped to his feet and came over.

“Get some brandy,” he said to the maid. He pushed a chair up. Bull helped Ripley into it.

“I’m all right,” the young man said in a second. “Thanks.”

“This is Sir Charles Debenham, the Assistant Commissioner, and this is Superintendent Miller, of Scotland Yard,” Bull said. “They’re taking a hand in the investigation. Ah, here you are. Take a nip of this, sir.”

He took the decanter that Gaskins had fetched from the dining-room and poured out a stiff peg in the glass she held. Hugh Ripley poured it down his throat.

 

–David Frome, Mr. Pinkerton Goes to Scotland Yard

 

March 29, 2022

Cocktail Talk: The Crazy Kill, Part III

crazy-killIt’s been eight years since my last Cocktail Talk post (The Crazy Kill Part II) from Chester Himes’ book The Crazy Kill, and twelve since my first (The Crazy Kill Part I, as you might imagine) – by all the bottles in the bar, time passes too quickly! You should for sure go back and read both those posts and the quotes from the book highlighted within, but let me also underline a few things: first, Chester Himes (who wrote all sorts of amazing works – see all Chester Himes Cocktail Talks, too) is awesome, and if you haven’t read anything by him, it’s a must do. Second, this book is one of his series featuring his Harlem-based police detectives Coffin Ed Johnson and Grave Digger Jones, two of the most memorable characters in detective fiction, inhabiting a perfectly rendered (as far I can tell, and I certainly feel transported when reading the books featuring them) 1950s-60s specific time-and-place. Third (and if the above haven’t sold you, this will), the book really kicks off by an opium-addicted preacher falling out of a window and landing in a bread-basket – which saves his life, but which also leads to realizing there is a dead body in the bread-basket! I just had to have another quote from the book:

 

“Jesus Christ!” he exclaimed. “Peach brandy and laudanum. You drink this stuff?”

 

“It’s for my nerves,” Reverend Short said.

 

–Chester Himes, The Crazy Kill

 

March 11, 2022

What I’m Drinking: Ti Penso Sempre

This is a cozy drink for a chilly March day! It reminds me, too (as I’ve been making it for a bit), of the dark days before Aperol was available in the U.S., and when the now-everywhere (a good thing!) stateside Spritz was just something Italian sipped. Doesn’t seem that long ago to me (I am very old) when I used to have to always bring two bottles of Aperol back in my suitcase when traveling back from  lovely Italy, one for personal use and one for a pal. What changes have come since then (now I just have to fill my suitcase with grappa unavailable here)! Back to this here, drink. It mingles in a cuddly manner bountiful brandy with that Aperol I was going on about, with a tiny salute of simple syrup and a fresh orange for a tint of tang. It can be a bit sweet, like you, so if you want to take the simple to even tinier levels or out altogether, it’s okay. Things will still be cuddly.

ti-penso-sempre

Ti Penso Sempre, from Dark Spirits

 

Ice cubes

1-1/2 ounces brandy

1 ounce Aperol

1/2 ounce simple syrup

Orange slices, for garnish

 

1. Fill a cocktail shaker halfway full with ice cubes. Add the brandy, Aperol, and simple syrup. Shake well.

 

2. Strain the mix into a cocktail glass and be glad your local liquor store shelves are well-stocked (one hopes, at least).

 

December 3, 2021

What I’m Drinking: Aunt Betsy’s Favorite

Can you believe it – it’s December, 2021, already. Holy time-moves-quickly! Though, even if we didn’t have calendars and suchlike to alert us to the fact, the weather outside might cause one (in the northern hemisphere, and suchlike) to think through chattering teeth, “I believe it’s December, because the cold has infested my bones.” Or, suchlike. What to do, as time machines are out of the question, currently? I mean, you can’t go back in time to escape the cold, and while putting layers of blanketing devices on your person will perhaps reduce the chill, it certainly isn’t as jolly as a good warm (or hot, even) drink. May I suggest, in this warming manner, Aunt Betsy’ Favorite? It’s a wine-based treat, one fortified as the season demands with port and brandy, and well-spiced (the season also seems to demand this – just look at holiday desserts). It also serves, depending on temperature, temperament, and suchlike, somewhere between 5 and 8 people – and, as well all know, a crowd of pals is a warming thing. So, this is doubly-warming! Take the edge off of December with it, and stay cozy, and suchlike!

aunt-betsys-favorite

Aunt Betsy’s Favorite, from Dark Spirits

 

24 ounces red wine (I suggest a Cabernet Sauvignon)

16 ounces tawny port

8 ounces brandy

4 ounces simple syrup

1 orange peel

3 whole cloves

1 stick cinnamon

1. Add all of the ingredients to a medium-size saucepan. Cook on medium heat, stirring regularly, for 10 minutes. You want it to get good and hot, but not start boiling, or even simmering. Reduce the heat midway through the cooking time if needed.

 

 2. Once the 10 minutes have passed and the room smells wonderful, ladle the mix into heavy mugs. Avoid serving the orange peel, cloves, and cinnamon stick if your pals are worried about clunking up their smiles.

 

 

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