October 17, 2017
Trollope, how I love thee, let me count the ways . . . okay, that would take too long. But just check out all the past Anthony Trollope Cocktail Talks, and you’ll read about my swoons until you are blue in the face. Or at least a light shade of pea flower. Anyway. The Way We Live Now is for many THE Trollope book, the big one, the masterwork of all his masterworks. Me, I love it. But it’s not my favorite. But I see where they’re getting to, as it’s a big book, and incredibly insightful, and less happy (which many like) than some of his others, less friendly, more calling-people-out. Which makes it the perfect book for today’s world, in some way. Really, re-reading it (third time? fourth time?) I was struck by how relevant and right on target it was considering the, oh, self-interested spot we’re all within. I strongly suggest it. Though reading it, you may well (as Lord Nidderdale below) find yourself needing a bottle of bubbly. Hopefully you have more luck than he:
“A bottle of Champagne!” said Nidderdale, appealing to the waiter in almost a humble voice, feeling that he wanted sustenance in this new trouble that had befallen him. The waiter, beaten almost to the ground by an awful sense of the condition of the club, whispered to him the terrible announcement that there was not a bottle of Champagne in the house. “Good G — — ,” exclaimed the unfortunate nobleman. Miles Grendall shook his head. Grasslough shook his head.
“It’s true,” said another young lord from the table on the other side. Then the waiter, still speaking with suppressed and melancholy voice, suggested that there was some port left. It was now the middle of July.
“Brandy?” suggested Nidderdale. There had been a few bottles of brandy, but they had been already consumed. “Send out and get some brandy,” said Nidderdale with rapid impetuosity. But the club was so reduced in circumstances that he was obliged to take silver out of his pocket before he could get even such humble comfort as he now demanded.
–Anthony Trollope, The Way We Live Now
September 26, 2017
Obviously, Alfred Hitchcock was the tops. Movies, television, and being an overall memorable figure, today, we sometimes forget that he also edited a host of anthology horror and mystery books. How much did he actually have to do with them? Heck, I’m saying a lot, but he was a famous figure, and you know how that goes. Doesn’t matter one way or another to me though – I have a couple of these little pocket-sized collections, and keep my eyes open for more. Recently, I grabbed another one called Bar the Doors, which contains “thirteen superlative tales” selected, as it says, by Alfred himself. One of those is a sea-going yarn called “The Upper Berth,” by F. Marion Crawford – more a ghost or creature feature, it mostly takes place on a ship you wouldn’t want to voyage upon. It was a favorite of mine in the book, as well as having a whisky cocktail and a sherry scene with a great name in it.
“One hundred and five, lower berth,” said I, in the businesslike tone peculiar to men who think no more of crossing the Atlantic than taking a whisky cocktail at downtown Delmonico’s.
The steward took my portmanteau and greatcoat. I shall never forget the expression of his face. Not that he turned pale. It is maintained by the most eminent divines that some miracles cannot change the course of nature. I have no hesitation in saying that he did not turn pale; but, from his expression, I judged that he was either about to shed tears, to sneeze, or to drop my portmanteau. As the latter contained two bottled of particularly fine old sherry presented to me for my voyage by my old friend Snigginson van Pickyns, I felt extremely nervous.
—The Upper Berth, F. Marion Crawford
September 5, 2017
Part IV! It’s hard to believe, but our Cocktail Talking through the marvelous Our Mutual Friend, by Mr. Charles Dickens (who is hopefully our mutual friend, as well) is almost at an end. If you’ve missed them, well, starting now don’t miss Part I, Part II, Part III, and the original Our Mutual Friend Cocktail Talk post from way back when, both because you don’t want to miss the Cocktail Talk quotes, and because you’ll get a bit more backstory about the book, and how much I love Dickens – which I know you want to hear about. Heck, you may want to ever read all the Dickens Cocktail Talks. But for the here-and-now, we’re, I believe, setting a record with the fourth Cocktail Talk in a row from the same book (well, outside a series on another Dickens. See if you can find out which one)! Neato! Also, this is going to be the first Cocktail Talk post that doesn’t really have a focus on anything to do with drinks, cocktails, booze, booze-y-ness, spirits, or exceteras. Instead, it’s dogs! Which I love even more. However, there is public house mention, so I believe (and think you’ll agree) that it works.
It was a Saturday evening, and at such a time the village dogs, always much more interested in the doings of humanity than in the affairs of their own species, were particularly active. At the general shop, at the butcher’s and at the public-house, they evinced an inquiring spirit never to be satiated. Their especial interest in the public-house would seem to imply some latent rakishness in the canine character; for little was eaten there, and they, having no taste for beer or tobacco (Mrs. Hubbard’s dog is said to have smoked, but proof is wanting), could only have been attracted by sympathy with loose convivial habits. Moreover, a most wretched fiddle played within; a fiddle so unutterably vile, that one lean long-bodied cur, with a better ear than the rest, found himself under compulsion at intervals to go round the corner and howl. Yet, even he returned to the public-house on each occasion with the tenacity of a confirmed drunkard.
–Charles Dickens, Our Mutual Friend
August 29, 2017
I’m continuing mutating the Spiked Punch into a site dedicated to the Charles Dickens classic Our Mutual Friend (okay, that may be a small fiction, but it certainly sounds like a decent idea!), which started with Part I and Part II. If you haven’t read them, I suggest firmly-but-friendly that you do so right away, to get a little backstory about the story and to ensure you don’t miss our earlier quotes (actually, don’t miss the very first one, from years back). In this Cocktail Talk, the villainous (which also comical in a way) Wegg drops a phrase about drinking straight that I want to try and remember to utilize in the future.
Mr. Venus, reminded of the duties of hospitality, produced some rum. In answer to the inquiry, “Will you mix it, Mr. Wegg?” that gentleman pleasantly rejoined, “I think not, sir. On so auspicious an occasion, I prefer to take it in the form of a Gum-Tickler.”
Mr. Boffin, declining rum, being still elevated on his pedestal, was in a convenient position to be addressed. Wegg having eyed him with an impudent air at leisure, addressed him, therefore, while refreshing himself with his dram.
–Charles Dickens, Our Mutual Friend
August 22, 2017
I started (after the predictable intro note) another round of Charles Dickens Cocktail Talks from Our Mutual Friend just a skip or two ago, so be sure you read Part I. Now is good! Okay, back? You have the set up? And are ready for this next quote? Good! It’s perhaps the very first Cocktail Talk to mention shrub, the vinegar-y mixer that’s made a comeback (like so many things) during the recent cocktail renaissance. Here, interestingly, it’s served warm to one of the novels many heroines-of-sorts (at least I think she could), in the Six Jolly Fellowship Porters, one of the many amazing bars that show up in Dickens.
“But first of all,” said Miss Abbey, “– did you ever taste shrub, child?”
Miss Wren shook her head.
“Should you like to?”
“Should if it’s good,” returned Miss Wren.
“You shall try. And, if you find it good, I’ll mix some for you with hot water. Put your poor little feet on the fender. It’s a cold, cold night, and the fog clings so.” As Miss Abbey helped her to turn her chair, her loosened bonnet dropped on the floor. “Why, what lovely hair!” cried Miss Abbey. “And enough to make wigs for all the dolls in the world. What a quantity!”
“Call THAT a quantity?” returned Miss Wren. “Poof! What do you say to the rest of it?” As she spoke, she untied a band, and the golden stream fell over herself and over the chair, and flowed down to the ground. Miss Abbey’s admiration seemed to increase her perplexity. She beckoned the Jew towards her, as she reached down the shrub-bottle from its niche, and whispered:
“Child, or woman?”
“Child in years,” was the answer; “woman in self-reliance and trial.”
“You are talking about Me, good people,” thought Miss Jenny, sitting in her golden bower, warming her feet. “I can’t hear what you say, but I know your tricks and your manners!”
The shrub, when tasted from a spoon, perfectly harmonizing with Miss Jenny’s palate, a judicious amount was mixed by Miss Potterson’s skillful hands, whereof Riah too partook. After this preliminary, Miss Abbey read the document; and, as often as she raised her eyebrows in so doing, the watchful Miss Jenny accompanied the action with an expressive and emphatic sip of the shrub and water.
–Charles Dickens, Our Mutual Friend
August 15, 2017
In the past (relatively speaking), I had a Cocktail Talk from Our Mutual Friend, by your-pal-and-mine Mr. Charles Dickens (really, check out all the Charles Dickens Cocktail Talk posts, and revel in my love of his work). It was a post focused on the pub in the book, and as usual with Dickens – who loved a good pub – a fantastic bit of bar description. Now, in the present (relatively speaking, as it slips away and shows up again as I type), I’ve just finished re-reading (third time? Fourth? They’ll be more) Our Mutual Friend, I realized it was mad to not have more, because there are so many good Cocktail Talk-style quotes in this book about dust (you’ll need to read the book to understand that), wealth, society (still incredible relevant on those points as a reflection of today’s society), jealousy, violence (those too), love, and trust. More, too, really. It was the last finished novel for the 1800s Chuck D, and if not my favorite (I suppose, if forced to pick, it might be Bleak House, but that’s impossibly hard to pin down), right up there. Heck, there are so many good quotes in it, I might just turn this blog into an Our Mutual Friend site, starting with this rum note:
“Bring me round to the Bower,” said Silas, when the bargain was closed, “next Saturday evening, and if a sociable glass of old Jamaikey warm should meet your views, I am not the man to begrudge it.”
–Charles Dickens, Our Mutual Friend
August 8, 2017
Oddly (as odd as snow in Miami, some might say), though I’ve mentioned my gushing affection for the Hoke Mosely books by Charles Willeford
(and how I wish there were more, and how the non-Hoke Willefords are swell, too), I’ve never had a Cocktail Talk post from the very first one, Miami Blues
, which is I suppose the best known, due to a movie made (a pretty good movie, too, featuring a very young Alec Baldwin as our young psychopath and a fine Fred Ward as the hero-of-sorts Hoke). I need to watch it again, now that I think about it! The book’s great, too, greater, really, with no shade thrown on the movies. Books are just better! Hoke, as shown below, has a love of Early Times, which I also like. Here’s what you should do – take a Saturday and read the book, then watch the movie, all while drinking Early Times. That’ll be a day to remember!
Hoke took one of the Manila envelopes out of his leisure jacket pocket and counted out $100 on the bar. He pushed the money across to Irish Mike. “Take care of my tab, and leave what’s over as a credit.”
“Your credit’s always good here, sergeant. You know that. I’ll just check your tab and give you back the change.”
“No. Leave it. I want to see what it feels like to have a credit for a change. Early Times. Straight up. Water back.”
“Similar,” Henderson said.
–Charles Willeford, Miami Blues
August 1, 2017
Not too long ago (and only the briefest of moments in the grand scheme of things), I had a Cocktail Talk post up from the very first Inspector Maigret book by George Simenon, Pietr the Latvian. I’ve had a number of Maigret Cocktail Talks, btw. Foolish as I was way back in those days, I thought I’d only need one post from the book. But, now that I am older and wiser, I realize that two are needed, no demanded. Really, this second Cocktail Talk from our (if we read the books in order, which I did not, but for the sake of things, let’s pretend) first sampling of the stoic French Inspector, is an ideal companion to the first, so it’d be a shame not to quote it here:
Maigret had ordered a vermouth. He looked even taller and wider than ever in the confined space of the bar. He didn’t take his eyes off the Latvian.
He was having something like double vision. Just as had happened to him in the hotel lobby, he could see one image superimposed on another: Behind the current scene, he had a vision of the squalid bar in Fecamp. Pietr was going double. Maigret could see him in his cinnamon suite and in his worn-out raincoat at the same time.
“I’m telling you I’d rather do that than get beaten up!” one of the builders exclaimed, banging his glass down on the counter.
Pietr was now on his third glass of green liquid. Maigret could smell the aniseed in it.
–George Simenon, Pietr the Latvian