October 9, 2018
Be sure to delve into our first Black Angel Cocktail Talk post
, to dig into more about why I like Cornell Woolrich, and what you’ll be in for when you (as you should) read his books and short stories. He doesn’t have a lot of cocktailing always (though I’ve had some past Cornell Cocktail Talks
), but in The Black Angel
, I found one of my favorite bar descriptions – I love a good bar description – as well as the earlier post (which, funny enough, takes place in the bar being described). I want to go to this bar:
“That’s it, then” he said. “Now I’ll tell you where. I know a little room, a midget cocktail bar, just around the corner from the Ritz. Can’t miss it. It’s called the Blues-Chaser. And it’s like that, really. There’s never too much of a crowd there, and that way we won’t have to run too much interference. We have a date now, don’t forget.” “All right, we have a date.”
. . .
The place itself was intimate, confidence-inspiring, made to order for just such a rendezvous as ours. A regular postage stamp of a cocktail lounge; I’d never yet been in one as small. Heavily carpeted and hushed, but hushed in a relaxing, cozy way, not depressingly hushed. It was a little gem of a place, and I wonder now if it’s still there.
–Cornell Woolrich, The Black Angel
October 5, 2018
Usually, I try not to have favorites in booze categories. Meaning, I wouldn’t say I have a favorite gin (I like too many, too well), or amaro, or vermouth. Or white wine. However, I might say I have a favorite red wine (other red wines, please turn away now). Or, at least a favorite red wine grape, that being Sagrantino. Growing only around Montefalco, in Umbria (lovely town, by the way, the Falcon’s Mount, also referred to the balcony of Umbria, and worth a visit – great churches, great museum, a few mummies, and more, and the wine, naturally), real Sagrantino di Montefalco uses 100 percent Sagrantino grapes, is aged 37 months at the shortest, and has a deep, rich, color (dark purple) and taste of dark stone fruits. Memorable stuff!
But here’s something I recently found out (thanks to a bottle coming my way). There’s also a Montefalco Rosso wine. It’s a bit like Sagrantino’s more playful younger sibling. Aged just 18 months and blended with 60-80% Sangiovese. The specific bottle I tasted was Tenuta Alzatura Montefalco Rosso, which is 70% Sangiovese, 15% Sangrantino, and 15% Merlot. It’s a beautiful wine, with a light ruby coloring, and also a lighter nature than Sagrantino, probably more approachable for a larger percentage of people, with a fruity nature (red fruit, juicy ones), and hints of spice on the nose and taste, but with a softer finish than its sibling. A nice red wine for a late-summer or fall day. And also, a nice one for making into a wine cocktail.
Of course, as you know, I have a hard time not experimenting with any ingredient I have at hand, and while a glass of this Montefalco Rosso by itself is dreamy, it plays well with others, too. Here, I brought in some Italian favorites, starting with light, slightly citrus, aperitif, Aperol. To match up with that and to balance some of the wine’s fruits, a few dashes of Fee Brothers Orange bitters added to the party – not Italian, but we do have another Italian fav, too. See, I wanted some strong undercurrents, too (sometimes in fall there’s a chill in the air), and wanted to stay Italian-style, and so brought in an underutilized cocktail ingredient: grappa. Specifically: Marolo Grappa di Amarone, which is aged in oak, and which has cherry notes, along with an adaptable nuttiness, that go with the wine perfectly. Altogether, this is a cocktail that’ll have you fantasizing of Italy – and savoring every sip.
On the Road to Montefalco
2 ounces Tenuta Alzatura Montefalco Rosso
1 ounce Aperol
1/2 ounce Marolo Grappa di Amarone
2 dashes Fee Brothers Orange bitters
1. Fill a cocktail shaker or mixing glass halfway full with cracked ice. Add everything. Stir well.
2. Strain into a cocktail glass. Bella, bella.
October 2, 2018
I have a fair amount of books by Cornell Woolrich
(writer of Rear Window and many other memorable noir-y numbers, though criminally under-read and under-known today, and also a fella who had a not-very-peppy life, for being a big seller, to say the least), and go through phases where he’s a favorite – well, maybe he always is, but I have to be in the right mood, if that makes sense, or ready for the right mood. His books are very edge-of-your-seat in a way that’s all his own. Not the breakneck pace of some, not the catchy lines and characters of others, but his leads are always in a depressing, serious, jam of some sort (I’m underselling with “jam”), and slowly, with the tension every-increasing, trying to find a way out. Take The Black Angel
. The lead lady has a husband, who’s been cheating and who is on death row for the death of his mistress, but our wonderful lead believe he’s innocent and so goes through a serious of super harrowing sort-of undercover escapades to try and find the real murderer – and it gets more nerve-wracking and ultimately depressing from there. But the atmospherics and language are all amazing. And there are some really good bar scenes, too, including the below, about cocktails and dating:
“There’s no good reason for getting stuck, really. It’s the simplest thing in the world. You see the thing through past the cocktails. I meant, a cocktail will get you through practically anything, anyway. If it’s the face that bothers you you’ve got an olive to look at instead. Then with the soup, you step outside a second to buy a pack of cigarettes. You pick some brand you’re dammed sure they won’t be able to bring to your table, in case there happens to be a ciggie girl in the place.”
–Cornell Woolrich, The Black Angel
September 18, 2018
Our re-visit to the Trollope late-period romantic comedy Ayala’s Angel continues (be sure to dip your toes into Part I, as well as our first Ayala’s Angel Cocktail Talk from years ago, so that you get a little more background on the book, as well as adding a few more smiles and cocktail-ing to your day), with a little sherry and bitters and some nice ranting about sherry and bitters.
Sir Thomas went on, with a servant at his heels, chucking about the doors rather violently, till he found Mr. Traffick alone in the drawing-room. Mr. Traffick had had a glass of sherry and bitters brought in for his refreshment, and Sir Thomas saw the glass on the mantelpiece. He never took sherry and bitters himself. One glass of wine, with his two o’clock mutton chop, sufficed him till dinner. It was all very well to be a Member of Parliament, but, after all, Members of Parliament never do anything. Men who work don’t take sherry and bitters! Men who work don’t put their hats in other people’s halls without leave from the master of the house!
—Ayala’s Angel, Anthony Trollope
September 11, 2018
I recently read the fairly-late-period Trollope novel Ayala’s Angel again – you can tell I’ve read it before, because I have a past Ayala’s Angel Cocktail Post on this very blog! But I tend to read Trollope books more, because no modern books are as good (I kid, I kid – sort-of, hahaha), or just because I like them so much. So, came back to this one again, and loved it again. It doesn’t get as much press as the more serious late-period Trollope works, but it’s a very fun read, a romantic comedy in most ways, with lots of humorous moments, as well as a perfect picture of a certain type of life in the late 1800s, featuring lots of details, the nearly-always-there fox hunt, visuals into the changing economies, all that. But mostly, just really good characters and lots of fun. It’s a long read, but moves quickly and keeps the pages turning. When reading it again, I realized A: how much I liked it, and B: that I gave it short-shrift with just one Cocktail Talk. So, a few more are coming! Starting with this one, where our heroine is being crabby, and takes it out on gin!
“I hate dishes,” said Ayala, petulantly.
“You don’t hate eating?”
“Yes, I do. It is ignoble. Nature should have managed it differently. We ought to have sucked it in from the atmosphere through our fingers and hairs, as the trees do by their leaves. There should have been no butchers, and no grease, and no nasty smells from the kitchen,—and no gin.”
This was worse than all,—this allusion to the mild but unfashionable stimulant to which Mr. Dosett had been reduced by his good nature.
—Ayala’s Angel, Anthony Trollope
August 14, 2018
The memorably-titled, Wichita-based, PI-featuring, crime-and-criminals riddled, mystery and murder-packed pocket-style book Hot Summer, Cold Murder
by Gaylord Dodd had too many Cocktail Talk moments to just have one post from it (if you missed Hot Summer, Cold Murder Part
I, then please read it now, as it’ll give you more background). I actually like this quote even more than the first, though it doesn’t feature muscatel, our hero’s (hero of sorts, that is) favorite summertime tipple. But the below quote is a fabulous one, summing up a certain type of bar at a certain time period perfectly:
Tom Silver’s big red and white face swam in an ocean of bar glasses hanging from a rack above the bar. He was the perfect bartender. He spoke when spoken to and otherwise stood leaning against the counter with his arms folded across the massive pad of his enormous gut. The drinks he made were clean and when you ordered call-booze you got what you called. When some woman you were with ordered a Gin Fizz or a Gold Cadillac, Tom made it quickly, correctly, and without the condescending leer of the bartender whose only desire is to stir a jigger of whiskey into a six-ounce tumbler with Seven-Up.
“Waddle it be, Mr. Roberts?”
“Old Grandad with water back, please Tom.”
— Gaylord Dodd, Hot Summer, Cold Murder
August 7, 2018
Sometimes a book’s title says enough – enough to make me pick it up, at least, as is the case here. I mean, Hot Summer, Cold Murder
is an amazing title. Amazing! Add to the fact that this book was written by Gaylord Dold, who I’ve never read before but who is a pal of a pal of my mom (or something like that), and that my very mom gave me this book, and, well, I was excited to read it. And it was a good, solid read, with a down-on-his-luck, muscatel-swilling P.I., a mystery and (as the title tells us) a murder, a lot of double-dealing and shady-at-best characters and cops, alluring and dangerous ladies, and more, all happening in Wichita! Amazing, as I’ve said. It’s a little in the hard-boiled tradition, but has a 70s-mystery vibe too, while taking place in the 60s I believe, and published in the 80s. Worth tracking down if you’re intrigued (and if the above doesn’t intrigue you, then you should check your pulse) – and I haven’t even mentioned the Cocktail Talk-ing, like the below:
In the same twenty minutes one beat-up Plymouth cruised past on Lincoln Street and no-one went into the barbershop next door. When it was that hot and dead I always drank sweet muscatel, and when it got bad enough I thought about my ex-wife Linda. After five years, the memories never got any better.
— Gaylord Dodd, Hot Summer, Cold Murder
July 24, 2018
Don’t go thinking I decided to have a second Cocktail Talk from George Harmon Coxe’s The Crimson Clue
because of the rhyme between “clue” and “two,” though admittedly that’s a bonus. But this 50s Kent Murdock (news photographer by day, murder solver by night)-starring read had too many Cocktail Talk moments to not highlight another one. Oh, if you missed The Crimson Clue, Part I
, where I talk a bit more about the book, and have another nice quote, then I suggest trotting back in time to catch up. Caught up? Nice. That means you probably need a drink, and if you’re tired of bubbly like our man Kent, then the below will fit you like good shoes.
Elliott tapped the empty glass. “How many of those have you had?”
“You don’t particularly like that stuff, do you?”
“Then how about a real drink? A Scotch?”
“Fine,” Murdock said.
Elliott called to a passing waiter, asking him to bring two Scotch and sodas to the library.” Mostly Scotch,” he added.
–George Harmon Coxe, The Crimson Clue