January 23, 2018
Our trip (we’re taking it together, I feel) through some of the Charles Willeford oeuvre, via Willeford Cocktail Talks
, is almost done, and ending with a second from the Floridean funky mess (among other things) Made in Miami
, originally called Lust is a Woman
, which isn’t actually as good, or as accurate, a title in my mind. You’ll need to read the book to see why! And also read the Made in Miami Cocktail Talk Part I
, if you haven’t. You’ll dig it. The below quote isn’t drink specific like many of the Cocktail Talks we have here, but is a great view into bartenders of a certain time period. Or perhaps how some people view or viewed bartenders. You decide.
Ralph sat down on the bench to smoke while he waited for Tommy. Two bald middle-aged bartenders entered the lock room from the back and began to change their clothes. Ralph examined their dour faces with the dawning realization that all of the bartenders he had ever known looked exactly like these two. Not that they were all bad, although most of them were, at that, but their expressions were all alike. All face, like character actors in the movies; expressive eyebrows, small chins, and large liquid eyes. Ralph pictured these two men later working behind the bar, changing their expression to match the mood of each customer at the busy half-price cocktail hour in the Rotunda Lounge. But right now, in repose, their characterless expressions oddly reminded Ralph of the ex-Presidents born in Ohio.
–Charles Willeford, Made in Miami
January 16, 2018
The earlier Cocktail Talks from the Charles Willeford book Pick-Up
(read Pick-Up Part I
, and Pick-Up Part II
if you missed ‘em) alluded to me diving into the Willeford canon lately – deeper, that is, than the Hoke Mosely books I do so love (read all the Willeford Cocktail Talks
to learn more). The dive included the dark, really, lesser-known book Made in Miami
, which is a fast-paced, hotly-focused, a bit (for the times, and maybe even now, in inflection) saucy and tawdry, and finally fairly bleak look into a shady side of Miami. If that sounds intriguing, it’s well worth tracking down. And it has – it’s hot in Miami – some nice cocktail talking.
Maria unzipped her dress at the back and carefully slipped it over her head. She draped it lovingly over the foot of her bed while she looked for a coat hanger in the closet. It was the only really decent dress Maris had brought with her and she took excellent care of it. The silk dress was much too good to wear in a Rotunda Room full of women while she drank Tom Collinses at sixty-five cents apiece, the waiter expecting a dime tip every time he brought another round.
–Charles Willeford, Made in Miami
January 9, 2018
Decided on thinking it through that I needed one more quote from Charles Willeford’s one-time underground classic (still classic, just not really “underground” as you can pick it up easily enough, and you should), Pick-Up
. Be sure to read the Pick-Up, Part I Cocktail Talk
, and then come back – if you already haven’t read it, that is – and catch the below quote, about a drink called The Dolphin Special. Which I’ve never seen on a menu, but which sounds pretty neat, and boozy.
“Just bring us two of the Dolphin Specials,” I told him
He nodded solemnly and left for the bar. The Special is a good drink; it contains five varieties of rum, mint, plenty of snow-ice, and it’s decorated with orange slices, pineapple slices and cherries with a sprinkling of sugar cane gratings floating on top. I needed at least two of them. I have to build up my nerve.
–Charles Willeford, Pick-Up
January 2, 2018
All of you long-time readers of this Spiked Punch know that I am very fond of Florida’s finest crime writer (may he rest in punch-y peace) Charles Willeford
. Especially of the Hoke Mosely books, but recently I also dived back into some others of the Willefordian back catalog. And a fruitful dive it was, full of the Willeford pacing, declarative brilliance, short and concise writing and insights, and a general dark noir-ish quality – though not all fit that definition perfectly. Pick-Up
, a worthy read and then some, for example, is more about art and love in a way, and drinking in a bigger way, and a mood, in a way, and suicide, than the criminal and police-ical. Lots of cocktail talking, as you might expect, in Pick-Up
, including the below allusion to hot gin punch. Good to remember, not only is it the holiday season, but the cold and flu season.
I fished the two one dollar bills out of my watch pocket and smoothed them out flat on the counter.
“I think I’m getting a slight cold, Mrs. Watson,” I said, coughing into my curled fist, “and I thought if I made a little hot gin punch before I went to bed it might cut the phlegm a little bit.”
“Nothing like hot gin for colds.” Mrs. Watson smiled and got out of the chair to cross to the liquor shelves. “What kind?”
“Gilbey’s is fine – I’d like a pint, but I don’t think I have enough here . . .”
–Charles Willeford, Pick-Up
December 19, 2017
Please be sure to read the latest Cocktail Talk
from the early Trollope classic The Three Clerks
, entitled Part I
, as well as one from much earlier
, so you can get a little background-ing about me and Trollope and the book and not miss some other swell quotes. Then come back and place your peepers on the below, which highlights the bouncing Bishop.
‘I’ll leave you, Scott,’ said Alaric, who did not enjoy the society of Mr. Manylodes, and to whom the nature of the conversation was, in his present position, extremely irksome; ‘I must be back at the Bedford early.’
‘Early–why early? Surely our honest friend can get himself to bed without your interference. Come, you don’t like the brandy toddy, nor I either. We’ll see what sort of a hand they are at making a bowl of bishop.’
‘Not for me, Scott.’
‘Yes, for you, man; surely you are not tied to that fellow’s apron-strings,’ he said, removing himself from the close contiguity of Mr. Manylodes, and speaking under his voice; ‘take my advice; if you once let that man think you fear him, you’ll never get the better of him.’
Alaric allowed himself to be persuaded and stayed.
— Anthony Trollope, The Three Clerks
December 12, 2017
I recently re-read The Three Clerks
by the awesome Anthony Trollope – one of his earlier books, and one at the time that he himself called “the best novel I have ever written.” It was his sixth novel, out of a whole lot of novels, and weaves together the story of, as you might expect from the title, three clerks working in government offices in London, with varying degrees of success. Another thing you might expect, after reading that briefest of descriptions, is that these young gentlemen probably enjoy a sip of the tipsy now and again – being young and out on the town. Which is why there are a lot of good cocktail talking in here, enough that I’ve already had one Cocktail Talk quote from The Three Clerks
on the Spiked Punch. But with the re-reading, I realized just how many there are! So, a few more are demanded, I say, in honor of Trollope. Starting with this gem that contains multiple booze-y treats, as an old sailor-y uncle of a few other main characters looks for a drink.
He had dined in town, and by the time that his chamber had been stripped of its appendages, he was nearly ready for bed. Before he did so, he was asked to take a glass of sherry.
‘Ah! sherry,’ said he, taking up the bottle and putting it down again. ‘Sherry, ah! yes; very good wine, I am sure. You haven’t a drop of rum in the house, have you?’
Mrs. Woodward declared with sorrow that she had not.
‘Or Hollands?’ said Uncle Bat. But the ladies of Surbiton Cottage were unsupplied also with Hollands.
‘Gin?’ suggested the captain, almost in despair.
Mrs. Woodward had no gin, but she could send out and get it; and the first evening of Captain Cuttwater’s visit saw Mrs. Woodward’s own parlour-maid standing at the bar of the Green Dragon, while two gills of spirits were being measured out for her.
— Anthony Trollope, The Three Clerks
November 28, 2017
I love discovering a writer I haven’t read, who I like (or at least enough to try and track down more of), and who has a fair amount of books. The world seems so wide open! And it happened recently, as I picked up a reprint that contained two books by W.R. Burnett. Best-known for The Asphalt Jungle
and High Sierra
(as you can tell by that twosome, he was heavily involved with the cinematic arts at one point), Burnett wrote bunches of novels, stories, screenplays, and songs (the latter not so regular with novelists), mostly in the noir vein – well, not sure about the songs – though with some outliers and pushing the boundaries of what we’d think of the genre. Including his book It’s Always Four O’clock
(which is paired with the much-less-satifying boxing book Iron Man
here), which is about struggling, or up-and-coming, jazz musicians in LA. It’s impeccably written, and the characters are interesting, real, and the story pretty emotional in many ways. Loved it. And now am excited to track down more Burnett. Not a lot of Cocktail Talk-ing, but this description of a night when too many were had is sweet:
So I told him, falling all over myself like a drunken and guilty husband trying to explain to the angry little woman how it happened to be three o’clock in the morning and how he happened to be so loaded with booze he couldn’t have hit the ceiling with his hat.
–W.R. Burnett, It’s Always Four O’clock
November 14, 2017
Last week, I put up perhaps my favorite Cocktail Talk
of all time – or darn close! It’s so good (you’ve read it right? If not, get you there
), that I figured it’d be the only quote here from Colin Dexter’s sixth Inspector Morse book, The Riddle of the Third Mile
. But then I remembered (much like Morse remembering another obscure fact) that there was a second quote, also amazing. Not quite as amazing, but darn good, and has such a sweet phrase for what I’m thinking is more-or-less (Morse-or-less) a Martini. Check it out:
‘What’ll it be, Morse? No beer, I’m afraid but gin and tonic, gin and French?’
‘Gin and French-lovely!’ Morse reached over and took a cigarette from the well-stocked open box on the table.
The Master beamed in avuncular fashion as he poured his mixtures with a practiced hand.
— Colin Dexter, The Riddle of the Third Mile