The dining room at the Banker’s Club was large and ornate, its linens crisp, and there was enough geography between table to prevent eavesdropping. Although I arrived on the dot, Lambert S. Denton was already seated and tinkering with a dry Martini. So dry, I found when he ordered one for me, it seemed as if the vermouth had been applied with an atomizer.
Listen, the Martini isn’t consumed enough today. I mean, I don’t know every single person drinking one at this moment, but I feel (and, like a good cop, sometimes you have to trust your feelings, or instincts) that not enough are. I feel that there was a time when all other cocktails were subsumed in the Martini’s overwhelming overwhelmingness, and that wasn’t a good thing. But now, perhaps, if my feeling is right, things – boozy things – during our modern cocktail renaissance have swung so far the other way thanks to the endless array of new and rediscovered cocktails that maybe not enough classic Martinis are consumed? Well, I’m going to do my part to balance that out, by having one right now. I like mine with the Embury proportions, meaning 2-1/2 parts gin to 1/2 part dry vermouth, and with a twist (lemon, naturally). Today, the gin component is going to be Thinking Tree Spirits Gifted gin, made down (down from me, at least!) in Eugene, OR. I was gifted a bottle recently, and couldn’t be happier. Gins always make swell gifts, friends. This particular gin is even called “Gifted” so it’s doubly perfect. It has a non-GMO Willamette Valley wheat base and is made by soaking botanicals (including Turkish juniper, Spanish coriander, fresh orange and lemon rind, star anise, lemongrass, angelica, grains of paradise, and cassia bark) in said base spirit for forty-eight hours before it’s distilled in a copper pot still. Then, English cucumber is infused in post-distilling. Neat! As you might expect after reading the last few sentences, it’s a complex gin-y number, with a junipery, cucumber-y, smell trailing citrus and bitters, and then a taste that echoes that (juniper, fresh cucumber) with more lemon and lemongrass and spice, finishing with nods towards the angelica and cassia. It makes, when mingled with the vermouth, an intriguing Martini – the many individual gins out there are what makes the Martini even more special now, as it allows them to shine. This one is a treat. I may have two. Helping to address that Martini imbalance and all!
This drink is no joke. Though tomorrow is of course April Fool’s Day! And because of which, we will all be fools tomorrow (well, in a manner of speaking since it’s now a part of the Gregorian calendar more-or-less, at least in many parts of the world, and as most – or all – use said calendar currently, well, “we will all be fools tomorrow” makes some sense). So, having a tasty drink that is, by it’s very name, a paradise for all us fools at the ready, well, it seems the smart thing, even for fools. Did you know, as a side note, that no-one is exactly sure where April Fool’s Day started, but that it has been going on for centuries, back to say maybe the 13th, but definitely probably the 14th or 15th? Wowza, that’s a lotta fools. Sadly, the ingredients contained herein weren’t available back then – sadly for those living then, that is. Luckily for you, all four of the below are available now. No foolin’!
Thanks to the British Library Crime Classics collections (which I’ve Cocktail Talked from a few times), I’ve discovered a number of authors I didn’t know before, ones who were read more in the earlier parts of the last century, including Arthur Morrison. A mystery and crime writer (usually with stories featuring his detective Arthur Hewitt, said stories told by said detective’s neighbor, journalist Brett, in a Watson/Holmes-y way), as well as a more straight fiction writer and journalist and writer about Japanese art. I liked his stories read is those mystery anthologies, so picked up The Collected Arthur Morrison. I haven’t read everything in it, but have read I think all of the Hewitt stories, and they tend to be pretty swell, in the Holmes deductive reasoning vein, but a bit more of an everyman while doing it in a way. He was one of the few at the time (or anytime) to rival Holmes in popularity, too. Some stories in the collection are completely regrettable, but those are in the minority. Not a lot of Cocktail Talking in them, sadly, but there was one story, about a heaping helping of gold on a ship that foundered, which involved diving to check out the scene, and, via the diving, the introduction of a new drink to me.
“That’s the dress that Gullen usually has,” Merrick remarked. “He’s a very smart fellow; we usually send him first to make measurements and so on. An excellent man, but a bit too fond of the diver’s lotion.”
“What’s that?” asked Hewitt.
“Oh, you shall try some if you like, afterwards. It’s a bit too heavy for me; rum and gin mixed, I think.”
A red nightcap was placed on Martin Hewitt’s head, and after that a copper helmet, secured by a short turn in the segmental screw joint at the neck.
This pretty amazing gin drink is sadly not one you see around these days – a crying shame, as it’s delish. Let’s work together to bring it back! It’s from the legendary Patrick Gavin Duffy’s Official Mixer’s Manual (1940 edition), one of the big and necessary books from the early-middle of last century. A tome all cocktail lovers should have, me thinks, full of drinks and drink-making history and wisdom (and Duffy’s genial crankiness). This one features a heavy dollop of gin as the base, and then smaller amounts of maraschino, sweet vermouth, and Cointreau. So, you’ll want a gin you’re really fond of: I’m using Monkey 47 Schwarzwald Dry Gin, whose smooth juniper, citrus, spice, pepper, botanicals, and berries balance is a treat. Add in the nutty maraschino, sweet and orange-y Cointreau, herbal vermouth, and a little lovely lemon oil and you end up with a cocktail fit for, well, a lord!
The Lord Suffolk
2-1/2 ounces Monkey 47 Schwarzwald gin
1/2 ounce Luxardo maraschino
1/2 ounce Cocchi Torino sweet vermouth
1/2 ounce Cointreau
Lemon twist, for garnish
1. Fill a cocktail shaker halfway full with cracked ice. Add everything but the twist. Stir well.
2. Strain into a cocktail glass, and garnish with the twist. Give a toast to the past, and then the future.
Our recent Graham Greene Cocktail Talking (don’t miss The Comedians Cocktail Talk and This Gun for Hire Cocktail Talk, plus more Graham Greene’s from the past) continues, this time with The Heart of the Matter, which I recently re-read, and in which they drink a lot of Pink Gins, and sweat a lot, too. It’s a classic in the more serious Greene vein, steeped in immaculate, elegant, prose, alongside delving into the interactions and motivations of the main character, including a deep look in his Catholic beliefs and how they cause in a way part of the action to unfurl. Not for the faint of reading heart, neccessarily. But for those who like gin!
“What about you, darling?” He turned quickly away from her and began to fix two more Pink Gins. There was a tacit understanding between them that ‘liquor helped;’ growing more miserable with every glass one hoped for the moment of relief.
“You don’t really want to know about me.”
“Of course I do, darling. What sort of a day have you had?”
“Ticki, why are you such a coward? Why don’t you tell me it’s all off?”
“You know what I mean – the passage. You’ve been talking and talking since you came in about the Esperanca. There’s a Portuguese ship in once a fortnight. You don’t talk that way every time. I’m not a child, Ticki. Why don’t you say straight out – you can’t go?”
He grinned miserably at his glass, twisting it round and round to let the Angostura cling along the curve.
It is, as you probably know being up on your dates and all that, here in the U.S. the day after Thanksgiving, Thanksgiving being one of my favorite holidays as it’s focused on eating delicious things (and for many like me drinking them too) with family and/or friends. The day after Thanksgiving is a sort-of holiday, too, I call it Gizmo Day. Gizmo being this drink, the ideal way to use up leftover cranberry sauce! A simple mix, exactly what’s needed after the over-eating (who doesn’t?) and such from Thanksgiving, today is the perfect day to shake this one up. And now you have back-to-back holidays, instead of just one.
2-1/2 ounces gin
1 ounce homemade cranberry sauce
1/2 ounce simple syrup (optional)
1. Fill a cocktail shaker halfway full with ice cubes. Add the gin and cranberry sauce, and syrup if using. Shake exceptionally well.
2. Strain into a cocktail glass. Drink up, Thanksgiving-style.
Sorry, after last week’s Kill and Tell Cocktail Talk (read that one for a little more information on the book by Howard Rigsby), I realized I had to have at least one more, while I could still type – before the Martini kicks in. It’s not actually as drinky a book as some from the era, and the PI star isn’t as hard-drinking as others (he turns down a number of drinks), but hey, it’s not like he isn’t gonna drink at all!
“What would you like to drink?” I asked. “I can make a fair Martini.”
She had begun to look worried again, but she seemed to shrug it off. She smiled. “A Martini sounds grand.”
I made it five to one, and when she had tasted it she rolled her eyes upward. “While I can still talk there’s something I’d like to tell you,” she said.
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