September 16, 2022
It’s the middle of September! Hard to believe my friends. Time, it flies by like a flock of Peregrine Falcons (meaning: fast)! Not only are we in the back half of 2022, but we are also nearing October, which for me means fall trips to Italy (I hope for you, too), and truffles, and pasta, and art, and well, you know. It also means Italian drinks, wines, limoncellos, grappas, Italian beers, and of course amari. It’s funny, in a time flying way, and in a “sometimes things do change for the better” way, how many more of the latter, the amari (and other digestif-y and aperitif-y Italian brothers and sisters, not the grappas, sadly), are available now in the US than when I first made this here drink, Good Luck in Pisticci, like 7 years ago. Amari explosion! And if you expand that time frame (short in the overall realm of time) to the first time I went to Italy when I had my first amaro (I believe it was Montenegro), like 25ish years ago, well, it’s a big bang style explosion! An herbal, bitter and bittersweet, and lovely explosion!
Without which, I couldn’t make this drink, itself herbally rich and flavorful, but also citrus-y, bubbly, and jolly, in a way! It leans heavily on a particular amaro, Amaro Lucano created in 1894 by cookie baker Pasquale Vena (an aside: amari and chocolate chip cookies are a pleasant pairing) using an herbs and spices. Eventually, it became the sipper of choice to ancient ruling family the House of Savoy, which is neat, and it’s swell to sip solo, but also swell here with a few WA ingredients, Kur gin (delicious – read more of me talking about it) and Scrappy’s Grapefruit bitters (if you aren’t aware of how awesome Scrappy’s bitters are, then you have a wonderful future finding out), and classic orange stalwart Grand Marnier, and soda, and mint. Good Luck indeed!
Good Luck In Pisticci
1-1/2 ounces Kur gin
3/4 ounce Amaro Lucano
1/2 ounce Grand Marnier
2 dashes Scrappy’s Grapefruit bitters
4 ounces chilled club soda
1. Add the gin, Lucano, Grand Marnier, and Scrappy’s to a mixing glass. Stir well.
2 Fill a highball or comparable glass three-quarters full with ice cubes. Pour the mix from step 1 into the glass over the top.
3. Top with soda water. Stir briefly. Garnish with the mint sprig.
September 6, 2022
As a good reporter and editor (much like Rock Rockwell, the intrepid editor of The Record, and hero in this here mystery book from 1950), I’m going to start this Cocktail Talk by referring you to the reference point of the What Rhymes with Murder? Cocktail Talk Part I, where I dig into the idea of reporters/mystery heroes, and a little more about the book as a whole. Here, I wanna just dive into the Cocktail Talking, so the only background on the book I’m putting in this paragraph is the tagline from the back cover, cause it’s one the finest taglines ever: “When a lusty lothario sings his serenade, romance rhymes with death!” Oh, and in the below they talk about overly-bittered Old Fashioneds. Also, memorable. Read it!
A voice at my elbow said, “Cocktail, sir? Old-Fashioneds and dry Martinis.”
“Old-Fashioned,” I said, hardly noticing the neat figure in black and white who spoke.
“Okay, but there’s more bitters in them than whiskey.”
I started and looked around. From under a frilly cap, the face of Amy Race was peering at me impishly. “I’m sticking to straight whisky myself,” she said. “That’s the trend below stairs.”
In spite of myself, I burst out laughing.
–Jack Iams, What Rhymes with Murder?
August 30, 2022
Recently was re-reading the 1950s Dell Mystery pocket-sized book What Rhymes with Murder?, by Jack Iams, and thinking: why don’t more books have mystery-solving-reporters anymore? Let me step back: Jack Iams was a novelist (mysteries and others), teacher, and maybe most of all: reporter and journalist, for Newsweek, London Daily Mail, New York Herald Tribune, and others. So, perhaps not a complete surprise that some of his mystery books features Rocky Rockwell (amazing), City Editor and writer for The Record, one of two dailies in the small city this yarn and others take place within. Not only a writer/editor, if you wondered, but also a man not afraid to mix-it-up, both with circulation war heavies and such and with the dames – mostly his fiancé here, but also a wee dalliance with a writer for the other paper in town. He’s not the only newspaper person/mystery solver in pulp book history, either, though we don’t see as many now (I hope that’s right. It feels right!), which is a shame. Of course, not as many newspaper folks in general, sadly. But I digress! To get back to the matter at hand, this book, where Rocky gets mixed up with the murder of a visiting overly-amorous British poet (the ‘overly-amorous’ may have been implied with ‘British poet’)! It’s quite a swell mid-century piece of mystery fiction, moves quick, has some feints and counter-feints, ends up with two murders, Rocky rescues a paperboy from a hoodlum, and of course spends some well-earned time drinking up in clubs and hotels and homes. So much so that I’m gonna have a couple What Rhymes with Murder? Cocktail Talks, starting with the below pink gin-ing. Or desire for sure.
Across the room, alone at a table, sat Ariel Banks’s secretary Clark-Watson. A waiter was trying to explain something, then the clipped, high-pitched British voice said distinctly, “Dash it, I am simple asking for a pink gin.”
“But he don’t know how to make it,” said the waiter.
“That is scarcely my fault,” said Clark-Watson.
Amy chuckled and said to me, “I think I’ll get into this act.” She got up and strolled to Clark-Watson’s table. I could hear her saying, “I’m Amy Race of the Eagle. Perhaps I could be of assistance?”
“Can you tell this chap how to make a pink gin?”
— Jack Iams, What Rhymes with Murder?
August 26, 2022
Is it bad (bad might even be too pejorative a word, maybe, ill-advised, or self-aggrandizing, or silly, would be better words) to be having a drink on this here Friday that is called out in the title of a book written by my-own-self? That okay? Here’s hoping cause this little beauty is obviously in the book Ginger Bliss and the Violet Fizz, but it’s also a treat for the late summer days we’re living within at the moment. Why, you ask? I’m taking it that you mean the latter part, not the book part, so gonna go that route. It’s a summer hit, like most of the Fizz family (a hot weather family if ever there was one), due to its effervescent nature via the addition of club soda and ice! But, the florally crème di violette fits the blooming nature of summer (perhaps that’s diminishing in late August, but still, blooming bloomers), and the gin helps cut the heat metaphorically, if not literally. Add the teeniest lemon and simple, and boom, a drink you should have this time of year (as well as other times), even if you do feature it in a book title. I am!
The Violet Fizz
2 ounces gin
1/2 ounce crème de violette
1/4 ounce freshly squeezed lemon juice
1/4 ounce Simple Syrup
Chilled club soda
1. Fill a cocktail shaker halfway full with ice cubes. Add the gin, crème de violette, lemon juice, and simple syrup. Shake extra well.
2. Fill a highball glass three-quarters full with ice cubes. Strain the mixture into the glass.
3. Fill the glass with chilled club soda, stir well, and drink quickly, before those bubbles have a chance to fade.
August 19, 2022
This is one of those drinks that when you look at the ingredient list your first thought is probably, “whaaaaa?” as the four fine products used here don’t necessarily seem to match in that first moment. Partially cause anisette, even the so-good-it’s-hard-to-put-into-words Meletti anisette, can be such a strong personality that it may not seem a match with, say, Lillet’s delicate wine-aperitif tones. And maybe not even a match with a staunch British gin such as Boodles, our heaviest player here (in ounces!), made of British wheat and leaning classically towards juniper, coriander, angelica. By the by, I love all three of those ingredients, and you probably do, too, so maybe I’m making too much of the “odd trio” angle, but hey, they didn’t at first take to each other as well as I’d hoped. Until adding the robust Peychaud’s Whiskey Barrel Aged bitters, which somehow (bitters does tend to make it better), brought every other ingredient into the playing field nicely for me. After a little testing of amounts and some ritual incantations and normal stuffs like that. Short story: trust me! This is a good cocktail.
An Elusive Memory
1-1/2 ounces Boodles gin
1/2 ounce Meletti anisette
1/2 ounce Lillet
2 dashes Peychaud’s Whiskey Barrel Aged bitters
1. Fill a cocktail shaker or mixing glass halfway full with cracked ice. Add everything. Stir well.
2. Strain into a cocktail shaker. Raise a toast in my direction (I mean, why not? I appreciate it). Drink up.
August 16, 2022
The great Graham Greene hasn’t made an enormous amount of time Cocktail Talking here on the ol’ Spiked Punch (though do the read the past Graham Greene Cocktail Talks), which is a shame because A: I like his works lots, and B: he liked a good drink. Probably because we shade a little lower-brow (though he did write a fair amount of what he called “entertainments” which might lean into pulp pockets perfectly), or just because I forget to mark the pages of potential Cocktail Talks when reading his books. Or re-reading, I should specify, as I believe I’ve read them all at least once, re-reading being the case recently as I was re-reading his book The Comedians, which takes places mostly on Haiti during the tragic reign of François “Papa Doc” Duvalier. Circling around one main character and a few main satellites characters (who meet on a boat heading towards the country), it’s a sometimes chilling, always moving novel. Definitely one that one should be read, especially if you carry an interest in political history around like a traveling bar.
“What’s your poison?”
“Have you a whiskey?”
“I have next to everything, old man. You wouldn’t fancy a dry Martini?”
I would have preferred a whisky, but he seemed anxious to show off the riches of his store, so, “If it’s very dry,” I said.
“Ten to one, old man.”
He unlocked the cupboard and drew out a leather traveling-case – a half-bottle of gin, a half-bottle of vermouth, four metal beakers, a shaker. It was an elegant expensive set, and he laid it reverently on the tumbled table as though he were an auctioneer showing a prized antique. I couldn’t help commenting on it.
“Asprey’s ?” I asked.
“As good as,” he replied quickly and began to mix the cocktails.
–Graham Greene, The Comedians
July 29, 2022
I love Chartreuse. Both Green and Yellow. So, so much. Too much? I don’t know that that’s possible, but some might say it. So much, that during last winter when drinking outside at a bar I had a Chartreuse and Hot Chocolate (which is amazing, but that’s not the story), even though I had to spend a full ten minutes bar time explaining about Chartreuse to the friendly server, who then had to convince the bartender what I said I wanted was what I wanted. All worth it, my friends! But now it’s summer, and how to quench that love (as if love could be quenched! But thirst can) of a herbal-packed powerhouse like Chartreuse? Let me suggest this Chartreuse Daisy. It utilizes Yellow Chartreuse (whose recipe of 130 plants is only known only to two monks, who also are the only two who know the secret macerating and aging processes, which is amazing to astronomical levels), but you know what, you could make it with Green, too! And should! It’s a frosty mix, but I don’t find that kills the Chartreuse-y-ness, or the gin-ness (here, I’d like a layered gin such at Caorunn or Monkey 47 to place well), and the citrus and fruit just add summer to the mix, plus more flavor strata naturally. Altogether, this one will cool your afternoon or evening (or morning!), while delivering a whole bunch of goodness to the palate, herbs, fruits, deliciousness. All of which you, Chartreuse lover, deserve.
Chartreuse Daisy, from Ginger Bliss and the Violet Fizz
2 ounces gin
1/2 ounce freshly squeezed lemon juice
1/4 ounce grenadine (homemade grenadine naturally; homemade grenadine recipe at the bottom here if needed)
1 ounce Yellow Chartreuse (see Note)
Strawberry, for garnish
Orange slice, for garnish
1. Fill a cocktail shaker halfway full with cracked ice. Add the gin, lemon juice, and grenadine. Shake very well, until the shaker gets frosty.
2. Fill a goblet three-quarters up with cracked ice. Strain the mixture over the ice through a fine strainer. Stir briefly. Float the Chartreuse over the ice, and stir again briefly. Garnish with the strawberry and the orange slice.
Note: Feel you need even more Chartreuse in your life? I know the feeling! If so, up to 1-1/2 ounces.
July 19, 2022
Another (see The Unholy Trio Part I Cocktail Talk, if you missed it) quote from the Henry Kane political, blackmail, murder, money yarn called The Unholy Trio, starring private investigator Peter Chambers, who tears it up, romances it up, and drinks it up through the book. It’s a fun ride, folks, and one that even includes our manly hero getting (as it says on the book), “a gilt-edged invitation to trouble,” as well as getting married! Really. Well, sort-of. You’ll have to read the book to the get all the details, though the below covers the most important part, the marriage Martinis.
And so we went home to our bridal suite and there she said, “Martinis. And I’m making.” She opened the liquor cabinet. “Excellent ingredients here. And a jar of olives and a jar of pearl onions, but I don’t like either. No lemons.”
“I though you weren’t special for Martinis?”
“Except on special occasions. Do you think we ought to call down for lemons?”
I didn’t quite relish the idea of calling to Room Service from the bridal suite in the middle of the night for a couple of lemons.
“I’ll go down and get them,” I said, and when I returned, after my curious excursion to the kitchens below, there was a tall shaker with frosty Martinis sitting and waiting.
–Henry Kane, The Unholy Trio