April 26, 2022
Just a few weeks back I had a Chester Himes Cocktail Talk (called The Crazy Kill, Part III) where I bemoaned the fact that I hadn’t had any Cocktail Talking from the amazing Chester Himes in many a year, and talked more about my love of his work, especially his Harlem-based novels featuring police detectives Coffin Ed Johnson and Grave Digger Jones (some of the finest characters created in detective fiction I think, with razor dialogue, sharp personalizations, and many memorable moments). I was thinking about it enough that I had to re-read some more from Mr. Himes, and so went with All Shot Up (check out the All Shot Up Cocktail Talk Part I, and all the Chester Himes Cocktail Talks), which boasts a robbery, chilly temps, a hit-and-run (with all sorts of twists), violence, politicians and politics, dark humor, plot shenanigans, and much more rollicking over the page at a blistering pace. Including the below quote, which reminded me of the first time I read the book. When I saw the drink referenced below on that first read years and years back, I reached out to the great Gary Regan (one of the bar world’s fine gentlemen, and sadly now slinging and drinking drinks at the big bar in the beyond), knowing he both knew endless amounts about drinks but also that he had a taste for mystery and detective fiction, too, just to see if he’d heard of the drink. He hadn’t, but did some research (always kind, Mr. Regan), and even though he didn’t track down another mention of it, we had a fine time talking it through and talking over the book. Here’s to him, and to Chester Himes, and for that matter to you, too.
He was drinking a tall frappe highball of dark rum with a streak of grenadine running down the center, called a “Josephine Baker.” If La Baker herself had been running stark nude in the bottom of his glass he could not have given her any more attention.
–Chester Himes, All Shot Up
January 18, 2022
You know (cause you know things) I love Dickens, and have many Charles Dickens Cocktail Talks on this very blog thingy, and cause of that (the love), I tend to re-read his books on the regular, and one of my favs is one not quite as well know, Dombey and Son. To get all the particulars of why it’s a fav, to read loads of cocktail and spirits (and dog!) quotes from the book, well, let me point you to the Dombey and Son Cocktail Talks Part I, Part II, Part III, and Part IV, instead of prattling on again here. Instead, I’ll just prattle that I’ve recently re-read the book once again (and I will again, I’m sure!), and had to have at least one more Cocktail Talk. So, here it is, featuring Cap’n Cuttle himself, along with his bestie Sol and said Sol’s niece Walter.
‘Ah!’ he said, with a sigh, ‘it’s a fine thing to understand ’em. And yet it’s a fine thing not to understand ’em. I hardly know which is best. It’s so comfortable to sit here and feel that you might be weighed, measured, magnified, electrified, polarized, played the very devil with: and never know how.’
Nothing short of the wonderful Madeira, combined with the occasion (which rendered it desirable to improve and expand Walter’s mind), could have ever loosened his tongue to the extent of giving utterance to this prodigious oration. He seemed quite amazed himself at the manner in which it opened up to view the sources of the taciturn delight he had had in eating Sunday dinners in that parlour for ten years. Becoming a sadder and a wiser man, he mused and held his peace.
‘Come!’ cried the subject of this admiration, returning. ‘Before you have your glass of grog, Ned, we must finish the bottle.’
‘Stand by!’ said Ned, filling his glass. ‘Give the boy some more.’
‘No more, thank’e, Uncle!’
‘Yes, yes,’ said Sol, ‘a little more. We’ll finish the bottle, to the House, Ned – Walter’s House. Why it may be his House one of these days, in part. Who knows? Sir Richard Whittington married his master’s daughter.’
–Charles Dickens, Dombey and Son
January 7, 2022
Look, look, lookieeee! A new year has started. Which is good, cause, between us, last year, well (excuse my expressioning expression), sucked. Really! Not that there weren’t good and tasty and cuddly moments, I hope, for all, but it wasn’t the finest year IMHO (as they say). So, here’s hoping this here year will be better, and to help it on its way, I’m going to drink this lovely drink, called Three Wishes, after its three tasty ingredients: dark rum (I’m going with Diplomatico Reserva, which is so delicious), Rhum Clément Creole Shrubb (a beauteous blend of rums, bitter orange, and sweet), and amaretto (for me, wishing usually has an Italian component – I’m using Lazaroni). How will me drinking this help? Well, lesser-know fact: when you drink this, you can actually make wishes, and all mine will be for a lovely 2022 for us all. Yeah, I’m that way, but the good part is, you can have one of these and also wish for the same!
Three Wishes, from Ginger Bliss and the Violet Fizz
2 ounces Diplomatico Reserva dark rum
1 ounce Rhum Clément Creole Shrubb
1 ounce Lazaroni amaretto
1. Fill a cocktail shaker or mixing glass halfway full with cracked ice. Add the rum, Creole Shrubb, and amaretto. Stir well.
2. Strain into a cocktail glass. Make good wishes.
January 4, 2022
Here’s an interesting tidbit – when I picked up this Pocket Books book (which is actually pocket-sized), called The Last Score, I didn’t even read the back-cover summation closely, taking it for granted that it was both written by Ellery Queen (which is in fact one pseudonym for two people writing together: Frederic Dannay and Manfred Bennington Lee) and starring their mystery writer/crime solving main character Ellery Queen. A strange state of affairs I find amazing, even though I haven’t read a ton of Ellery Queen books (also strange, as those books and stories I’ve read starring Mr. Queen I’ve enjoyed, which is probably why I picked up this one). Which is why when I started actually, you know, reading, I was surprised to find he’s not in this book at all. I kept trying to find him, but nope. Instead, it stars Texan travel agent (adventure travel only, that is) Reid Rance, who goes as a chaperon/bodyguard with a rich Texas lass who wants to live the on the road lifestyle a bit, and then trouble ensues, as you might expect. More adventure, less mystery, perhaps not what I was expecting, but not too bad. I did keep thinking, “well, Ellery Queen’s gonna show;” but nope, he never did. And I have now learned to read the back book cover more closely! Though if I had in this situation, I might have missed the below Cocktail Talk, I suppose.
He felt the vulture claw in his belly again then a sudden thirst. Locals were used to American tourists drinking in mid-morning.
Reid turned away from the plaza and walked into the bar of the Hotel Mexico. There he ordered a straight Bacardi, drank it quickly, ordered a second. The second he drank slowly, chasing it with Tehuacán.
–Ellery Queen, The Last Score
October 22, 2021
I have a deep fondness (I know, this is, oh, a little patting-yourself-on-the-back-y) for some of the headnotes (the intro paragraph/graphs before the recipe, though you probably knew that) in Ginger Bliss and the Violet Fizz. Including the one for this drink, which is short, but still I hope fun, and introduces the players and such. So much so that I’m going to just do the ol’ cut-and-pasting of said intro right here:
Featuring the bracing and bountiful bam! of Italian digestivo Fernet-Branca over a layer of rumbling dark rum and a lovely lash of apricot liqueur and a tiny tang of lime, the Whip should be unveiled only when attempting world conquest (in the board game Risk, that is) or having a marathon video game session when the games are medieval or oriented earlier (such as Prince of Persia, say) or having a double elimination (’cause every player needs a second chance) shuffleboard tournament where the winner triumphs thanks to the singular method of ricocheting the puck off the sidewalls to hang gracefully on the board’s edge—without falling over. A conqueror indeed.
The Whip of the Conqueror, from Ginger Bliss and the Violet Fizz
1 -1/2 ounces dark rum
1 ounce Fernet Branca
1/2 ounce apricot liqueur
1/4 ounce freshly squeezed lime juice
Lime twist, for garnish
1. Fill a cocktail shaker halfway full with ice cubes. Add the rum, Fernet Branca, apricot liqueur, and lime juice. Shake while longing to be the conqueror.
2. Strain through a fine strainer into a cocktail glass, and garnish with the twist.
September 10, 2021
A little lesser-known than some of it’s more famous tropical tiki siblings, the rummy Painkiller is an early-summer, mid-summer, and late-summer treat (though honestly, why not bring summer into any day by having this year round? I can’t conjure up a single reason). I once wrote “old pirates say this was first mixed using Pusser’s rum by Daphne Henderson (owner and bartender) at the six-seat Soggy Dollar Bar at White Bay, British Virgin Islands in the 1970s” and still believe that to be the historical case. I used to love the Painkiller at Seattle’s much-missed No Bones Beach Club (you can see me on Seattle’s King 5 talking about it and other Seattle tiki treats if so inspired), and currently love the one at the bubbly Baker’s up this way, but I also like to sail my own ship once in a while, high winds be damned, and you should tack the same direction. Because the Painkiller isn’t tough to make, and will leave you singing sea shanties in a superior manner – which is how every day should end, right? If you’ve never had a Painkiller, it’s a near cousin to the Pina Colada (if only Rupert Holmes would have sung about a Painkiller, we might be having a different conversation), meaning it’s coconutty, creamy, fruity, strong, and lush, with a dark rum base. Historically (see: above) it should be Pusser’s rum, but I am currently, sadly, Pusser’s deficient, and so went with Ron Abuelo 12-year old dark rum and it was yummy. Sometimes to relieve the pain you have to do what you have to do! So, get tropical y’all.
2 ounces Ron Abuelo 12-year old dark rum (or Pusser’s, if you got it)
4 ounces pineapple juice
1 ounce orange juice
1 ounce cream of coconut (I used Coco Lopez)
Freshly grated nutmeg, for garnish
Crushed or cracked ice
1. Fill a cocktail shaker halfway full with ice cubes. Add the rum, juices, and cream of coconut. Shake really well.
2. Fill a highball glass or comparable glass three-quarters up with cracked or crushed ice. If you happen to have a Lewis bag (and I hope you do!), now’s a good time to use it!
3. Strain the drink into the glass. Garnish with fresh nutmeg. You could also garnish with an orange slice and a cherry (both or one or the other, you might see). I wasn’t feeling the fruit salad, so left them off, this time!
September 7, 2021
Don’t miss the weird (!) Owls Don’t Blink Cocktail Talk Part I, or you’ll be sorry (in little ways, maybe, but probably not losing sleep, which would make me sad), which not only has a strange New Orleans-y quote, but more info on this book by Erle Stanley Gardner, though writing as A.A. Fair. And, while being thorough about your research, check out all the Erle Stanley Gardner Cocktail Talks, to get the skinny of how I feel (hmm, is this too much all about me? You’ll get good cocktail quotes, too) about his famous creation Perry Mason, and private investigators Donald Lam and Betha Cool, who star in this particular mystery yarn. In the below quote, Lam is taking one of the potentially murderous (!) female characters in the book out for a ginormous dinner. I can’t imagine eating this much, but in the 40s, people were heartier.
The waiter brought our daiquiris. We touched glasses, took the first sip.
The waiter stood by our table, exerting a silent pressure for our orders.
“Could you bring some oysters on the half shell with a lot of cocktail sauce, some horseradish and lemon?” I asked. “Then bring us some of those cold, peppered shrimp, some onion soup, a steak about three inches thick, done medium rare, some French-fried onions, shoestring potatoes, cut some French bread, put on lots of butter, sprinkle on just a trace of garlic, put it in the oven, let it get good and hot so the butter melts all through the bread, put some sparkling Burgundy on the ice, and after that bring us a dish of ice cream, a huge pot of coffee, and the check.”
The waiter never batted an eyelash. “I could do that very nicely, sir.”
–Erle Stanley Gardner (writing as A.A. Fair), Owls Don’t Blink
August 31, 2021
This may be one of the weirdest Cocktail Talks ever! Boom! If you’ve read past Erle Stanley Gardner Cocktail Talks, and you should, you’ll already know that I lean towards liking his books written under the pseudonym A.A. Fair (the Donald Lam-Bertha Cool mysteries) better than his more famous Perry Mason books (though as I age, I’ve found more of those I like a little more than expected, too), so that’s not weird. The book has a fair number of twists and turns and unexpectedness happening for PI Lam and jolly moments from PI Cool, with more of the former, but that’s all expected in these yarns, so not weird at all. Though ending in LA, much of the book (which was pubbed in 1942) takes place in lovely New Orleans, and that’s where the weirdness happens. See, I’d expect as a famous writer, and as one fairly meticulous usually, Mr. Gardner would have actually visited that fair city, and spent time on the streets and in the bars and restaurants before writing this book – and had some of the city’s legendary cocktails and highballs and such. And there are many classic libations that trace their histories back to New Orleans! However, when a scene takes place in a bar and PI Lam is ordering drinks, his list of “New Orleans drinks” is bafflingly, oh, boring? Un-New-Orleans-y? Weird? To me, weird. Maybe there was a time in the 40s that people thought of the below as New Orleans drinks? I’m glad it’s not now! But the below Cocktail Talk is still worthy – weird can be fun, too.
We had no more than seated her when the waiter came up for an order.
“Plain whiskey and water,” she said.
“Gin and Coke,” I ordered.
Hale pursed his lips thoughtfully. “Well, let me see. Do you have any really good Cognac?”
I answered for the waiter. “No,” I said. “Since you’re here in New Orleans, why not drink a New Orleans drink? Gin and Seven-Up; Gin and Coke; rum and Coke; or bourbon and Seven-Up?”
–Erle Stanley Gardner (writing as A.A. Fair), Owls Don’t Blink