For our second Cocktail Talk from Dickens’ novel of family, riots, and ravens (among other things), we head to a gathering of prentices, as they say. Focusing mostly on one specific apprentice, the Captain of the group, a man of slight size but outsized self-importance, perhaps, and of finely-tuned calves, the swell named Mr. Tappertit. Not the villain of the book (I’d say there isn’t solely one), but not the nobelest of characters, no matter the below quote. Oh, be sure you read the Barnaby Rudge Cocktail Talk Part 1 to learn more about the book (and don’t miss the many other Dickens Cocktail Talks, either).
‘Sound, captain, sound!’ cried the blind man; ‘what does my noble captain drink–is it brandy, rum, usquebaugh? Is it soaked gunpowder, or blazing oil? Give it a name, heart of oak, and we’d get it for you, if it was wine from a bishop’s cellar, or melted gold from King George’s mint.’
‘See,’ said Mr. Tappertit haughtily, ‘that it’s something strong, and comes quick; and so long as you take care of that, you may bring it from the devil’s cellar, if you like.’
‘Boldly said, noble captain!’ rejoined the blind man. ‘Spoken like the ‘Prentices’ Glory. Ha, ha! From the devil’s cellar! A brave joke! The captain joketh. Ha, ha, ha!’
As October is fall in all ways here in the northwest of the US, it may seem strange, even foolhardy, to have a drink named after shining shores. Wouldn’t “grey and gloominess along the shore” have been more apt (I can hear you asking all the way from here)? Well, potentially, yes, but see, this is a drink I already know, and often during fall and winter I like to muse about spring and summer, not that I don’t appreciate the glories of each specific season, but if well-made drinks can’t transport us, then, well, they can, so no need to wonder about if they couldn’t. And, this particular drink, while having a sunshine-y name and a base of dark rum, sits comfortably in multiple temperate times, as that rum does have a kick, and the amaretto and sweet vermouth add some lingering layers of flavor, herbal, nutty, along with a little sweetness (to get you through the colder nights). All of which is why I’m drinking it today, and why you should, too.
Shine Along the Shore
1-1/2 ounces dark rum
1 ounce amaretto
1/2 ounce sweet vermouth
Wide orange twist, for garnish
1. Fill a cocktail shaker or mixing glass halfway full with cracked ice. Add the rum, amaretto, and vermouth. Stir well.
2. Strain into a cocktail glass. Twist the twist over the glass and drop it in.
I’ve had a goodly amount of Charles Dickens Cocktail Talk posts here on the Spiked Punch blog (started in the 1800s in honor of Dickens naturally), but never one from the underrated and underread book Barnaby Rudge, a situation which I’m going to remedy over the next few weeks, as I’ve recently re-read it, and so am primed for Cocktail Talks from it. You can learn more about the book from scholars more learned than I, but I will give you this: it has one of the finest, or most well-imagined, fictional pubs ever, The Maypole, in which some of the action centers. Also, it’s a book (like so much of Dickens) that while taking place in the past is finely attuned to the present, in this case as the sort-of second part of the book takes place around the actual London anti-Catholic (in theory, at least) riots, driven by Lord George Gordon, and the “politics” and demagoguery and players around such mirror a lot of what we see today. Sad, in a way. But the Maypole is nice! Until the . . . well, I won’t give too much more away. But I will start out at the Maypole, when one of the book’s main characters (out of a full and varied cast, as Dickens does), locksmith Gabriel Vaden, arrives at the pub on a stormy night.
When he got to the Maypole, however, and Joe, responding to his well-known hail, came running out to the horse’s head, leaving the door open behind him, and disclosing a delicious perspective of warmth and brightness – when the ruddy gleam of the fire, streaming through the old red curtains of the common room, seemed to bring with it, as part of itself, a pleasant hum of voices, and a fragrant odour of steaming grog and rare tobacco, all steeped as it were in the cheerful glow – when the shadows, flitting across the curtain, showed that those inside had risen from their snug seats, and were making room in the snuggest corner (how well he knew that corner!) for the honest locksmith, and a broad glare, suddenly streaming up, bespoke the goodness of the crackling log from which a brilliant train of sparks was doubtless at that moment whirling up the chimney in honour of his coming – when, superadded to these enticements, there stole upon him from the distant kitchen a gentle sound of frying, with a musical clatter of plates and dishes, and a savoury smell that made even the boisterous wind a perfume – Gabriel felt his firmness oozing rapidly away. He tried to look stoically at the tavern, but his features would relax into a look of fondness. He turned his head the other way, and the cold black country seemed to frown him off, and drive him for a refuge into its hospitable arms.
‘The merciful man, Joe,’ said the locksmith, ‘is merciful to his beast. I’ll get out for a little while.’
And how natural it was to get out! And how unnatural it seemed for a sober man to be plodding wearily along through miry roads, encountering the rude buffets of the wind and pelting of the rain, when there was a clean floor covered with crisp white sand, a well swept hearth, a blazing fire, a table decorated with white cloth, bright pewter flagons, and other tempting preparations for a well-cooked meal – when there were these things, and company disposed to make the most of them, all ready to his hand, and entreating him to enjoyment!
We continue along our Vanity Fair-ing, with Cocktail Talks and drinks, right here! Oh, because I like you, I’m gonna remind you that you need to be sure and catch the Vanity Fair Part I and Vanity Fair Part II Cocktail Talks, to read up more about the book itself (just a wee bit, cause if you want to go deep, there are better sources), and catch some sips of Champagne and other delights, including the mysterious (today) Rack Punch! Then come back here and get some rum-shrub, after the theater and oysters. Everybody’s doing it!
In the company of this gentleman they visited all the principal theatres of the metropolis; knew the names of all the actors from Drury Lane to Sadler’s Wells; and performed, indeed, many of the plays to the Todd family and their youthful friends, with West’s famous characters, on their pasteboard theatre. Rowson, the footman, who was of a generous disposition, would not unfrequently, when in cash, treat his young master to oysters after the play, and to a glass of rum-shrub for a night-cap. We may be pretty certain that Mr. Rowson profited in his turn by his young master’s liberality and gratitude for the pleasures to which the footman inducted him.
I’m sure you understand this: some days, you, or one, just wakes up in the morning thinking, “Today, I wanna make a drink from Jacques Straub’s recipe collection classic called, simply enough, Drinks (oh, you can get a Drinks reprint if you don’t happen to have it or want to pony up for an original)! Then, all the day long you think about it, unless you decide to have a breakfast drink, or a lunch drink. If so, good for you, champ! Still waiting on the invite. But if not, by the time HH (happy hour, natch) comes around, you have that little book (perfectly sized for dress shirt pockets, making it easy for bartenders to carry) out, and are turning until you come to The Hancock Sour, and then boom! Drink-making time.
But what bourbon? For me, this time, it’s Wood Family Spirits Columbia bourbon. Admittedly, a bottle recently came in the mail (don’t hate me! I do feel lucky about it), excitingly enough! If you don’t know, Wood Family Spirits is a distillery based in Hood River, Oregon. The family in the area traces back to pioneers in the middle 1800s, so they have lots of history in the PNW, and a desire to deliver well-made spirits here. In Columbia bourbon, they’re doing just that. Made in Tennessee using 80% corn, 10% barley, and 10% rye, it’s aged in brand new charred oak barrels (aging takes place in OR) and blended to “bottle in bond” strength. Which equals a robust 100 proof, that gives it a reassuring umph. It has a lovely aroma – caramel, spices (cinnamon, clove) – then a rich mouthfeel while you’re savoring the vanilla, caramel, sweetness mingling with the oakiness and highlighted by more of that cinnamon and clove and rye spicy goodness.
Wood Family Spirits Columbia bourbon’s full layered taste means it can be swigged solo happily, but also that it can stand up nicely in a drink like The Hancock Sour, one we’re bringing back from days of yore, and one that packs a decent amount of lime. In typical classic sour fashion, this might have had even more lime in the past (the recipe calls just for the juice of one lime), but 3/4s-of-an-ounce worked best for me. So, lime, sugar, bourbon, sounds like a regular sour, right? But there’s an intriguing twist – a hint of rum! That’s right, two spirits! The recipe doesn’t call out a specific rum, but I found a Diplomatico Reserva Exclusiva dark rum was perfect. Its complexity and sweetness added just enough hints to elevate this treat to another realm (if you haven’t had it, this rum delivers caramel, nuts, orange peel, vanilla, nutmeg, and allspice in a lovely combo). The other slightly sideways add to our sour is a splash of soda, which, funnily, helped everything come together without thinning it out. The original recipe said to garnish with “fruits of the season,” so I went strawberry, but I could see orange, cherries, even blackberries being nice and working with the lime.
One final note: I have no idea who Hancock is, or was, or if this drink even refers to a person. And, though in a way I wish I did, it doesn’t change one iota the deliciousness this sour delivers. Try it, and then next time remember to invite me to breakfast drinks!
While summer doesn’t officially start until, what, a month or thereabout from now, I’m always in my (very old) brain beginning to think “summer” in force on Memorial Day weekend, which is to say, right now! Summer only has a short “lease” (to bring us all together to the all together of this drink’s name), so I like to stretch it out longer than the calendar specifics. I’d say you can disagree, but, really, I doubt many would as it’s a fairly innocuous or unmemorable thought. This drink, however, is very memorable (if I may be so bold and not blush, as I created it), thanks to a double shot of rum – both white rum and the fancy Stiggins’ Fancy Pineapple rum, which is a delight to nature – a splash of herbally-but-approachably-awesome Montenegro amaro (most popular amaro in Italy by-the-way), pineapple juice (the juice epitome of summer), Scrappy’s Lime bitters (which if it would have been around during the first tiki wave, that wave would have never stopped), soda (for cooling and bubbly purposes), and fresh mint. It’s a treat all summer long, no matter how many days you want to celebrate the season.
Does one, when one is older, feel oldest in the Spring (as opposed to the other seasons)? I could see an argument being made for Winter, as the cold chills old bones, and perhaps Fall as well, as that’s the season when things (trees and their ilk) shed leaves and begin to go dormant, which points to getting old. In Summer, all are young, for some moments at least. I lean Spring, I have to say, as it’s when youth begins to be so evident after Winter, what with buds on the trees and shorts on or above the knees. Not to maudlin naturally, but mulling it, and placing that point as a reason why I’m having this delicious number today, a drink names after the explorer who went looking for the fountain of youth. Cause when the old bones yearn for being younger, that ol’ fountain sounds mighty fine. As it’s not, ya know, real, this drink (which will make you feel younger, for moments if not forever) will have to suffice, for now!
Every limbo boy and girl, all around the limbo world, gonna do the limbo rock, all around the limbo cocktail. That’s the song (Harry B will forgive me for slightly changing the lyrics, I hope) that one must sing when consuming this tropical-y cocktail, one which I hadn’t had in a long, long, long time, but which as I’m dreaming of travel and leaving the late winter mundanity behind, seemed ideal for today. It’s a fairly simple mix: big helping of rum to help with the dancing, papaya for beachyness, coconut milk to smooth things out and help with blending. Oh, and ice, as this is a blended number. Which also means it’s scaled for two, cause all blended drinks (which maybe get a bad overall rap in our modern snooty cocktail world, but which can be lots of fun yo) should be made for at least two, if not more. One note here: it could be my older sweet-tooth development, but maybe, just maybe, a spoon or two of Coco Lopez (a bit sweeter and thicker than coconut milk), or a splash or two of simple syrup, can be nice here. Give it a whirl. Or a blend! You’ll be singing, and sipping, Limbo lower now, Limbo lower now, how low can you go, soon!
2 cups cracked ice
4 ounces dark rum
1 cup peeled and cubed papaya
1 cup coconut milk
1. Place all of the ingredients in a blender. Blend well.
2. Pour into two large, peppy goblets and serve to two folks who know how to limbo. And sing.
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