January 12, 2021
As mentioned just two weeks ago right here on the Spiked Punch blog, we’re going into a little turn through the Dickens’ classic Little Dorrit, a book I hadn’t featured here (some how?) until just that post two weeks ago (by the way, don’t miss the Little Dorrit Cocktail Talk Part I, so you can catch a little more about the book, and be sure to see all the Dickens Cocktail Talks to learn more about my love for Dickens and his love of drinks, pubs, drinkers, and dogs). In this particular quote, there’s a character named by his profession (which happens some in this book, to swell effect), and some sherry (which also happens), which is turned into a cocktail of sorts, which I am all for, as, I hope, are you.
Bishop said that when he was a young man, and had fallen for a brief space into the habit of writing sermons on Saturdays, a habit which all young sons of the church should sedulously avoid, he had frequently been sensible of a depression, arising as he supposed from an over-taxed intellect, upon which the yolk of a new-laid egg, beaten up by the good woman in whose house he at that time lodged, with a glass of sound sherry, nutmeg, and powdered sugar acted like a charm. Without presuming to offer so simple a remedy to the consideration of so profound a professor of the great healing art, he would venture to inquire whether the strain, being by way of intricate calculations, the spirits might not (humanly speaking) be restored to their tone by a gentle and yet generous stimulant?
–Charles Dickens, Little Dorrit
December 29, 2020
I can’t believe it’s the end of 2020 (a crappy year, as you know, with some redeeming factors), which means there have been, well, 2,020 years plus a few more years of recorded Western history (I’m not here to debate history, and realize I’m generalizing in a big way, but hey, I write about drinks), and in all those years I haven’t had a Cocktail Talk from the immortal Dicken’s classic Little Dorrit! That’s an outrage! What have I been thinking? I haven’t, obviously. While Little Dorrit isn’t my all-time favorite Dickens, it’s definitely in the middle-high range, and as I love most all Dickens books a heck of a lot, that’s saying something! Be sure to read all the Dickens Cocktail Talks to hear more. But be sure to come back, too, cause you don’t want to miss these quotes from Dickens fairly-dark novel that’s unflinching in its views of his society (which is remarkably like ours, in some sad ways), while still being wonderfully comic, character-driven, lyric, and descriptive, with layers of stories that disconnect and then connect again and characters you won’t easily forget. Dickens! And, of course, there are some drinks, as he liked drinks and pubs like few other authors. Our first Little Dorrit Cocktail Talk – and there will be more, don’t you fret – features the hero (in a way of speaking) of the book, Arthur Clennam, sitting down for dinner with a now-much-changed love from his youth, and with her father.
Once upon a time Clennam had sat at that table taking no heed of anything but Flora; now the principal heed he took of Flora was to observe, against his will, that she was very fond of porter, that she combined a great deal of sherry with sentiment, and that if she were a little overgrown, it was upon substantial grounds. The last of the Patriarchs had always been a mighty eater, and he disposed of an immense quantity of solid food with the benignity of a good soul who was feeding some one else.
— Charles Dickens, Little Dorrit
October 6, 2020
Recently, I had a Cocktail Talk from a story within the Anthony Trollope collection called, easily enough, Early Short Stories, a collection I picked up not long before that posting, thereby getting my complete Trollope collection that much closer to actual completion (and it’s pretty close!). Just to take a peek into the breadth of the Trollopean shelves, don’t miss the past Anthony Trollope Cocktail Talk posts, and for that matter don’t miss the Negus-packed Early Short Stories Part I post. But don’t miss this one, either, which takes place in Spain, which we visit alongside our English narrator. It’s one of my favorite stories in the collection, a comedy story of sorts, but also with the eye for detail and place most Trollope stories contain, and having the nice below sherry description.
I landed at Cadiz, and was there joined by an old family friend, one of the very best fellows that ever lived. He was to accompany me up as far as Seville; and, as he had lived for a year or two at Xeres, was supposed to be more Spanish almost than a Spaniard. His name was Johnson, and he was in the wine trade; and whether for travelling or whether for staying at home—whether for paying you a visit in your own house, or whether for entertaining you in his—there never was (and I am prepared to maintain there never will be) a stauncher friend, choicer companion, or a safer guide than Thomas Johnson. Words cannot produce a eulogium sufficient for his merits. But, as I have since learned, he was not quite so Spanish as I had imagined. Three years among the bodegas of Xeres had taught him, no doubt, to appreciate the exact twang of a good, dry sherry; but not, as I now conceive, the exactest flavour of the true Spanish character. I was very lucky, however, in meeting such a friend, and now reckon him as one of the staunchest allies of the house of Pomfret, Daguilar, and Pomfret.
–Anthony Trollope, “John Bull On The Guadalquivir”
September 15, 2020
Not too long ago (if you consider the amount of time within all of time, for sure) I had a couple Cocktail Talks from a book by Martha Grimes called The Man With a Load of Mischief, a book I liked pretty well. Not sure why (as this often happens) I didn’t search out more books by Martha G at the time, but, well, I didn’t. However, recently (being at home more and thereby reading more) I was scouring the shelves for a book to re-read, and I picked up said Load, and liked it again. It – as it seems all her books starring Scotland Yard’s Richard Jury – is very pub-focused, which I also like (pubs, that is! and pub-focused books), and so decided I’d keep my eyes open for more. And, low and behold, with open eyes I found one, called The Dirty Duck. Now, Grimes in the book-back blurbs gets compared at times to Agatha Christie, and while she isn’t anywhere for me as good as the best Agatha, she may not be as bad as the worst Agatha either (cause when Agatha goes off the mark, it can be far off). With that said, The Dirty Duck isn’t a bad read. It’s a little, oh, lazy at times, and a little dated for being 1984 (though that was, now that I think about it, a ways behind us in time), but it’s also a lot of fun, has some pretty neat twists and a good mystery, and is very readable. Best of all – it takes place in Stratford Upon Avon! At least for the main, and you probably can guess that means lots of Shakespeare, which I’m always for, and also the main pub (the Dirty Duck pub, that is) is one I know, and one that features mightily (under the name The Mucky Mallard) in the tv show Shakespeare and Hathaway, which I am mightily (two “mightily”s!) fond of. If that wasn’t enough to get you going, the Thomas Nashe poem “Litany in a Time of Plague” provided key clues, and is not only a swell poem, but incredibly apt right now with our own plague. And if that wasn’t enough, there are some good drinking quotes in the book, starting with the below.
One of these Americans, Miss Gwendolyn Bracegirdle, who had never had more than an ounce of sweet sherry at a time on the veranda of her huge pink-stuccoed house in Sarasota, Florida, was standing with a friend in a shadowy corner of the terrace getting sloshed.
“Oh honey, not another! This here’s my second – what do they call it?”
“Gin.” Her companion laughed.
“Gin!” She giggled. “I definitely couldn’t.” But she held her glass in a way that said she definitely could.
–Martha Grimes, The Dirty Duck
March 24, 2020
When you’re sorta, oh, staying at home for an extended period as some are at the moment, it’s good to have a big, big book (or many). If you’re looking for a good big, big book, may I suggest what I’m reading, The Big Book of Christmas Mysteries? Cause it is very big (700 plus pages in the version I have), and very good (I mean, it features tons of heavy-hitters covering many genres), and very holiday-y, which brings a nice feeling these days. Christmas and winter holidays are mystery-story hotspots, if you didn’t know, probably due to balancing the cheer out with murder. That’s a guess, but I’m just happy there are so many good stories here! Including one by Robert Barnard called Boxing Unclever. I have to admit, I didn’t know Mr. Barnard well before this story (I know, I probably should!), but one of the fun things about a big anthology like this is discovering the writers new to you, alongside your favorites. And this story is an intriguing one, a story within a story, and one with some nice – and murderous! – cocktail-talking, in the form of the below quote:
And so it was time for a second round of drinks. I decided on that as I saw toiling up the drive the figure of my dear old dresser, Jack Roden. My once dear old dresser. I poured out a variety of drinks including some already-mixed cocktails, two kinds of sherry, some gins and tonic, and two glasses of neat whisky. There was only one person in the room with the appalling taste to drink neat whisky before luncheon. Pouring two glasses gave that person a fifty-fifty chance of survival. Depending on how the tray was presented. With my back to the guests I dropped the hyoscine into one of the whisky glasses.
— Robert Barnard, Boxing Unclever
December 13, 2019
I was browsing the small-but-swell Standard Cocktail Guide from Crosby Gaige today, and read this, “In this year of 1944 it behooves the prudent mixer to know his rums. Good whiskey is now scarce and will be scarcer for some time to come while good rum is in plentiful supply.” First off: glad we have so many plentiful options of both rums and whiskey (and other delights) today! Secondly, it still behooves the prudent mixer to know and love rum. Thirdly, I found a delightful little recipe in this Rum section of this delightful little book, one I can’t remember if I’d made before, called The Frank Morgan. So, I wanted to make it again, even though I’m not sure which Frank Morgan it’s named after – though I think it’s the early 19th century actor. Let’s say that!
Anywho, the drink is deceptively simple: rum, sherry, Angostura bitters. But with that simplicity, the rum must be one – it behooves the drink – that really shines. Lucky for me, I recently received a bottle of Bacardi Gran Reserva Especial dark rum in the mail (don’t hate me, be happy for me!). Admittedly, this is a really fine, fine rum, and one that in most situations you’d want to sip solo. I mean, it’s a limited-edition number, aged a minimum of 16 years (!) in American white oak in the Caribbean. You’ll find stone fruits, caramel, a little island forest, and more unveiling as you sip, and an overall lushness that can’t be beat. So, sip solo for sure. But, you know me (right?), I had to try it in a cocktail, too, and this one is ideal, cause the rum really does shine, with just a few other players. Starting with the sherry side, where I went with Williams & Humbert Dry Sack Medium sherry, which has a nice nutty and spice notioning that matched well. Add old pal Angostura, and here we are. Well, almost! Though it’s not in the original recipe from the esteemed (from whatever afterlife bar he’s at) Mr. Gaige, I added a small orange twist. And that burst of citrus was a treat. Both he and Mr. Morgan would approve, I believe.
The Frank Morgan
2-1/4 ounces Bacardi Gran Reserva Especial dark rum
3/4 ounces Williams & Humbert Dry Sack Medium sherry
Dash Angostura bitters
Thin orange twist, for garnish
1. Fill a cocktail shaker or mixing glass halfway full with cracked ice. Add all but the twist. Stir well.
2. Strain into a cocktail glass. Garnish with the twist. Sip, and think about 1944 – and about the bounties in your local liquor store.
November 8, 2019
I have to imagine there are many sherry cocktails called “Oh Sherry” – I myself have an article about sherries called that. It’s such a musical name, and takes you on a journey (haha, I couldn’t resist), much like that breathless moment when a non-sherry drinker has good sherry, or a good sherry cocktail for the first time. To set this particular sherry cocktail apart, though, I’ve added Take 37 to the name. Why 37? I just felt like it! What also sets this particular sherry cocktail apart is Williams & Humbert Dry Sack Medium sherry.
With a citrus and cinnamon spice overlaying a lovely nuttiness, all with a smooth crispness accented when chilled, this sherry is nice on its own (don’t forget the chilling), but plays particularly well with others in cocktails, too. It also delivers a solid history, as Williams & Humbert has been making sherries and brandy for more than 140 years. What to mix with it on a late fall day? I wanted to keep things light – one of the many bonuses with sherry is that due to low abv-ing, you can use it as a base and have more than one without toppling. Bringing vermouth into play as our second ingredient doesn’t throw that equation off either, and here I went with Priorat Natur Vermut (or vermouth) an earthy Spanish vermouth, with citrus, almond, floral, and spice accents, and just a hint of bitter.
To our two Spanish pals, I also brought an island favorite, with even more citrus and a hint of sweet, Pierre Ferrand Orange curaçao, a wonderful addition to many cocktails and bar shelves. The final component, Fee Brothers Peach bitters, here bring into a slightly different fruit note, and a little more depth while still adhering to the overall light mood. You’ll sing this drink’s, and sherry’s, praises after one sip.
Oh Sherry, Take 37
1-1/2 ounces Williams & Humbert Dry Sack Medium sherry
1 ounce Priorat Natur Vermut
1/2 ounce Pierre Ferrand Orange curaçao
Dash Fee Brothers Peach bitters
Lemon twist, for garnish
Mint spring, for garnish (optional – but I’d suggest it)
1. Fill a cocktail shaker or mixing glass three quarters up with cracked ice. Add everything but the garnishes. Stir well.
2. Strain into a cocktail glass. Garnish with the twist, and, perhaps, a mint spring. I went just with lemon on my first drink, but added mint to the second and it was a treat.
September 18, 2018
Our re-visit to the Trollope late-period romantic comedy Ayala’s Angel continues (be sure to dip your toes into Part I, as well as our first Ayala’s Angel Cocktail Talk from years ago, so that you get a little more background on the book, as well as adding a few more smiles and cocktail-ing to your day), with a little sherry and bitters and some nice ranting about sherry and bitters.
Sir Thomas went on, with a servant at his heels, chucking about the doors rather violently, till he found Mr. Traffick alone in the drawing-room. Mr. Traffick had had a glass of sherry and bitters brought in for his refreshment, and Sir Thomas saw the glass on the mantelpiece. He never took sherry and bitters himself. One glass of wine, with his two o’clock mutton chop, sufficed him till dinner. It was all very well to be a Member of Parliament, but, after all, Members of Parliament never do anything. Men who work don’t take sherry and bitters! Men who work don’t put their hats in other people’s halls without leave from the master of the house!
—Ayala’s Angel, Anthony Trollope