July 17, 2018
It had been a long, long stretch of days since I’ve had a Cocktail Talk post from a tale by one of our pocket-book specialists (in the 50s, that is), George Harmon Coxe – past hits here have covered his books The Groom Lay Dead
and Murder in Havana
. Those titles, along with the book we’re quoting here, The Crimson Clue
, give you insight into where his reads roll: mysteries and crimes and all that good stuff. In The Crimson Clue
, the hero is one I hadn’t seen before: a news photographer named Kent Murdock. I like the idea of a photographer shooting snaps and then solving crimes, and Kent’s a nice protagonist, and the book moves along at a persistent clip (as most pocketbooks do), has an intriguing cast (jazz musician, ex-cops, good cops, singer, rich folks doing bad things, and more), and a solid story. And, a fair amount of cocktailing and straight sipping, including the below, which asks an eternal question:
She watched him slip off his topcoat and put it on the arm of the divan, her head dipped, glance speculative. “Would you say it was too early for a drink?”
Murdock made an act out of looking at his watch and frowning over the proposition. When he looked at her she laughed.
“Bourbon?” she asked.
“That’ll be fine.”
“On the rocks, huh?”
She started for the kitchen and he asked if he could help and she said no. “On this kind of a drink,” she said, “no-body needs help. Sit down, will you? Park. Make yourself comfortable.”
— George Harmon Coxe, The Crimson Club
June 26, 2018
Just last week, I highlighted a Cocktail Talk quote from an old noir novel called Park Avenue Tramp
, which (as detailed there) was part of a Stark House Noir Classics collection that features three out-of-print noir novels all together. These collections are really worthy reads if you dig the pulps, noirs, and pocketbooks-with-saucy-covers, because they feature books not easily picked up today. In this collection, I liked all three reads, but my favorite might have been The Prettiest Girl I Ever Killed
, by Charles Runyon. A small town serial killer search, in a way, it moved fast, had a fair amount of twists and turns, tight and creative lingo and well-written prose-ing, and a female lead who showed some gumption. All good stuff! And a good Cocktail Talk quote about a country bar, which you’ll see below.
It was a little gas station and honky-tonk; the kind you see around the country with names like Burntwood Inn and Cozy Dell. This one was called Pine Cover Tavern and was crowded (there was no work in the fields because of the rain) with men in overalls and a couple of women in print dresses. We drew stares as we walked to a booth in the back. I felt wicked and daring, and though it was unlikely that any Shermanites would see me, I found that I didn’t really care if they did. I told Curt to order me a boilermaker: a glass of beer with a shot of bourbon inside it. He ordered the same for himself and drank silently for a few minutes.
–Charles Runyon, The Prettiest Girl I Ever Killed
June 15, 2018
We are now moving our individual boats and vessels into what – for many – counts as vacation season. Which means it’s a time for fun, but also, naturally, a time for waiting in lines. Now, I’m not saying you should be drinking while waiting in said lines, but hey, once you get through said lines, you may well need a refreshing drink, and perhaps one with a little kick, and one which references the vacationing and such because if we can’t come full circle, then it’s worth asking what it’s all for, anyway, and summer certainly isn’t the season for such deep questionings. I mean, it’s summer!
This here drink fits said bill, cozily, and in a Washington-state-meets-France way, as it only contains three ingredients, and two are from WA and one from FR. First up, Vashon-island- (speaking of ferry lines) made Seattle Distilling Company Idle Hour single malt whiskey, a delicious Irish-whiskey-leaning single malt. Second, France’s legendary herbal liqueur Bénédictine. Third, originally, at least, when I first made this, many vacations ago, was another Vashon Island hit, Vashon Brewing Company’s Cherrywood Smoked porter. Now, this is a delicacy – heck, all three are! But if you absolutely can’t find it, you could sub in another porter, and be okay. Better than okay, even! And while it’s won’t be the same journey, it’ll still fulfill that post-line-waiting need in a dandy manner.
The Idle Ferry
1-1/2 ounces Seattle Distilling Company Idle Hour single malt whiskey
1/2 ounce Bénédictine
4 ounces Vashon Brewing Company’s Cherrywood Smoked porter
1. Add three or four ice cubes to a highball or comparable glass. Add the whiskey and the Benedictine. Stir.
2. Carefully add the porter to the glass. Stir carefully, from the bottom up.
May 4, 2018
Some days are difficult. Take tomorrow, for instance. It’s a tasty kind of difficult, because two solid drinking days are happening tomorrow, the fifth of May, 2018. First, it’s Cinco de Mayo, a fantastic day for having Mexican-inspired drinks, in celebration of the Mexican Army’s win over the French at the battle of Pueblo and Mexican-American culture. If you’re having sippers for Cinco, I dig it. However! It’s also the 144th running of the Kentucky Derby, a day when more Mint Juleps are consumed than any other day, and a day when many fine hats are worn. I’m going the Julep route tomorrow (admittedly, I may have a National Arms tomorrow, too). And one today, cause, well, I wanna make sure I have things right.
Why the Julep route this 5th? Well, a lot of the reason is because I received a bottle Clyde May’s Straight Bourbon in the mail the other day, and I’ve been itching to try it in a julep, and, well, the circumstances seemed too fortuitous to miss! Boasting a swell-looking bottle with visuals harkening back to the inspiration of the name, Clyde May that is, who legend says was a “moonshine icon who made the best whiskey Alabama ever tasted” starting back in 1946, and made by the Conecuh Ridge Distillery, this bourbon’s a nice 92 proof, is non-chill filtered, and aged for 5 years (hey, another 5 on 5/5!) in heavily charred American oak. Its aroma features vanilla, dried fruit, oak, and spice all playing together, and a taste that mirrors the vanilla and oak, but also delivers brown sugar, nuts, and more spice, including a peppery, near-peppermint-ness on the back end. Nicely balanced all around, and worth sipping solo, but also a solid cocktail bourbon that can provide flavor and backbone.
Especially in a Mint Julep, one of the older mixes bourbon pals around within. You love Mint Juleps, right? You’re a good person, so I’m thinking you do. It’s such a swell combo, not just for Derby day, but all spring long. Just remember, as S.B. Buckner, Jr. said in a letter to General Connor, 1937 “A Mint Julep is not the process of a formula. It is a ceremony and must be performed by a gentleman possessing a true sense of the artistic, a deep reverence for the ingredients, and a proper appreciation of the occasion.”
The Mint Julep
Fresh mint leaves (4 or 5)
3/4 ounce simple syrup (go lighter to taste, if that’s your desire)
3 ounces Clyde May’s Straight Bourbon
Fresh mint sprig for garnish
1. Take one mint leaf and rub it over the inside of a metal julep cup (if you have one) or a highball glass. Be sure the mint touches each inch of the glasses inside. Drop the leaf in the glass when done.
2. Add the remaining mint leaves and the simple syrup to the glass. Using a muddler or wooden spoon, muddle the leaves and syrup. You want to be strong, but respectful.
3. Fill the glass half way with crushed ice. Add the bourbon. Stir well.
4. Fill the glass the rest of the way with crushed ice. Stir once. Garnish with a mint sprig.
A Note: To be traditional, you must crush the ice in a cloth bag. But if this is too much work, just start with crushed ice.
March 16, 2018
This all-time St. Patrick’s Day dreamweaver is one I suggest to every person I know for celebrating on March 17, cause it’s delicious, sure, and so much better than the array of chemically-green’d beer and such often served on the day. But also cause it was created by Jeremy Sidener, a true gentleman from Kansas, of which there aren’t many – true gentlemen, that is. The Dublin 8’s also fantastically refreshing. So, what are you waiting for? Might as well start celebrating now, right?
The Dublin 8
2 ounces Irish whiskey (I originally used Clontarf 1014 in this, but others would shine as well)
3 ounces freshly squeezed orange juice
3 ounces chilled ginger ale or ginger beer
Lime quarter for garnish
Lime slice for garnish
1. Fill a highball glass, or similarly-sized glass, three quarters up with ice cubes. Add the whiskey.
2. Add the orange juice and ginger ale.
3. Squeeze a lime wedge over the glass, and then drop it in. Stir gently. Garnish with the slice of lime.
December 22, 2017
Washington State distillers are dreamy (you probably have realized my feelings in this already, as I do go on – but they are awesome!), with so many worthy bottles out already, and more continuing to be released regularly. The latest example? Chambers Bay Straight Bourbon. A follow up to their highly-regarded 20-month aged Greenhorn bourbon, Chambers Bay Straight Bourbon is aged 3-1/2 years, and made from sweet yellow corn and soft white wheat from Grant County, WA, and the distiller’s proprietary wild-yeast strain harvested from a local apple orchard. If that wasn’t enough, though, the real sets-it-apart-thing here is that the aging takes place on a boathouse floating on the Puget Sound – from what I’ve been told, it’s the only whiskey in the world aged that long on the water, where the waves and tides speed up the aging (that’s the theory, at least). End result? A darn tasty tipple, with some nice sweetness from the wheat, and a mingling of sea-salted caramel, toffee, fig, orange, and chocolate.
It’s dandy to enjoy as a solo act, but of course I also wanted to try it in cocktails, and after trying this and then trying that, liked it best in The Hounds They Start to Roar. That drink has a bit of a history, which we won’t get it to too much here (you’ve already read the full story in Ginger Bliss and the Violet Fizz anyway, right? Right!), but I will remind you that the name comes from a Tom Waits’ song, as do the ingredients, in a way. Said ingredients are bourbon, naturally, but also St. Elizabeth Allspice Dram (the spice flavors contained therein, cinnamon, clove, and others, go wonderfully with the Chambers Bay bourbon mélange), brandy (which helps balance everything out), and Peychaud’s bitters (which adds another herbal tint or two). Together, it’s a drink fit for any sailor, dog lover, song-singer, or person reading this blog, which means you. Take it out for a walk or a sail and see if I’m right.
The Hounds They Start to Roar, from Ginger Bliss and the Violet Fizz
2 ounces Chambers Bay Straight Bourbon
3/4 ounce St. Elizabeth Allspice Dram
1/2 ounce brandy
2 dashes Peychaud’s bitters
1. Fill a cocktail shaker or mixing glass halfway full with cracked ice. Add the whole bunch of ingredients. Stir well.
2. Strain into a cocktail glass or comparable.
December 1, 2017
I don’t actually have a tipsy Italian uncle that I’ve named this after, and because of that, I wake up sorrowful every day. Okay, that’s not true! I did receive a bottle of Uncle Nearest 1856 whiskey in the mail recently though. That’s true! I know, getting whiskey in the mail should make me happy – and it does. True!
Uncle Nearest has a great story. It was made in honor of Nathan “Nearest” Green, a former slave who as the story goes taught Jack Daniel how to distill. Amazing! While it was launched in Portland, OR, it’s made in Tennessee using at least 51% corn, filtered via sugar maple charcoal, aged in new American oak, and bottled at 100 proof. That proof gives it a nice sturdy backbone, mellowed by vanilla and rounded out with hints of sesame and cinnamon in the flavor. It’s a sipper, for sure, and one that’ll warm you and your uncles.
When mixing with it, I wanted to keep that umph and personality, but take a little edge off, and bring some herbal helpers into the party. And I went Italian (as I often do), with Montenegro amaro (which lies on the sweeter side of the amaro scale) and Punt e’ Mes vermouth. Also brought old pal Peychaud along, too. End result is robust, with layers and layers of flavor. I think tipsy uncles everywhere would be proud.
The Tipsy Italian Uncle
1-1/2 ounces Uncle Nearest whiskey
1 ounce Montenegro amaro
1/2 ounce Punt e’ Mes sweet vermouth
1 dash Peychaud’s bitters
1. Fill a cocktail shaker halfway full with cracked ice. Add the whole family. Stir well.
2. Strain into a cocktail glass. Make a second for your uncle (or in his honor, at least).
September 26, 2017
Obviously, Alfred Hitchcock was the tops. Movies, television, and being an overall memorable figure, today, we sometimes forget that he also edited a host of anthology horror and mystery books. How much did he actually have to do with them? Heck, I’m saying a lot, but he was a famous figure, and you know how that goes. Doesn’t matter one way or another to me though – I have a couple of these little pocket-sized collections, and keep my eyes open for more. Recently, I grabbed another one called Bar the Doors, which contains “thirteen superlative tales” selected, as it says, by Alfred himself. One of those is a sea-going yarn called “The Upper Berth,” by F. Marion Crawford – more a ghost or creature feature, it mostly takes place on a ship you wouldn’t want to voyage upon. It was a favorite of mine in the book, as well as having a whisky cocktail and a sherry scene with a great name in it.
“One hundred and five, lower berth,” said I, in the businesslike tone peculiar to men who think no more of crossing the Atlantic than taking a whisky cocktail at downtown Delmonico’s.
The steward took my portmanteau and greatcoat. I shall never forget the expression of his face. Not that he turned pale. It is maintained by the most eminent divines that some miracles cannot change the course of nature. I have no hesitation in saying that he did not turn pale; but, from his expression, I judged that he was either about to shed tears, to sneeze, or to drop my portmanteau. As the latter contained two bottled of particularly fine old sherry presented to me for my voyage by my old friend Snigginson van Pickyns, I felt extremely nervous.
—The Upper Berth, F. Marion Crawford