September 6, 2022

Cocktail Talk: What Rhymes with Murder?, Part II

what_rhymes_with_murderAs 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 16, 2022

Cocktail Talk: The Comedians

comediansThe 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

August 2, 2022

Cocktail Talk: Appointment with Death

appointment-with-deathI’ve read, I think (though I haven’t kept the meticulous records I should have), at least 80% of all the Agatha Christie books, and yet I’ve still only a small handful of Agatha Christie Cocktail Talks on the ol’ Spiked Punch. That, friends, is a shame! But she doesn’t always have her characters swilling in the Cocktail Talk style, though Poirot (if I have to explain who that is, well, you need help) does like his crème de menthe and suchlike, and folks are swilling in her books. Probably, I get too caught up in the mysteries themselves, like in Appointment with Death, one of the ‘Poirot-on-travels’ variety, where he is in Middle East when a not-very-nice-at-all matriarch is murdered – at least, he thinks it is murder! He ends up hanging with a local gendarme to get to the bottom of things, cause (as everyone knows) Poirot doesn’t like murder! The particular usage of that phrase by someone else I believe caught my eye twice in the below quote, along with the whiskey and soda being consumed. So, this time, though I was deep into the mystery, I still did a double take and took the quote along for this very Cocktail Talk.

Colonel Carbury said unemotionally, “He don’t like murder! Quite right! No more do I!” He rose and poured himself out a stiff whiskey and soda; his guests’ glasses were still full. “And now,” he said, returning to the subject, “let’s get down to brass tacks.”

–Agatha Christie, Appointment with Death

July 1, 2022

What I’m Drinking: The Whizz Bang

It’s the first of July, which means that the fourth of July is only days away (poor first of July, always in the shadow – at least here in the US – of its holiday sparkling calendar sibling). On the fourth of July, people tend to have picnics, think (one hopes) about what makes this country the country it’s been for the last few hundred years, and blow things up with brightly-colored mini booms. The latter of which, between us, I’m not too fond of, as I’ve always had pups that don’t like it. So, if you’re in my neighborhood, keep it down, ya hear! But to balance things out, let me offer you this explosive (in taste!) firecracker of a drink, the ideal drink for the day of fireworks (though don’t have too many and then get around matches – a deadly duo if ever there was one), one so ideal I believe I’ve proposed it before as a fourth favorite. The bourbon, vermouth, Pernod (a nod to the revolutionary French), grenadine (homemade if you love your country – check out the homemade grenadine recipe here), and orange bitters combo is a tasty holiday treat. I use Scrappy’s Orange bitters below, and Woodinville Whiskey Co. bourbon, because A: they are both awesome, and B: supporting your local makers is about as patriotic as it gets. Now, don’t forget what we said about keeping the noise down for dogs!

whizz-bang

The Whizz Bang

 

Ice cubes

1-1/2 ounces Woodinville Whiskey Co. bourbon

3/4 ounce dry vermouth

1/4 ounce Pernod

1/4 ounce homemade grenadine

2 dashes Scrappy’s Orange bitters

 

1. Fill a cocktail shaker halfway full with ice cubes. Add the bourbon, vermouth, Pernod, grenadine, and orange bitters. Shake well.

2. Strain into a cocktail glass. Drink up.

June 21, 2022

Cocktail Talk: The Groom Lay Dead, Part II

groom-lay-deadIt was recently my anniversary (thank you to my wife for marrying me!), which seemed the perfect time to re-read the 1944 mystery by George Harmon Coxe (a fairly well-known mystery writer from mid-last-century) called The Groom Lay Dead! It’s a nicely-paced (not breath-takingly-paced like Day Keene, but it keeps things moving) mystery around the death of a somewhat asshole-ish rich guy, with our protagonist being a slightly shell-shocked (this the WW II era) play director. So, there’s glamorous folks, an interesting upstate New York Finger Lakes setting, a few potentially shady (or moreso!) potential murderers, as well as a sort-of cult-ish health farm run by a hypnotic man – always a good addition. Worth checking out, especially if you can get the cover pictured here. I had a The Groom Lay Dead Cocktail Talk on here after the first time I read it, many years in the past (do, don’t miss that, ya’hear?), but I’d forgotten about this minor character I liked, and felt he (George Vernon, vaguely trapped up the health farm/cult) and his night out deserved a second Cocktail Talk quote.

 

Apparently it had been quite a while since George Vernon had been out and he’d made up his mind to enjoy himself. He had four drinks at the bar in addition to the two he’d had at Yager’s house: he had another Scotch and soda with his dinner and called for brandy with his coffee. Parks was doing all right, too. He got a lot of laughs of Vernon, who long ago had insisted that we call him George.

 

— George Harmon Coxe, The Groom Lay Dead

May 24, 2022

Cocktail Talk: The Thin Man

thin-manAre you ready to celebrate tomorrow? I certainly hope so! Wait, celebrate what I hear someone in the back asking? Well, The Thin Man release date day of course! That’s right friends, one of the drinky-est movies of all time (and a swell mystery, too, natch), where the Martinis and such flow like rain in a Seattle winter, was released on 5/25, 1934, if memory serves. Based on the Dashiell Hammett book of the same name (which you must read), and kicking off a series of movies, The Thin Man for those whose lives have been sad so far, features drinking-and-joking-and-quipping-and-drinking-and-just-having-a-swell-time private detectives Nick and Nora Charles. And, for my money (what there is of it), the scene where we meet them for the first time is one of the best scenes in any movie, where a camera swerves through a crowded dance floor before you hear Nick telling the bartender the below, right after which Nora shows and orders seven Martinis. Amazing, as is this quote:

 

The important thing is the rhythm. Always have rhythm in your shaking. Now a Manhattan you shake to fox-trot time, a Bronx to two-step time, a dry Martini you always shake to waltz time.

 

–The Thin Man

March 18, 2022

What I’m Drinking: Mike Collins

I realize some may be saying “wait, has A.J. lost it, shouldn’t this drink have been made for yesterday, the actual Saint Patrick’s Day?” And while I can’t say I haven’t lost “it” (whatever “it” may be), I can say that I am fully of the opinion that while Saint Patrick’s Day can be a jolly time, and while I’m all for savoring and celebrating Irish culture and history (and other cultures and histories, too, for that matter), I don’t think that it should be regulated to just one day! Especially (for the sake of this particular blog’s focus, but not overall naturally) when it comes to drinks highlighting Irish whiskey or other Irish-made imbibables. Hence, the Mike Collins, the Tom Collins sibling (a once-large family now sadly less-known) that subs in Irish whiskey instead of Old Tom gin. I love ‘em both, but if you’ve yet to be introduced, Mike’s whiskey undertones of vanilla and spice and grain (I’m going with Teeling Small Batch today) and sweet nature go rather nicely with the citrus zing and bubbles here – while also providing a nice kick to the affair. It’s a springtime favorite, but one I’ve found lends itself more to early spring, to sitting outside and sipping on the porch while there’s an echo of chill still in the air (as opposed to running full-on through a late-spring field of flowers). A swell celebration today, as well as yesterday and tomorrow.

mike-collins

Mike Collins

 

Ice cubes

2 ounces Teeling Small Batch Irish whiskey

1/2 ounce freshly squeezed lemon juice

1/4 ounce simple syrup

Chilled club soda

Lemon slice for garnish

 

1. Fill a cocktail shaker halfway full with ice cubes. Add the whiskey, juice, and simple syrup. Shake well.

 

2. Fill a Collins glass or comparable three-quarters full with ice cubes. Strain the mix over the ice. Fill almost to the top with chilly club soda. Garnish with the lemon slice (stirring briefly if you want Mike mixed more).

 

 

March 15, 2022

Cocktail Talk: Killer Take All, Part I

deadly-pick-up-killer-take-allJust a week ago I talked about the double book book I’d recently picked up, talked about in The Deadly Pick-up Cocktail Talk post, that is, and therein mentioned the second book of the one-book duo, Killer Take All, by James O. Causey. And you know what? Today we are Cocktail Talking from that very book. It’s a swell piece of pulp pleasure, too, hitting the same pace and at least near the style of longtime fav Day Keene (read more Day Keene Cocktail Talks while you’re here why dontacha). By that I mean, our hero/narrator (who happens to be a golfer! Of all pulpy things) gets into trouble, then more trouble, then trouble piles on another layer of troubles, and troubling on and on until you feel there is no way he can get outta the trouble hole. Plus: some mobsters and ex-mobsters, an ex-girlfriend who may be untrustworthy, a cop who may be the opposite, loads of other shady intriguing figures, and (if that wasn’t enough) an old master painting playing a big part. Plus booze! And bars! A dandy, dandy read.

Stephen reached into his jacket pocket and brought out a pint of bonded bourbon. “Open it, Tony? We could both stand some anti-freeze.”

I took a deep slug. It was good whiskey. Stephen kept his eyes on the compass as he reached for the pint and downed almost half of it.

“Hey, you’re driving, remember?”

He took another slug and grinned, showing even white teeth. “Breakfast, man.”

–James O. Causey, Killer Take All

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