April 11, 2017
Those long-time readers of this Spiked Punch blog (which is all of you, correct?) know that I love me some Peter Lovesey
. Especially his Peter Diamond series, which is body-packed (lots of murders) with awesomeness. But I like tracking down his other books, too, and recently found one of the few I don’t already have, a super-fun read called Keystone
. It takes place during the early glory days of Hollywood, especially around the studio that made the Keystone cops. There’s a murder or two and some mysteries and a well-researched setting, and the regular tight pacing and prose that Lovesey always delivers. If you can find it, get it. And then drink a whiskey sour while reading it:
We had to go as far as Wilshire Boulevard to find a place that served hot meals in mid-afternoon. By then I was ready to tackle the steak that Murray ordered. I ate, while he drank whiskey sours and talked about Louise, their daughters, his early life and his career in motion pictures, from the San Francisco nickelodeon to the absurdities of Keystone.
— Peter Lovesey, Keystone
March 21, 2017
If you missed Part I of our Cocktail Talk tour through lesser-known (though it should be known) noir classic Black Wings Has My Angel by Elliott Chaze, then I strongly suggest you go read it now. You back? Cool! Here’s our second quote from that darkish crime tome, where main character Tim Sunblade is at a well-named bar drinking an old whiskey.
I drank a Coke in the Tuscany bar on Fifteenth. It tasted like gasoline. I went out and got a newspaper and came back into the Tuscany and sat in a booth with another Coke and the paper. Waiting. Somehow it got to be three o’clock. I bought myself a double I. W. Harper and water and four o’clock came around faster and then I went outside, walking toward the three-story building on Essex, not fast, but not slow, the whisky glowing just right in me.
— Elliott Chaze, Black Wings Has My Angel
March 17, 2017
Guess what? It’s St. Patrick’s Day. You may know this? I’m guessing you know this? Sure, sure. Please tell me though that even though you are aware of this holiday celebrating Irish culture and history that you weren’t going to celebrate by drinking some noxious green beer or something like that. Don’t make me sad. Make me happy. Tell me instead, that you are looking for the right drink featuring Irish whiskey. And I will tell you that I am here to help. With a slightly modified version of a drink I recently found in the Café Royal Cocktail Book – the reprinted edition from the fine folks at Mixellany. If you wanted to send me a copy of the original, go on, do it! In said book, it says this drink called Triplets was created by J. Nash. Thanks Mr. or Miss Nash! Also, it says this book originally used Vat 69 Whisky, an old brand of blended Scotch. It’s mingled with Drambuie (makes sense, with Scotch, right?), and Lillet, in equal parts. A bit nutty! But even nuttier, because when I read that, I thought – I’ll bet Irish whisky (mellow by nature, in some ways, and not completely un-related to its cousins across the water) would be good here, too. Especially a nice version like The Quiet Man Irish whiskey, blended and bottled in Derry, Ireland. Guess what? It is good here! And will make your St. Patrick’s day dreamy. Trust me! The world is based on trust, and now it’s your turn.
1 ounce The Quiet Man Irish Whiskey
1 ounce Drambuie
1 ounce Lillet
1. Fill a cocktail shaker halfway full with cracked ice. Add each triplet. Stir well.
2. Strain into a cocktail glass. Enjoy the holiday.
March 14, 2017
Is there anything better than discovering a very good book you’ve never heard of, by an author you’ve never heard of? Well, okay, I can think of one or two things better, but that might be it! But then, when you find out said author didn’t really write a lot more, well, then you’re sad. But happy. But sad! But happy! It’s a crazy world, and Black Wings Has My Angel, by Elliott Chaze, is a crazy good noir book, dark, full of passion and crime, and right in the Goodis vein (if you know what I mean, and if you don’t, I mean David Goodis). It’s hard sometimes to like the main hero/heroine here, but also impossible to not keep reading at a rapid pace to see what happens. There’s a heist, a murder, lots of action, lots of strange love, and lots of drinking. Which puts this book perfectly in Cocktail Talk continuum here, so much so that I’m going to have three different posts, with three different quotes, in this very month. Though Mr. Chaze is no longer with us, from whatever afterworld bar he’s at, I’ll bet he’d glad to see his book getting some love on the Spiked Punch – and you’ll be glad if you pick Black Wings Has My Angel and give it a read.
She went into the kitchen and mixed a strong drink. It was almost red with bourbon. She brought it back to the couch and sat down and there was the business of the fringes jiggling all over again. Then after a time she began talking: “Tim, don’t ever be a gentleman again. Like you were out in the yard when I turned the hose on you. It made me want to puke to see you standing there dripping and grinning at me as if I’d done you a favor. For God’s sake don’t turn into a gentleman on me.
— Elliott Chaze, Black Wings Has My Angel
February 10, 2017
There’s a delicate hint of hanky panky (not the classic drink, but the activity) in the name here, for me, at least (but I am an incurable romantic, and also like things like delicate hints, and gently bawdiness, as opposed to outright lewd-itity, I suppose. Most times!). Which is why I think this drink can cover the whole “Valentine’s Day” drink need just as well as some sweeter-in-taste, more traditionally romantic-y, numbers. Though this does have a little sweet, admittedly, along with a little citrus, and a lot of rye. In my mind, that rye is for lovers, too. But like I say, I’m an incurable romantic!
Up In Mabel’s Room, from Dark Spirits
1-1/2 ounces rye
3/4 ounces fresh grapefruit juice
3/4 ounces simple syrup
1. Fill a cocktail shaker halfway full with cracked ice. Add everything. Shake exceptionally well.
2. Strain into a cocktail glass. Enjoy.
January 24, 2017
The wonderful William Trevor passed away lately. One of the all-time top short story writers for sure, he also wrote a number of short-ish novels which are amazing for their pace, narrative control, writing chops of course, and way that his characters both seem remarkably normal and remarkable. Anywho, if you don’t know him, read him. The Story of Lucy Gault like many of his works takes place in Ireland, and really is one whole life, including one scene with one of the memorable Irish whiskeys.
Not listening any more, Lucy read the advertisements: for Ryan’s Towel Soap, and corner beer and whiskey and Guinness’s stout. She’s asked her papa what Guinness was when they saw it written up and he said it was the stuff Henry drank. There was a bottle of whiskey they’d left behind, only a little gone from it. Power’s it was.
–William Trevor, The Story of Lucy Gault
January 13, 2017
Here’s a super cool knowledge nugget I would like to drop on you. There’s a company that’s dedicated to producing Scotches that are modern interpretations of long-lost whisky. They are reincarnating, as they coin the phrase, in a delicious manner, these Scotches. See, many distilleries had to close during the century previous to this one, due to things like prohibition, globalization, and other economic issues, and the founders of The Lost Distillery company decided that it would be tragic (and I agree!) for the whisky those distilleries were making to be lost forever. Now, they’re re-making the whisky, using blends, with a range that travels all five Scottish whisky regions. That’s super cool, right!
I recently was able to taste their Benachie Scotch, which is called Jericho in other spots in the world, and which is based on whiskey made from the distillery of the same name, a Highland distillery that ran from 1824-1913 near the town of Insch (go read the full story). It’s a friendly dram, with an approachable malty, peaty nose that has a hint of sweetness, and a flavor that’s oaky and nutty, with some fruit accents and accommodating pepper and spice. A fine Scotch to bring back to life! And one I couldn’t resist using in a lesser-known number from days of yore called the Mickie Walker.
The Mickie Walker
1-1/2 ounces The Lost Distillery Benachie Scotch
1/2 ounce sweet vermouth
1/8 ounce freshly squeezed lemon juice
1/8 ounce homemade grenadine
1. Fill a cocktail shaker halfway full with ice cubes. Add everything. Shake well.
2. Strain through a fine strainer into a cocktail glass. Don’t get lost while drinking.
December 23, 2016
I was recently able to re-taste a tasty trio (they call it the Ultimate Range) of Ardbeg Scotch Whisky
, 10, Corryvreckan, Uigeadail, thanks to a friendly postal person (how nice they sometimes are!) delivering them to my door. I could go deeply into a review of each one, but honestly there are many spots you can look at for reams (do people still use the word “reams” in this way in the digital age? I hope so) of words on these Scotches. Cause they’re delicious, and you should try all three. If not right now, then soon. However, even when I’m sipping such swell sippers, I always get the urge in the back of my throat or mind to try them in a cocktail – even when most would only have such swell sippers solo or with one dash of natural spring water, or maybe a small perfect ice cube. Call me crazy. You won’t be the first one.
Here, I went with Corryvreckan
. Its lush aroma (blackcurrant, cherry, vanilla, pine, and brine) and even lusher taste (more blackcurrants and other forest-y fruits, dark cherry, pepper, almonds, smoke, a hint of honey, an intriguing echo of the sea), just called to me. It could
be the legendary and dangerous whirlpool it’s named after, too. Cause I am a sucker for a legendary whirlpool. With such a layered and memorable nature (and admittedly a price tag that’s not crazy, but not low end, either), I always want to be extra careful in what I mix it with, and want to let it really shine, just adding small amounts of ingredients that will accent and meld nicely.
I decided first on Martini Gran Lusso Italian vermouth, 150th anniversary edition, which itself comes from a blend of Barbera and oak-aged Moscato, and which boasts rich fruit tones and a little sweetness. The only other ingredient is one I’ve wanted to slip into a cocktail for as long as I’ve had a bottle: Breckenridge Bitters. Made as you might expect in Breckenridge, CO, it isn’t a “bitters” in the traditional sense of the word, more an aperitif that uses local alpine herbs in a magical manner – it’s also a tiny bit sweet, but balances it beautifully with a bitter, herbal loveliness. It’s available in many spots now, and I strongly suggest it.
That’s a powerful trio! And this cocktail is a powerful one – so full of flavor it’s hard to be believed. It’s a force of nature. Like whirlpools and mountains.
All Mountains Are One
2-1/2 ounces Ardbeg Corryvreckan
1/2 ounce Martini Gran Lusso Italian vermouth
1/4 ounce Breckenridge Bitters
Wide orange twist, for garnish
1. Fill a cocktail shaker or mixing glass halfway full with cracked ice. Add everything but the twist. Stir well.
2. Strain into a cocktail glass, or something comparable and neat. Garnish with the twist.
A Note: Is this close in nature to other Scotch cocktails, including perhaps the most famous of them all? Sure! But every good drink deserves its own good name, even if only one ingredient changes. Really, even if an amount of an ingredient changes. Be creative yo!