December 26, 2021

Cocktail Talk: The Philadelphia Story

philadelphia-storyIf you can, picture this: it is 86 years ago today (you have to use your imagination here, people). You are with the family, or friends, or just solo, and decide to go to a movie. What do you pick? Why The Philadelphia Story, of course. Romance, comedy, and the legendary trio of Katharine Hepburn, Cary Grant, and Jimmy Stewart? How could you go to anything else! And then, while watching you get to hear the below quote, which is an ideal Cocktail Talk. Of course, it being today and not 86 years ago, you can just stream up said movie. Go to!

 

Champagne’s funny stuff. I’m used to whiskey. Whiskey is a slap on the back, and Champagne’s a heavy mist before my eyes.

 

–Jimmy Stewart, The Philadelphia Story

December 23, 2021

What I’m Drinking: Homemade Irish Cream Liqueur

Here we are, Christmas Eve Eve, and if you’ve been putting off your holiday gift buying, well, I’ve been there (this is all if you’re someone who celebrates this particular winter holiday). I am, however, this time, here to help. Because, the best gifts – or at least near the top of the list – are homemade liqueurs that you’ve made yourself with care and love and give to someone. I can hear you saying, “wait, A.J., don’t homemade liqueurs take time to make and to get all the goodness good?” and you, friend, are right, in the main. However! There are a few delicious delights in Luscious Liqueurs (the book I wrote of homemade liqueurs, if that doesn’t sound too haughty), not a lot, not even a handful, that are meant to made right before consuming. Meaning, you can make them today, and gift them tomorrow or the next day. One of them is the very recipe below, for homemade Irish Cream Liqueur, a recipe that I first got the bones of from old pal Tara. It’s good to have old pals! And this recipe – again, if it doesn’t sound too haughty – beats the virtual pants off any big brand Irish Cream Liqueur. So, whip (or blend) it up, put on a nice label and bow, remind the gift-receiver to keep it in the fridge, and bask in the glow of their thanks and praise for your tasteful present. Then maybe they’ll give you a sip.

homemade-irish-cream-liqueur

Homemade Irish Cream Liqueur, from Luscious Liqueurs

 

Serves 4 to 6

 

1 14-ounce can sweetened condensed milk

1 cup heavy cream

1-2/3 cups Irish whiskey

1 teaspoon instant coffee (see Note below)

2 Tablespoon chocolate syrup

1 teaspoon vanilla

1 teaspoon almond extract

 

1. Add all of the ingredients in any order you want to a sturdy blender. Blend on a medium setting for a full minute, making sure that everything is completely combined.

 

2. Pour the mixture (using a funnel if needed) into a large (at least 1-1/2 liters) or a number of small bottles or jars. Seal, and put into the refrigerator before gifting.

 

A Note: Last time I made this, I used coffee itself instead of the grounds (it was Bustelo, if you know that lovely stuff), and it worked a treat. You be you.

 

December 21, 2021

Cocktail Talk: Some Slips Don’t Show, Part III

some-slips-don't-showAs we wind our way into the final Some Slips Don’t Show Cocktail Talk (by the way: love the book cover here!), we find ourselves back at a situation touched on briefly in the book’s Cocktail Talk Part I (don’t miss Part II, either), where the real star of the series, detective Donald Lam (don’t tell his partner Bertha Cool I said he was the star, though), is getting cuddlier with one of the murder suspects in this here tale. And, as happens in the books (written by Erle Stanley Gardner writing as A.A. Fair), this cuddling, or prelude to cuddling, happens over drinks. Doubles, even.

A waiter came over and she ordered a double Manhattan.

“Single for me,” I said.

“Bring him a double, she said, smiling at the waiter. “I don’t want to get ahead of him.”

The waiter nodded and withdrew.

We nibbled pretzels and did a little verbal sparring until the waiter came back with the Manhattans. They were both doubles.

 

–A.A. Fair, Some Slips Don’t Show

October 26, 2021

Cocktail Talk: Phantom Lady

phantom-ladyI went down a large Cornell Woolrich hole at one point in my life, and in some ways never came out (perhaps I’m not in as deep as I once was, which isn’t to say my liking of books by said author is less, but maybe to say I’ve read such a fair amount of those available that there aren’t that many more readily available) – heck, check out the past Cornell Woolrich Cocktail Talks for evidence. There are a fair few of them! You’ll get lots of background on this, the noir-y-est (in many ways – I mean, no mystery writer uses the word “black” in more titles for a start, but also he’s such a master of psychological dark moods and mental, as well as action-driven, thrillers that seem going down a dark path) of the pulp writers, perhaps. He also wrote under a couple pseudonyms, the best-known being William Irish, under-which name he became famous enough that I have a copy of The Best of William Irish which I was recently re-reading. Featuring two full-length reads and a handful of stories, the book’s highlight may well be “Rear Window” (from which the legendary movie was made, which you should re-watch right now), which, funny enough, I think was pub’d under Cornell’s own name originally (and originally called “It Had to be Murder”). But if you have a story which a famous movie is based on, you work it in. The whole collection starts with perhaps the most famous William Irish-monikered tale (though that could be debated), the novel Phantom Lady, which I am also lucky enough to have as a standalone book, and which was also made into a movie in 1944, a movie I haven’t seen, but would love to! The book’s chapters all countdown to an execution (28 Days Before the Execution, etc.), which gives an insight into the plot: a man is accused – falsely, we know – of the murder of his wife, with only one possible way to convince the police he’s innocent, finding of a missing woman who can place him at a bar at a particular time. It’s a good read and then some, keeping you moving and twisting around this way and that way, with a few more murders and lots of surprises. Having a bar with a key role doesn’t hurt, either, and neither does the mention of Jack Rose cocktails, among others, in the below Cocktail Talk quote.

 

He said, “I had a Scotch and water. I always have that, never anything else. Give me just a minute now, to see if I can get hers. It was all the way down near the bottom –“

The barman came back with a large tin box.

Henderson said, rubbing his forehead, “There was a cherry left in the bottom of the glass and – “

“That could be any one of six drinks. I’ll get it for you. Was the bottom stemmed or flat? And what color was the dregs? If it was a Manhattan the glass was stemmed and dregs, brown.”

Henderson said, “It was a stem-glass, she was fiddling with it. But the dregs weren’t brown, now, they were pink, like.”

“Jack Rose,” said the barman briskly. “I can get it for you easy, now.”

 

–Cornell Woolrich (writing as William Irish), Phantom Lady

October 12, 2021

Cocktail Talk: An Old Man’s Love, Part II

an-old-mans-love-trollopeI wasn’t sure we’d have two An Old Man’s Love Cocktail Talks, as it’s a quicker read (especially in comparison with many Trollope gems). However, here we are! I had to feature the quote in Part I (read it, to find out why, and to find out more about the book, the last full novel written by the English great, and for even more, check out all the Trollope Cocktail Talks), and then when mulling things over, didn’t want to miss the below, either. In it, we learn our lead character has had drinking whiskey as a doctor’s recommendation – something that doesn’t happen enough today!

 

He had, indeed, felt but little his want of success in regard to money, but he had encountered failure in one or two other matters which had touched him nearly. In some things his life had been successful; but these were matters in which the world does not write down a man’s good luck as being generally conducive to his happiness. He had never had a headache, rarely a cold, and not a touch of the gout. One little finger had become crooked, and he was recommended to drink whisky, which he did willingly,—because it was cheap. He was now fifty, and as fit, bodily and mentally, for hard work as ever he had been.

 

–Anthony Trollope, An Old Man’s Love

 

August 31, 2021

Cocktail Talk: Owls Don’t Blink, Part I

owls-dont-blinkThis may be one of the weirdest Cocktail Talks ever! Boom! If you’ve read past Erle Stanley Gardner Cocktail Talks, and you should, you’ll already know that I lean towards liking his books written under the pseudonym A.A. Fair (the Donald Lam-Bertha Cool mysteries) better than his more famous Perry Mason books (though as I age, I’ve found more of those I like a little more than expected, too), so that’s not weird. The book has a fair number of twists and turns and unexpectedness happening for PI Lam and jolly moments from PI Cool, with more of the former, but that’s all expected in these yarns, so not weird at all. Though ending in LA, much of the book (which was pubbed in 1942) takes place in lovely New Orleans, and that’s where the weirdness happens. See, I’d expect as a famous writer, and as one fairly meticulous usually, Mr. Gardner would have actually visited that fair city, and spent time on the streets and in the bars and restaurants before writing this book – and had some of the city’s legendary cocktails and highballs and such. And there are many classic libations that trace their histories back to New Orleans! However, when a scene takes place in a bar and PI Lam is ordering drinks, his list of “New Orleans drinks” is bafflingly, oh, boring? Un-New-Orleans-y? Weird? To me, weird. Maybe there was a time in the 40s that people thought of the below as New Orleans drinks? I’m glad it’s not now! But the below Cocktail Talk is still worthy – weird can be fun, too.

 

We had no more than seated her when the waiter came up for an order.

“Plain whiskey and water,” she said.

“Gin and Coke,” I ordered.

Hale pursed his lips thoughtfully. “Well, let me see. Do you have any really good Cognac?”

I answered for the waiter. “No,” I said. “Since you’re here in New Orleans, why not drink a New Orleans drink? Gin and Seven-Up; Gin and Coke; rum and Coke; or bourbon and Seven-Up?”

 

–Erle Stanley Gardner (writing as A.A. Fair), Owls Don’t Blink

August 20, 2021

What I’m Drinking: The Lucky Apple

Let’s just be open about it: today is Friday the 13th. For some (how many I wonder, actually listen deep in their brain to the old luck lore?), today is a potentially very unlucky day, one in which all are prone to accidents, downer deeds, bad juju, and the potential for potentially poor potentiality. I certainly don’t want to argue with other’s deep held beliefs on this blog, so if you’ve a worry about Friday the 13th, well, do what you do. I will say that I believe you can balance out a bit of potential bad luck by drinking something tall and refreshing and named to be lucky. It’s all about the balance! Here, the balance begins with a WA-state treat: 3 Howls single malt whiskey. Made out this-a-way with Northwest brewing specialty grains and traditional Scottish peat smoked barley (a lucky combination if ever), it’s a lush number, vanilla-y and caramel-y and smoky in a friendly way. Good solo for sure, but also good here, mixed with, first, legendary Italian, Sicilian specifically, amaro Averna, whose sweet-bitter herbal and other tastes (citrus, juniper, rosemary, sage, and more) goes in a lovely manner with our single malt. And also with apple cider, the non-booze kind. Apples and our above two players are quite a lucky thing. I’m going with nice and straightforward Tree Top 3 Blend cider, but you can experiment a bit. A sprig of mint in the manner of an extra stitch of summer funtime luck, some ice, and we’ve moved from potential into perfection, balancing out the day’s bad luck lore with some darn good sipping.

 lucky-apple

The Lucky Apple

 

Ice cubes

1-1/2 ounces 3 Howls single malt whiskey

3/4 ounce Averna

4 ounces Tree Top 3 Blend apple cider

Mint sprig, for garnish

 

1. Fill a highball or comparable glass three-quarters up with ice cubes. Add the whiskey and Averna. Stir a bit.

 

2. Top the glass off with the apple cider. Stir a bit more. Garnish with the mint. Feel lucky.

August 6, 2021

What I’m Drinking: Iollas’ Itch

iollas-itchOne of the invaders (in the best way) of summer into our yard is mighty fine mint. We have mint that’s been planted by us, years past, but either it’s spread or we’ve also had wild mint find it’s way into the yard. Though I wouldn’t be sad to be responsible for a mint invasion, I think I’d like it even better if there was wild mint propagating hither and thither randomly. But back to the point I’m meandering my way into making: we have a lot of mint! Not a problem to induce tears falling in any manner, but one that does mean searching for drinks that make fine use of mint, and eventually finding my way back to this particular potion: Iollas’ Itch, which I hadn’t made in a number of years. Not because it’s not delicious (it is), but because, well, there are loads of delicious drinks in the world and sometimes one forgets one or two. Anywho, this cocktail, though rye-based (yum), and with heady sweet vermouth (yum), I believe still beckons during the hotter months due to the addition of apricot liqueur, whose sweet fruitiness is very much sunshine-y (and, yum), and naturally that summer favorite that brought this paragraph on pointe: mint.

 

Iollas’ Itch, from Dark Spirits

 

3 fresh mint leaves, plus 1 fresh mint sprig for garnish

Ice cubes

2 ounces rye

3/4 ounce sweet vermouth

3/4 ounce apricot liqueur

 

1. Rub (carefully but firmly) the 3 mint leaves all around the inside of a cocktail glass. Then discard them.

 

2. Fill a cocktail shaker halfway full with ice cubes. Add the rye, apricot liqueur, and vermouth. Shake well.

 

3. Strain into the minty glass from above. Garnish with the mint sprig.

 

 

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