August 31, 2021
This 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
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.
The Lucky Apple
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
One 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
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.
August 3, 2021
A bit of a departure for many fans from his more tense thriller-ific films, To Catch a Thief is still, I believe, a wonderful Hitchcock film. The glamour of the setting and the leads (Cary Grant and Grace Kelly of course), the movement of the lens, the pace, the light suspense and banter, all of it comes together in a summery kind of way that lends itself to repeat viewings. If you haven’t seen it, well, you should. And if you have, but not recently, give it another viewing. It is, in one word, charming. But why (I hear you asking) am I blathering a bit on about it? Well, it was released on this day exactly in 1955! So, that deserves a Cocktail Talk, and the below quote is a dandy one.
“Bourbon’s the only drink. You can take all that champagne stuff and pour it down the English Channel.”
–John Michael Hayes (screenwriter), To Catch a Thief
July 23, 2021
Once, I, and some athletic and newsworthy and hilarious and thirsty and running pals made a very silly Class of the Race video, which you should watch cause you like fun, and you like drinks (or why would you be here). But you can watch it without a pen in hand to write down the recipe for the drink had in the video, The Class of the Race that is, because I have the recipe directly below. It’s a swell sipper, too, one worthy of any race winners, and, though bourbon-based (well, bourbon and bubbly-based), one that I believe can be had in summer, due to said bubbly, chilled. A little simple syrup, to sweeten things up, a little Benedictine, to add those monastically-herbal notes, and a little Peychaud’s bitters to underline it all, round the drink out and make a worthy finishing line for your July Friday.
The Class of the Race, from Dark Spirits
2 ounces bourbon
1 ounce Benedictine liqueur
1/2 ounce simple syrup
2 dashes Peychaud’s bitters
Chilled brut Champagne or sparkling wine
1. Fill a cocktail shaker halfway full with ice cubes. Add the bourbon, Benedictine, simple syrup, and bitters. Shake well (but not so well that you expire from the effort).
2. Strain the mix into a Champagne flute. Top with the bubbly.
A Note: Pheidippides was the original marathoner, running from Marathon to Athens after a battle in 490 B.C. without stopping once, announcing, “We have won,” and then reportedly dying. I feel this is something you should know when having this, but don’t let it flatten your bubbles.
July 20, 2021
Our third Orley Farm Cocktail Talk revisits a character introduced in Part II (for more on the overall book, see Part I, and for more Trollopean fun, see all past Anthony Trollope Cocktail Talks), traveling salesman for Hubbles and Grease, Mr. Moulder. In this quote, we find our rotund commercial traveler at home for Christmas celebrations, where he and his missus are hosting a few others for a big feast, and where Mr. Moulder is talking of the liquid possibilities for the day, specifically brandy and a special whiskey,
And then, as for drink, —”tipple,” as Mr. Moulder sportively was accustomed to name it among his friends, he opined that he was not altogether behind the mark in that respect. “He had got some brandy—he didn’t care what anybody might say about Cognac and eau de vie; but the brandy which he had got from Betts’ private establishment seventeen years ago, for richness of flavour and fullness of strength, would beat any French article that anybody in the city could show. That at least was his idea. If anybody didn’t like it, they needn’t take it. There was whisky that would make your hair stand on end.” So said Mr. Moulder, and I can believe him; for it has made my hair stand on end merely to see other people drinking it.
— Anthony Trollope, Orley Farm
June 29, 2021
Ah, Poirot. Hercule Poirot, that is (are there other Poirots? If so, I feel for them). I know that with many books, shows, films, poems, and sculptures, some may feel a Poirot overload at times – and this isn’t even to mention the many, many, Poirot imitations and bowdlerizations. But I still love the egg-shaped Belgian, in book and movie and TV show form. Thank you Mrs. Christie! Somedays, dipping back into a Poirot yarn is just the relief a long day needs. Especially when Poirot starts hitting the sweet liqueurs (you could probably guess this), which I’ll admit also loving, probably a rarity among English speakers in his day (well, the day his adventures were set within, that is), though hopefully something not as rare today, with our lucky-for-us wider palate of bar bottle resources and consumption. Hopefully! Anyway, this is all to say, I was re-reading the classic Poirot book Mrs. McGinty’s Dead, which has it all – a murder, a perhaps wronged potential murderer, small town England townies, historical murders, more murders, and very tight patent-leather shoes. Plus: well-groomed mustaches of course! And, a wonderful listing of Poirot’s fav sweet tipples, and beer.
Poirot pressed his guest with refreshments. A grenadine? Crème de Menthe? Benedictine? Crème de Cacao…
At this moment George entered with a tray on which was a whisky bottle and a siphon. “Or beer if you prefer it, sir?” he murmured to the visitor.
Superintendent Spence’s large red face lightened.
“Beer for me,” he said.
Poirot was left to wonder once more at the accomplishments of George. He himself had had no idea that there was beer in the flat and it seemed incomprehensible to him that it could be preferred to a sweet liqueur.
When Spence had his foaming tankard, Poirot poured himself out a tiny glass of gleaming green crème de menthe.
–Agatha Christie, Mrs. McGinty’s Dead
June 18, 2021
Well, honestly, this one sells itself: summer starts in two days. This tangy-but-umphy-but-herbally-but-a-smidge-sweet-but-fruity-but-bitter-in-a-good-way-but-delicious drink is called Summer Dream. This recipe serves 2, because summer isn’t a season to spend alone. And this base spirit, bourbon, is a fine base for a drink, even in summer no matter what anyone says. Finally, fruit. So, I don’t know that I need to say anymore, cause I’d just get in the way of you making this drink, and also get in the way of my making one.
Summer Dream, from Dark Spirits, Serves 2 (because of reasons mentioned above)
3 orange slices
2 peach slices
4 ounces bourbon
2 ounces Campari
1 ounce simple syrup
1 ounce freshly squeezed lemon juice
1. Add the orange and peach slices to a cocktail shaker. Using a muddler or wooden spoon, muddle well.
2. Fill the cocktail shaker halfway full with ice cubes. Add the bourbon, Campari, simple syrup, and lemon juice. Shake really well, if a little wistfully, for at least 15 seconds.
3. Strain the dream through a fine strainer equally into two cocktail glasses.