November 14, 2023
For our fourth (but not our last!) visit within the pages of the Charles Dickens delight, the criminally under-read Barnaby Rudge, we get a view into some family relations, here between the, I’d say, villain of the piece, or one of such (perhaps the most villainous, though also well admired by many), and his son – who is, by curious ways and means, one of the heroes of the piece. While Mr. Chester, the father, may not be one who induces admiration within a reader (or not many of such), you can’t fault him for his views on wine in the below. Which goes to show that few are totally irredeemable. One hopes at least. Avoid being such yourself by reading the Barnaby Rudge Cocktail Talks Part I, Part II, and Part III (and really, checking out all the Charles Dickens Cocktail Talks will probably make you heroic, too).
“My dear Edward,” said Mr. Chester at length, with a most engaging laugh, “do not extend your drowsy influence to the decanter. Suffer that to circulate, let your spirits be never so stagnant.”
Edward begged his pardon, passed it, and relapsed into his former state.
“You do wrong not to fill your glass,” said Mr. Chester, holding up his own before the light. “Wine in moderation — not in excess, for that makes men ugly — has a thousand pleasant influences. It brightens the eye, improves the voice, imparts a new vivacity to one’s thoughts and conversation: you should try it, Ned.”
“Ah, father!” cried his son, “if —”
“My good fellow,” interposed the parent hastily, as he set down his glass, and raised his eyebrows with a startled and horrified expression, “for Heaven’s sake don’t call me by that obsolete and ancient name. Have some regard for delicacy. Am I grey, or wrinkled, do I go on crutches, have I lost my teeth, that you adopt such a mode of address? Good God, how very coarse!”
–Charles Dickens, Barnaby Rudge
September 19, 2023
Out final Vanity Fair Cocktail Talk, before we leave the legendary Thackeray (at least until I re-read or read another book of his!) in whatever afterlife bar he’s hanging out in today. But before leaving him and the book, we’re going to go along with one of the book’s large cast of characters for what I can only call a mighty mighty impressive day of drinking and eating. It’s, well, legendary (as are the Vanity Fair Cocktail Talks Part I, Part II, and Part III, which you should read).
Having partaken of a copious breakfast, with fish, and rice, and hard eggs, at Southampton, he had so far rallied at Winchester as to think a glass of sherry necessary. At Alton he stepped out of the carriage at his servant’s request and imbibed some of the ale for which the place is famous. At Farnham he stopped to view the Bishop’s Castle and to partake of a light dinner of stewed eels, veal cutlets, and French beans, with a bottle of claret. He was cold over Bagshot Heath, where the native chattered more and more, and Jos Sahib took some brandy-and-water; in fact, when he drove into town he was as full of wine, beer, meat, pickles, cherry-brandy, and tobacco as the steward’s cabin of a steam-packet.
— William Thackeray, Vanity Fair
September 8, 2023
We’re in that time straddling summer and fall (though I fully realize fall doesn’t start specifically until the 22nd), which means days that can shade summery but then delve into a crisp fallness pointing to the colder days to come. To make the straddling smooth, it’s preferable that you have a drink that does the same, and if it’s a regal one, too, well, all the better! The Lord Charles fits that bill, with its full-bodied red-wine works-in-winter keep-you-warm Malbec base, mingling with simple syrup, citrus-y lemon juice, smooth dry sherry, and bubbly club soda, that which, with some ice, brings this drink into a level of refreshingness that summer (if you personify) would certainly appreciate. You’ll dig it, and it will dig you (if you think drinks dig people, which maybe they do, why not), and help you do that straddling we talked of. Enjoy!
The Lord Charles, from Wine Cocktails
2 ounces Malbec
1 ounces Simple Syrup
1/2 ounce fresh lemon juice
1 2 ounces dry sherry
Chilled club soda
Lemon twist, for garnish
1. Fill a cocktail shaker halfway full with ice cubes. Add the Malbec, simple syrup, lemon juice, and sherry to the shaker. Shake well.
2. Fill a highball glass three-quarters full with ice cubes. Strain the Malbec mixture over the ice cubes. Fill the glass with club soda, almost to the rim.
3. Twist a lemon twist over the glass and drop it in. Stir briefly. Enjoy the seasons.
April 18, 2023
A second Cocktail Talk from the Oxford Book of Ghost Stories (see “The Empty House” Cocktail Talk for a bit more background there), here from a story called “The Taipan,” by the legendary W. Somerset Maugham. An author who has many books I’ve liked, by the by, though this story wasn’t the strongest in the book by a ways, and might not even be a ghost story. Folks can quibble about that. What you can’t quibble about is that the main character can put down a lot, a whole lot, of booze with lunch. I had to include the below, just cause I was so impressed with his ability to walk after the liquid consumed below.
But he smiled, for he felt in an excellent humour. He was walking back to his office from a capital luncheon at the Hong-Kong and Shanghai Bank. They did you very well there. The food was first-rate and there was plenty of liquor. He had started with a couple of cocktails, then he had some excellent Sauterne, and he had finished up with two glasses of port and some fine old brandy. He felt good. And when he left he did a thing that was rare with him; he walked.
— W. Somerset Maugham, “The Taipan”
February 28, 2023
Our second Cocktail Talk from the all-time classic (is that a strange turn of phrase? “All-time” should be inferred in “classic” I suppose) and amazing book of amazingness Bleak House has arrived right here! Be sure you read the Bleak House Part I Cocktail Talk, too, so you feel all caught up and can laugh at my silliness even more. In this here Cocktail Talk below, we are fully-focused on Mr. Tulkinghorn, who is both one of the villains, (there are layers of villainous behavior, but I’d call him the top layer) and then part of one of literature’s first mystery plots. That’s all I’m saying! Read the book. While Mr. T isn’t someone you like, like, his love of old port in the below is for me a tiny redeeming factor in his Dickens-driven makeup. And his name is great, too, like most Dickens names.
In his lowering magazine of dust, the universal article into which his papers and himself, and all his clients, and all things of earth, animate and inanimate, are resolving, Mr. Tulkinghorn sits at one of the open windows enjoying a bottle of old port. Though a hard-grained man, close, dry, and silent, he can enjoy old wine with the best. He has a priceless bin of port in some artful cellar under the Fields, which is one of his many secrets. When he dines alone in chambers, as he has dined to-day, and has his bit of fish and his steak or chicken brought in from the coffee-house, he descends with a candle to the echoing regions below the deserted mansion, and heralded by a remote reverberation of thundering doors, comes gravely back encircled by an earthy atmosphere and carrying a bottle from which he pours a radiant nectar, two score and ten years old, that blushes in the glass to find itself so famous and fills the whole room with the fragrance of southern grapes.
–Charles Dickens, Bleak House
October 25, 2022
It’s been a while since I’ve read a book by Magdalen Nabb, too long, it seems, as I’d forgotten how enjoyable they are. But, I was recently in Florence, where her (detective and mystery-y books, not the kids books as far as I know) books take place in the main, and felt I should revisit one of them in honor of the Florence revisit. Did that make sense? Blame the jet lag if not! Anyway, I went with Death of the Englishman, the first of her Florentine mysteries, featuring Marshal Guarnaccia (along with other reoccurring characters, some of whom get more time than he in some books. It’s neat, and incredibly well-done, how she balances out the various narratives. Very skilled without being showy). There’s a murder and a mystery and some thieves, too, all goods stuff, but the best stuff is the detailed look at Florence, the streets, the smells, the food, the sights, and especially the people and the routines and experiences they go through. If you love Florence, Italy, or mysteries well-written that transport you, then you should be in on these. Especially if you also like wine, grappa, or vin santo (like me).
“Well, try and get some rest, anyway, and drink plenty of fluids.” Both of them noticed at the same time the almost empty whiskey bottle standing by the parchment lamp. “Not that stuff.”
“I’ve never tasted it.” The Marshal drank half a litre of red every day with his evening meal, never more nor less, and a drop of vin santo on Sundays.
“And no wine, either, while you’re on this.” The professor was reading the Marshal’s mind as he wrote.
–Magdalen Nabb, Death of an Englishman
August 9, 2022
It’s been 8 years (!!!) since I had the first Cocktail Talk from the George Simenon book My Friend Maigret – which, if memory serves (sadly, it doesn’t serve as well as it once used to, hahaha), was the very first Inspector Maigret book I ever read, after picking up three at once at the now-much-missed Seattle Library Book Sale. Since, I’ve taken many a stroll with the taciturn-at-times slow-moving-at-times always-large always-interesting Maigret, and look to take many more, though my collection is getting nearer and nearer to full. What a treat to go back and read this yarn, which falls into the category of Maigret-outside-of-Paris in the main (there are a number of these, though not as many as in the city proper I don’t believe), as he and a tag-a-long Scotland Yard Inspector (in France to watch the famous Chief Inspector’s methods) end up on the Island of Porquerolles to solve the murder of an ex-con who had been bragging in one of the local bars (where they spend a fair amount of time, drinking the local white wine mentioned below) about his friend Maigret. There are many Cocktail Talk moments as usual with Maigret, don’t miss My Friend Maigret Cocktail Talk Part I’s anisette (and for that matter, check out all the Maigret Cocktail Talks), but the below has both the white wine and marc, the latter always a welcome addition.
“Did he go steal jewels in New York?”
“I rather think he’s in Paris,’ Mr. Pyke corrected him calmly, selecting a toothpick in his turn.
A second bottle of the island’s wine, which Jojo had brought without being asked, was more than half empty. The patron came over to suggest:
“A little marc? After the garlic mayonnaise, it’s essential.”
It was balmy, almost cool in the room, while a heavy sun, humming with flies, beat down on the square.
—My Friend Maigret, George Simenon
June 3, 2022
This treat at first glance may not seem super June-y, if you just look at the first few ingredients: red wine, and the herbally Amaro Lucano (which, by the by, has been around since 1894 when cookie baker [!!] Pasquale Vena crafted it with a secret mix of herbs and spices, bitters and sweeters; it’s also been the house drink since 1900 of the House of Savoy if that floats your ice cubes). But look deeper, summertime drink seeker, and you will see that there is a bubbly helping of chilled club soda, along with made-here-in-WA (but even if you don’t live here, you should have a bottle) Sidetrack Blackberry liqueur, the embodiment of summer in a way (that way being traced to blackberries – very summery in my mind – and here said blackberries are grown on the same farm where the liqueur is made). There’s ice, too! Altogether, this is a drink that can, and will, and is to, be beloved in summer, but one with some underlining deep, rich, notes mingling with fruit and summer’s fanciful notions. A yummy one, you’ll see!
2 ounces dry red wine
1 ounce Amaro Lucano
1/2 ounce Sidetrack Blackberry liqueur (from right here in WA)
3 ounces chilled club soda
1. Fill a goblet or other glass (a highball works) three quarters full with ice cubes.
2. Add the wine, Amaro Lucano, and Sidetrack Blackberry. Stir briefly.
3. Add the club soda. Stir again, briefly. Enjoy the sunshine.