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.
January 28, 2022
Hey, no offense to January (I mean, it is the first month of the year, birthing, so to speak, a new time of new beginnings and fresh starts and resolute resolutions and all that, and it tends to start with a smooch, so it definitely has some pluses as a month, however . . .), but by the end of January I’m usually ready, well ready, for it to be over, and usually ready, well-and-truly ready, for some springtime springing. It just gets a little drab, our first month of the year. Maybe not everywhere in the globe! And maybe not for everyone!
But for me, I could use a dosage of spring snazziness in my step, and in my glass, right about this time every year – and, wonders of wonders, here is the Rosé Squirt, ready and waiting for me to take the first sip. It is not a combination of rosé wine and the carbonated soda Squirt (if you were thinking so, though an 18-year-old me might like that – heck, a currently-too-old-to-be-specific-about-dates me might like it too). It is a combination of nutty, dry maraschino liqueur (go with a good brand here – I’m using Luxardo Maraschino, which I’m fond of, and which has been made by the same family from Marasca cherries since 1821, and which boasts hints of chocolate, vanilla, and marmalade notes) rosé wine (the springtime-iest of wines perhaps), and bubbly club soda, with a good maraschino cherry (you couldn’t go wrong with Luxardo maraschino cherries here, too, pals, because they are wondrously delicious) as a final accompaniment. Combine those delights and you have spring in a glass (note: also works beautifully as a summer sipper): refreshing, budding with flavor, light-on-its-feet, lovely. Have one today, and know that actual springtime isn’t too far away.
The Rosé Squirt, from Wine Cocktails
1 ounce Luxardo Maraschino liqueur
3 ounce dry rosé wine
Chilled club soda
Luxardo maraschino cherry, for garnish
1. Fill a highball glass three-quarters full with ice cubes. Add the maraschino liqueur and rosé. Stir briefly.
2. Fill the glass almost to the top with chilled club soda. Stir again, a bit more than briefly. Drop a cherry on top and serve.
January 18, 2022
You know (cause you know things) I love Dickens, and have many Charles Dickens Cocktail Talks on this very blog thingy, and cause of that (the love), I tend to re-read his books on the regular, and one of my favs is one not quite as well know, Dombey and Son. To get all the particulars of why it’s a fav, to read loads of cocktail and spirits (and dog!) quotes from the book, well, let me point you to the Dombey and Son Cocktail Talks Part I, Part II, Part III, and Part IV, instead of prattling on again here. Instead, I’ll just prattle that I’ve recently re-read the book once again (and I will again, I’m sure!), and had to have at least one more Cocktail Talk. So, here it is, featuring Cap’n Cuttle himself, along with his bestie Sol and said Sol’s niece Walter.
‘Ah!’ he said, with a sigh, ‘it’s a fine thing to understand ’em. And yet it’s a fine thing not to understand ’em. I hardly know which is best. It’s so comfortable to sit here and feel that you might be weighed, measured, magnified, electrified, polarized, played the very devil with: and never know how.’
Nothing short of the wonderful Madeira, combined with the occasion (which rendered it desirable to improve and expand Walter’s mind), could have ever loosened his tongue to the extent of giving utterance to this prodigious oration. He seemed quite amazed himself at the manner in which it opened up to view the sources of the taciturn delight he had had in eating Sunday dinners in that parlour for ten years. Becoming a sadder and a wiser man, he mused and held his peace.
‘Come!’ cried the subject of this admiration, returning. ‘Before you have your glass of grog, Ned, we must finish the bottle.’
‘Stand by!’ said Ned, filling his glass. ‘Give the boy some more.’
‘No more, thank’e, Uncle!’
‘Yes, yes,’ said Sol, ‘a little more. We’ll finish the bottle, to the House, Ned – Walter’s House. Why it may be his House one of these days, in part. Who knows? Sir Richard Whittington married his master’s daughter.’
–Charles Dickens, Dombey and Son
December 3, 2021
Can you believe it – it’s December, 2021, already. Holy time-moves-quickly! Though, even if we didn’t have calendars and suchlike to alert us to the fact, the weather outside might cause one (in the northern hemisphere, and suchlike) to think through chattering teeth, “I believe it’s December, because the cold has infested my bones.” Or, suchlike. What to do, as time machines are out of the question, currently? I mean, you can’t go back in time to escape the cold, and while putting layers of blanketing devices on your person will perhaps reduce the chill, it certainly isn’t as jolly as a good warm (or hot, even) drink. May I suggest, in this warming manner, Aunt Betsy’ Favorite? It’s a wine-based treat, one fortified as the season demands with port and brandy, and well-spiced (the season also seems to demand this – just look at holiday desserts). It also serves, depending on temperature, temperament, and suchlike, somewhere between 5 and 8 people – and, as well all know, a crowd of pals is a warming thing. So, this is doubly-warming! Take the edge off of December with it, and stay cozy, and suchlike!
Aunt Betsy’s Favorite, from Dark Spirits
24 ounces red wine (I suggest a Cabernet Sauvignon)
16 ounces tawny port
8 ounces brandy
4 ounces simple syrup
1 orange peel
3 whole cloves
1 stick cinnamon
1. Add all of the ingredients to a medium-size saucepan. Cook on medium heat, stirring regularly, for 10 minutes. You want it to get good and hot, but not start boiling, or even simmering. Reduce the heat midway through the cooking time if needed.
2. Once the 10 minutes have passed and the room smells wonderful, ladle the mix into heavy mugs. Avoid serving the orange peel, cloves, and cinnamon stick if your pals are worried about clunking up their smiles.
November 23, 2021
Another quote from the Chief Inspector Maigret yarn I’ve been most recently reading (as opposed to all of those I’ve read in the past: check out all the Maigret Cocktail Talks to get a view into some of them – at least don’t miss the Maigret and the Man on the Boulevard Part I Cocktail Talk, to learn more about this particular book by George Simenon), one where our main character sits down in a very serious and thinking mood at his favorite of all Parisian spots – or the one he visits the most, which is saying something, though it is right across from his office – and gives the waiter a little of the Maigret-ness so many criminal have to deal with.
“What’s the Veau Marengo like?”
“Excellent, Monsieur Maigret.”
Without realizing it, he was subjecting the waiter to a look that could not have been sterner if he had been a suspect under interrogation.
“No. A half-bottle of claret.”
He was just being perverse. If the waiter had suggested wine, he would have ordered beer.
–George Simenon, Maigret and the Man on the Boulevard
September 7, 2021
Don’t miss the weird (!) Owls Don’t Blink Cocktail Talk Part I, or you’ll be sorry (in little ways, maybe, but probably not losing sleep, which would make me sad), which not only has a strange New Orleans-y quote, but more info on this book by Erle Stanley Gardner, though writing as A.A. Fair. And, while being thorough about your research, check out all the Erle Stanley Gardner Cocktail Talks, to get the skinny of how I feel (hmm, is this too much all about me? You’ll get good cocktail quotes, too) about his famous creation Perry Mason, and private investigators Donald Lam and Betha Cool, who star in this particular mystery yarn. In the below quote, Lam is taking one of the potentially murderous (!) female characters in the book out for a ginormous dinner. I can’t imagine eating this much, but in the 40s, people were heartier.
The waiter brought our daiquiris. We touched glasses, took the first sip.
The waiter stood by our table, exerting a silent pressure for our orders.
“Could you bring some oysters on the half shell with a lot of cocktail sauce, some horseradish and lemon?” I asked. “Then bring us some of those cold, peppered shrimp, some onion soup, a steak about three inches thick, done medium rare, some French-fried onions, shoestring potatoes, cut some French bread, put on lots of butter, sprinkle on just a trace of garlic, put it in the oven, let it get good and hot so the butter melts all through the bread, put some sparkling Burgundy on the ice, and after that bring us a dish of ice cream, a huge pot of coffee, and the check.”
The waiter never batted an eyelash. “I could do that very nicely, sir.”
–Erle Stanley Gardner (writing as A.A. Fair), Owls Don’t Blink