June 23, 2020
Our final Cocktail Talk featuring the mostly mild crime-solving Father Brown (now even more famous from the wonderful BBC show that I’ve watched, and that you should watch) takes place in France – Father Brown’s a bit of a globe trotter in the stories. And may not like absinthe, though that could be writer G.K. Chesterton, too. If you want a little more Father Brown – and you should – quick, then for gosh sakes don’t miss Father Brown Cocktail Talks Part I and Part II. And then maybe have a little absinthe and sip it while reading, good on you.
M. Armagnac looked at M. Brun. M. Brun borrowed the letter, read it, and looked at M. Armagnac. Then both betook themselves briskly to one of the little tables under the chestnuts opposite, where they procured two tall glasses of horrible green absinthe, which they could drink apparently in any weather and at any time. Otherwise the cafe seemed empty, except for one soldier drinking coffee at one table, and at another a large man drinking a small syrup and a priest drinking nothing.
— G.K. Chesterton, “The Duel of Dr. Hirsch”
June 16, 2020
Hey, first up: don’t forget to read the Father Brown Part I Cocktail Talk, or you’ll hate yourself when you wake up from your nap. Done? Back? We are into the second now, from the Complete Father Brown Stories by ol’ G.K. Chesterton. In this story (as in many) the good Father is traipsing around the globe, solving mysteries, making friends, spreading the legend. In this particular story, he’s in the midst of millionaires and revolutionaries (the amount of millionaires Father Brown hangs with is wild, really), and drinks, a bit, with murder right around the corner.
Perhaps the one point in common to the two council chambers was that both violated the American Constitution by the display of strong drink. Cocktails, of various colors had stood before the three millionaires. Halket, the most violent of the Bolshevists, thought it only appropriate to drink vodka. He was a long, hulking fellow with a menacing stoop, and his very profile was aggressive, the nose and lips thrust out together, the latter carrying a ragged red moustache and the whole curling outwards with perpetual scorn. John Elias was a dark watchful man in spectacles, with a black pointed beard, and he had learnt in many European cafes a taste for absinthe.
— G.K. Chesterton, “The Ghost of Gideon Wise”
November 17, 2017
This is not a spelling error (not that I don’t make those a lot); if you didn’t know, there really is a drink called The Zazarac. It wants you to know that it, while not renowned and legendary and all that, it in its own way is also worthy of your attention, much like its very distant cousin (though maybe not the same amount of attention, admittedly). It has a rare rye and rum combo, some friendly supporting players in anisette (go Meletti) and absinthe and Angostura and orange bitters (go Regan’s), and takes the edges off with a splash of simple, and tops things with a twist. Will it have you stopping your Sazerac consumption? Nope. But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t give it a sip.
The Zazarac, from Dark Spirits
1-1/2 ounces rye
3/4 ounce white rum
3/4 ounce anisette
3/4 ounce simple syrup
1/2 ounce absinthe
1 dash Angostura bitters
1 dash Regan’s orange bitters
Lemon twist, for garnish
1. Fill a cocktail shaker halfway full with ice cubes. Add the rye, rum, anisette, syrup, absinthe, and both bitters. Shake well.
2. Strain into a large cocktail glass. Garnish with the twist and a nod to all the lesser-known family members.
August 1, 2017
Not too long ago (and only the briefest of moments in the grand scheme of things), I had a Cocktail Talk post up from the very first Inspector Maigret book by George Simenon, Pietr the Latvian. I’ve had a number of Maigret Cocktail Talks, btw. Foolish as I was way back in those days, I thought I’d only need one post from the book. But, now that I am older and wiser, I realize that two are needed, no demanded. Really, this second Cocktail Talk from our (if we read the books in order, which I did not, but for the sake of things, let’s pretend) first sampling of the stoic French Inspector, is an ideal companion to the first, so it’d be a shame not to quote it here:
Maigret had ordered a vermouth. He looked even taller and wider than ever in the confined space of the bar. He didn’t take his eyes off the Latvian.
He was having something like double vision. Just as had happened to him in the hotel lobby, he could see one image superimposed on another: Behind the current scene, he had a vision of the squalid bar in Fecamp. Pietr was going double. Maigret could see him in his cinnamon suite and in his worn-out raincoat at the same time.
“I’m telling you I’d rather do that than get beaten up!” one of the builders exclaimed, banging his glass down on the counter.
Pietr was now on his third glass of green liquid. Maigret could smell the aniseed in it.
–George Simenon, Pietr the Latvian
April 29, 2016
It may have been eight years since I’ve sipped this particular refresher – that’s a long time and a long number of drinks. But we’ve had a bit of northwest spring heat wave lately, demanding that something effervescent like this be unveiled, and I was reading Justice Society (okay, I’m making an Hour Glass to Hour Man leap, but you get me, I know), and, well, one thing led to another. It’s a good drink, too, interesting without being affrontive. If you feel badly about Cognac-ing here, then I’d say don’t be so darn stuffy. Haha, but seriously folks, feel free to sub in a nice brandy as you will. Whatever doesn’t overheat you, friend, and whatever makes the hours pass in a lovely manner.
The Hour Glass
1 ounce Cognac
3/4 ounce Cointreau
1/2 ounce absinthe
Chilled club soda
Lemon twist, for garnish
1. Fill a cocktail shaker or mixing glass halfway full with cracked ice. Add the Cognac, Cointreau, and absinthe. Stir well.
2. Fill a highball glass three-quarters full with ice cubes. Strain the mixture over the ice, and then fill the glass with club soda (unless it’s a large-ish highball, then just go up three-quarters of the way).
3. Squeeze the lemon twist over the glass and drop it in.
March 25, 2016
Okay, let’s start with another drink – the Martini. Don’t worry, I’ll get to widows. But recently I received (poor me!) a bottle of Ransom Gin and a bottle of Ransom dry vermouth in the mail. If you don’t know (and, if so, why don’t you?), Ransom is a farm-to-glass distillery and winery in Sheridan, OR, started up by owner and distiller Tad Seestedt. With the f-to-g earlier, you can probably guess that they use local ingredients by the bucketful, including in the gin alone, hops, marionberry, coriander, fennel seeds, and chamomile all produced on the Oregon farm where the distillery is, which is fantastic. And the vermouth also features wine and brandy made on the farm, using OR ingredients, too. That’s pretty darn awesome, and means these old pals (gin and vermouth, that is), in this situation are old, old pals, down to the ground. So, when one (if you’re one like me) gets a bottle of gin and a bottle of vermouth from the same spot and sharing the same agricultural legacy, the first thing that happens is opening the bottles. Then making a Martini, of course.
Mine are made in old school style, 2-1/2 parts gin to 1/2 part vermouth, with a twist of lemon. The end result here – darn delicious. Hints of herb and spice, but with a really lovely smoothness overall. Everything, as you’d expect, plays so nicely together. Of course, me being me and all that, I couldn’t just try the Martini, I had to push the envelope beyond the obvious with a lesser-in-the-road’s-middle cocktail. And that cocktail was the Merry Widow, which I’d recently re-discovered (I can’t remember if this is where I saw it first, honestly) in a fun book from 1936 called Burke’s Complete Cocktail and Tastybite Recipes – a fine read if you can find it. Anyway, the Merry Widow lets the vermouth shine a bit more (which is good here, because the Ransom vermouth is very drinkable all alone, with an balanced herbal, citrus, combo), and also introduces just a hint of a few other players, all of whom played well. Give it a whirl, and see if you can taste that good Oregon terroir coming through. I served a round to some pals, and they all could – and thought the drink would make any widow get up and dance.
The Merry Widow
1-1/2 ounces Ransom gin
1-1/2 ounces Ransom dry vermouth
2 dashes Absinthe
2 dashes Benedictine
1 dash Angostura bitters
Lemon 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. Now, bring that twist to the OR party.
March 1, 2016
I know many of the Cocktail Talk posts here (at least 89.6%) follow along one or two lines. Either a pulp-hardboiled-detective-murderous-noir selection, or a Trollope selection, with the occasionally Dickens thrown in for good measure. Sure, there are some others, but I usually run my routes with precision. But once in awhile, we need to shake things up. Combine that with the fact that I was doing an event not long ago and about half of the folks there had never had absinthe, and, well, we end up with the below quote which I love from the famous politician, historian, and journalist:
One’s emotions in Rome were one’s private affair, like one’s glass of absinthe before dinner in the Palais Royal.
Henry Adams, The Education of Henry Adams
October 16, 2015
This drink comes from one of my favorite old cocktail books, Crosby Gaige’s Cocktail Guide and Ladies Companion. If you can track it down, it’s well worth investing in, as it’s jovial as a good cocktail party, and it has some random but delicious recipes that I haven’t seen elsewhere. One of those is this one, Headlong Hall.
It’s really a distant cousin of the Martini, as it’s heavy of gin and half-as-heavy of vermouth, but then taken down a curvy boozy road by the addition of two whispers: one of Bénédictine, and one of absinthe. Which gives it a personality all of its own.
Of course, with the main players being such to the front of the stage (wow, I am all over the place on the metaphors and such), however, you need some serious actors – or, seriously flavorful gin and vermouth. Recently, I was in the UK, and in the lovely city of Bath, in a lovely little wine and liquor store, I picked up a bottle of Psychopomp Wōden gin, which is made at a “micro-distillery” in Bristol, not far from Bath. The gin is singular – don’t get me wrong, it starts with a rich juniper, but that’s backed by a mingling of coriander, grapefruit zest, angelica root and cassia bark, and fennel seed, the last of which really delivers on the back end when sipping. If you’re in the UK, track it down.
To go with it, I picked La Quintinye Vermouth Royal, the extra dry version (full disclosure and bragging – I received this in the mail not too long ago). Made in the Charente region of France, La Quintinye extra dry vermouth is crafted from 27 plants and spices on a base of white wines and Pineau des Charentes Blanc. Lush is a good way to describe it, with floral and citrus notes all coming together and delivering a result that’s fantastic in cocktails (especially I think matched with a flavorful gin), but also dandy before dinner over one or two pieces of ice. Combined with the Wōden gin and our two whispers in this drink? Well, try it, but I sure found it all fantastic.
2 ounces Psychopomp Wōden gin
1 ounce La Quintinye Extra Dry Vermouth Royal
1 teaspoon Bénédictine
1/2 teaspoon absinthe
1. Fill a cocktail shaker or mixing glass halfway full with cracked ice. Add everything. Stir well.
2. Strain into a cocktail glass. Drink, but not in a headlong manner (no matter the title. Sorry Crosby).