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).
September 25, 2015
I am very sorry, dear readers, for what’s to come in the next few sentences. The kids these days call it “venting,” and I shouldn’t do it here, but we’re all in this together, and trust me, the payoff is good. So, tally ho! To all those who feel that they need to have early morning work meetings where they can be totally self-centered, churlish, idiotic, preening, demanding, aggressive, annoying, smelly, rude, obnoxious, piggish, full of sophomoric one-up-manship, self-absorbed, beastly, un-jovial, un-jolly, un-jiggy-with-it, grabby, grandstanding, stinky, vainglorious, un-fun, stoopid and stupid, pompous, jealous, vindictive, douche-y, territorial at a level way beyond petty, pushy, primpy, powermad, and just plain fatheaded, to all y’all that fit that – please, just let me know far, far, in advance when you’re scheduling your morning meetings, so I can make a Morning Call, or two, and thereby just ignore your sorry ass.
The Morning Call, from Ginger Bliss and the Violet Fizz
1-1/2 ounces absinthe
3/4 ounce maraschino liqueur
3/4 ounce freshly squeezed lemon juice
1. Fill a cocktail shaker or mixing glass halfway full with cracked ice. Add the absinthe, maraschino, and lemon juice. Stir well, and hang up the phone.
2. Strain into a cocktail glass.
PS: Sorry about the rant. But the drink is worth it, one hopes.
July 23, 2013
Some say (or, said, cause after I caught up with ‘em they didn’t say any more.*) that the Cocktail Talk posts here shade too much to the pulp, noir, and mystery side, with only the occasional 1800’s English writer for balance. Pish posh, I say. But, I do believe in balance mostly and mainly, so this time, a little something that could be said to be more lit’rary. And French. And what’s more lit’rary than that? Nothing. This quote is gold, too, and reminds me of many an afternoon that started so purposeful and ended up sorta derailed. I’ll bet you’ve had those days, too, yes?
They entered a small café and took an absinthe together, then resumed their walk along the pavement. Morissot stopped suddenly. ‘Shall we have another absinthe?’ he said. ‘If you like,’ agreed Monsieur Sauvage. And they entered another wine shop. They were quite unsteady when they came out, owing to the effect of the alcohol on their empty stomachs. It was a fine, mild day, and a gentle breeze fanned their faces.
— Guy de Maupassant, Two Friends
*Kidding! I’m not so tough. I’m a cuddler.
May 24, 2013
Beyond Blackbird (which I detailed earlier and which I was a big big fan of), when I was in San Francisco recently I also stopped in at Absinthe Brasserie and Bar. First off, let me mention that I accompanied the wonderful and charming Sally and Corinne from the Lisa Ekus agency (the best agent, pr, media training, and more firm in the firmament) and some other folks associated with that fine orgnaization. If you have company like this, well, the restaurant or lounge you’re lounging in can probably serve almost anything and you’ll have a dandy time. However, if the drinks are as good as they were at Absinthe, the evening goes quickly up to wonderful. I started my drinking with a Ginger Rodgers, which is a variation on a drink called, simply, “Favorite Cocktail” from the classic pocket-sized cocktail book Drinks, written by Jacques Straub in 1914. It was everything a first drink before dinner should be: light-but-flavorful, bubbly, and a good appetite inducer:
After that, I was eating some delicious food (the mac-and-cheese was especially nice – and I should have taken a pic but was too busy eating and talking), and wanted something with a lot of flavor to accentuate the edibles. I went with a classic: the Pegu, from way back in the 1920s. It was tasty, tangy, and with a kick:
Heck, you should have one at home if you never have. It’s famous and fabulous. Here’s the recipe from Ginger Bliss and the Violet Fizz:
1-1/2 ounces gin
3/4 ounce Pierre Ferrand orange curaçao
1/2 ounce freshly squeezed lime juice
Dash of orange bitters
Dash of Angostura bitters
1. Fill a cocktail shaker halfway full with ice cubes. Add the gin, orange curaçao, lime juice, and both bitters. Shake well.
2. Strain into a cocktail glass, and dream of days when this classic was (according to Harry Craddock in The Savoy Cocktail Book) a drink “that has traveled, and is asked for, round the world.”
After the Pegu, I had something with whiskey that I forgot to write down as the conversation was in full swing. But it was good, so just try all the whiskey drinks and you’ll get there. Here’s a photo, anyway:
Overall, an amazingly awesome evening spent with some of the swellest folks in the land, some delicious cocktails, and some scrumptious eats in a classy-but-comfy spot. Absinthe gets a “A” in my book (if I had some sort of book I put letters in, that is).