June 19, 2018
Recently got my hands on another one of the superb (if you’re into such things, which I hope you are, so we can be friends and all that, though of course we could maybe still be friends even if you aren’t, but it’s not quite
as easy) Stark House Noir Classics collections. Often these are collections of out-of-print books by a single author, but in this one, there are three authors from the pulp-y period. All are worthy reads – your favorite is up to you – but the one I’m highlighting here is Park Avenue Tramp
, a book by Fletcher Flora (great name, too, and one I hadn’t been acquainted with before) about booze, a dangerous (in a sort-of different way) broad, a piano player, and bleakness in the best way, the way true noir books deliver it. Enough so that I was fairly, oh, downbeat for a moment when finishing this tale. Then I moved on to the next one (which is nice in these collections). A bar plays a central role, too, which is also nice, and where we get the below Cocktail Talk quote from.
She looked at him gravely and decided that he was undoubtedly a superior bartender, which would make him very superior indeed. It might seem unlikely on first thought that a superior bartender would be working in a little unassuming bar that was only trying to get along, but on second thought it didn’t seem unlikely at all, for it was often the little unassuming places that had genuine quality and character and were perfectly what they were supposed to be, which was rare, and it was exactly such a place in which a superior bartender would want to work, even at some material sacrifice. She felt a great deal of respect for this honest and dedicated bartender. She was certain that she could rely on him implicitly.
“Perhaps you can help me,” she said. “In your opinion, what have I been drinking?”
“You look like a Martini to me,” he said.
“Really, a Martini?”
“That’s right. The second you came in I said to myself that you were a Martini.”
–Fletcher Flora, Park Avenue Tramp
January 23, 2018
Our trip (we’re taking it together, I feel) through some of the Charles Willeford oeuvre, via Willeford Cocktail Talks
, is almost done, and ending with a second from the Floridean funky mess (among other things) Made in Miami
, originally called Lust is a Woman
, which isn’t actually as good, or as accurate, a title in my mind. You’ll need to read the book to see why! And also read the Made in Miami Cocktail Talk Part I
, if you haven’t. You’ll dig it. The below quote isn’t drink specific like many of the Cocktail Talks we have here, but is a great view into bartenders of a certain time period. Or perhaps how some people view or viewed bartenders. You decide.
Ralph sat down on the bench to smoke while he waited for Tommy. Two bald middle-aged bartenders entered the locker room from the back and began to change their clothes. Ralph examined their dour faces with the dawning realization that all of the bartenders he had ever known looked exactly like these two. Not that they were all bad, although most of them were, at that, but their expressions were all alike. All faces, like character actors in the movies; expressive eyebrows, small chins, and large liquid eyes. Ralph pictured these two men later working behind the bar, changing their expression to match the mood of each customer at the busy half-price cocktail hour in the Rotunda Lounge. But right now, in repose, their characterless expressions oddly reminded Ralph of the ex-Presidents born in Ohio.
–Charles Willeford, Made in Miami
June 13, 2017
I recently (and by this, I mean months ago, as magazine time is very different from regular time) rolled into the less-than-a-year-old Seattle bar Cursed Oak, sidled up to the bar, chatter with amiable bartender and owner Mike Carroll, and sipped on the Mule variation and refresher Chile Dreams. Then I wrote about Chile Dreams for Seattle magazine, a piece you should read right now. You deserve it.
March 21, 2017
If you missed Part I of our Cocktail Talk tour through lesser-known (though it should be known) noir classic Black Wings Has My Angel by Elliott Chaze, then I strongly suggest you go read it now. You back? Cool! Here’s our second quote from that darkish crime tome, where main character Tim Sunblade is at a well-named bar drinking an old whiskey.
I drank a Coke in the Tuscany bar on Fifteenth. It tasted like gasoline. I went out and got a newspaper and came back into the Tuscany and sat in a booth with another Coke and the paper. Waiting. Somehow it got to be three o’clock. I bought myself a double I. W. Harper and water and four o’clock came around faster and then I went outside, walking toward the three-story building on Essex, not fast, but not slow, the whisky glowing just right in me.
— Elliott Chaze, Black Wings Has My Angel