July 28, 2020
The Cocktail Talks from our old pal Charles Dickens’ classic story The Old Curiosity Shop are shading towards the longish (there’s so much good stuff, I don’t want to cull or cut if I can), and as I don’t want to distract, going to keep this intro short. For more about the book, more wonderful quotes about drinks and drinking shops in the delicious Dickens style, more about how I adore Dickens, and just more more more (which you should always want), don’t miss earlier Cocktail Talks from The Old Curiosity Shop: Part I, Part II (from longer ago), and Part III (from recent ago). And don’t miss the below either (or other Dickens Cocktail Talks), where a little mild porter is consumed, and where a window is opened to holler at a beer-boy – I wish I could do that now!
As a means towards his composure and self-possession, he entered into a more minute examination of the office than he had yet had time to make; looked into the wig-box, the books, and ink-bottle; untied and inspected all the papers; carved a few devices on the table with a sharp blade of Mr. Brass’s penknife; and wrote his name on the inside of the wooden coal-scuttle. Having, as it were, taken formal possession of his clerkship in virtue of these proceedings, he opened the window and leaned negligently out of it until a beer-boy happened to pass, whom he commanded to set down his tray and to serve him with a pint of mild porter, which he drank upon the spot and promptly paid for, with the view of breaking ground for a system of future credit and opening a correspondence tending thereto, without loss of time.
–Charles Dickens, The Old Curiosity Shop
July 7, 2020
Hello you! Did you see or not see The Bertrams Part I Cocktail Talk, in which I called the immortal Anthony Trollope “Tony” and talked about this book we’re quoting from? If you didn’t see that yet, then by all means, go read it now (and you could read all the Anthony Trollope Cocktail Talks, too, if you want). But if you have, and so you really have all the background and build up and such, then why not dive right into the below quote, which focuses on two mad military men, who aren’t really a large part of the overall story (heck, they barely feature at all). But, this quote was my introduction to “tiffin-time,” which is like (or was? Still is? You tell me) an Indian afternoon tea, round 3 p.m., and where it seems they also had beer! I like it. And of course, I’m always happy to see the boozy wine punch Sangaree make an appearance!
“And the brows of Major Biffin and Captain M’Gramm were clouded. They had been filling the plates and glasses of these two ladies all the way from Calcutta; they had walked with them every day on deck, had fetched their chairs, picked up their handkerchiefs, and looked after their bottled beer at tiffin-time with an assiduity which is more than commendable in such warm latitudes. And now to be thrown on one side for two travelling Englishmen, one in a brown coat and the other in a black one for two muffs, who had never drunk Sangaree or sat under a punkah!”
–Anthony Trollope, The Bertrams
June 9, 2020
As I, like others, have been at home perhaps more than usual lately, I’ve been doing a lot of reading (well, I do a lot all the time, but even more perhaps), and one thing I dove into during this time was The Complete Father Brown Stories by old G.K. Chesterton, which is a massive tome – ideal for right now! And I have to admit (cause we’re all pals here), that I watched the currently TV Father Brown tele show before reading any of the stories. Which is weird, cause usually I go at it the other way round. And, even weirdly, since we’re admitting things, I like the TV show better. Don’t throw things at me. Mark Williams is a genius actor, I like the small town England focus, and, well, I like his Father Brown a bit more than the book one. And skipping some of G.K.’s dated and wrong, oh, opinions, is okay, too. Which is not to say that the stories in the main aren’t good and shouldn’t be read. They totally should be, cause lots and lots of awesome is contained therein. Enough that I’m going to have a trio of Cocktail Talks from different stories, starting with below brandy bellowing.
“And you will have your usual, Sir,” said Mr. Wills leaning and leering across the counter.
“It’s the only decent stuff you’ve still got,” snorted Mr. Raggley, slapping down his queer and antiquated hat, “Damn it, I sometimes think the only English thing left in England is cherry brandy. Cherry brandy does taste of cherries. Can you find me any beer that tastes of hops, or any cider that tastes of apples, or any wine that has the remotest indication of being made out of grapes? There’s an infernal swindle going on now in every inn in the country, that would have raised a revolution in any other country. I’ve found out a thing or two about it, I can tell you. You wait till I can get it printed, and people will sit up. If I could stop our people being poisoned with all this bad drink——”
— G.K. Chesterton, “The Quick One”
August 13, 2019
If you missed The Two-Penny Bar Part I
, be sure to catch up on your brandy – and reading – and for that matter, don’t miss a one of the many mighty Maigret Cocktail Talks
, cause they are full of boozy jolly-ness, and will point you to many a classic read by George Simenon. This book (as it says on the back) that goes into the “sleazy underbelly of respectable Parisian life,” is too good, too, for just one Cocktail Talk post, especially because this second one has the good Inspector Maigret a little over-indulged on one of his favorite tipples – but this book does center around a bar!
“What are you drinking?” he heard a voice ask. “A large Pernod?”
The very word was enough to remind him of the week gone by, the Sunday get-togethers of the Morsang crowd, the whole disagreeable case.
“A beer,” he replied.
“At this hour?”
The well-meaning waiter who had offered him the aperitif was taken aback at the force of Maigret’s response.
April 16, 2019
My love of, and diving into, the George Simenon Maigret canon has been well documented here on the Spiked Punch, with loads of Simenon Cocktail Talks
that you should go back and read and love. This one here, the newest as I write this at least, cause I’m sure they’ll be more, sees our man Maigret drawn into the wacky world of Parisian (and France, in general) politics, which he doesn’t always enjoy, but which it’s fun to see him navigate and he tried to unravel a corruption case. As usual, he and his team have an assortment of drinks along the way, starting with some sloe gin, but leaning heaviest I believe into Pernod.
And Maigret felt slightly guilty vis-à-vis his two colleagues. Lapointe too must have realized by now what it was all about.
“A beer?” suggested Maigret.
“No. A Pernod.”
And that too was out of character for Lucas. They waited for the drinks to be served, and then continued in hushed tones.
–George Simenon, Maigret and the Minister
February 26, 2019
As I chatted with you about in our previous Fletcher Flora Cocktail Talk posts that were up here recently, I’ve been reading a three-pack book (meaning, it contains three novels) from this sadly lesser-known pulp/pocketbook star, and in the second book, Let Me Kill You, Sweetheart, you can really see what set him apart, as it has a level of creativity in how it approaches what should be a straightforward murder, with multiple narrators (including the killer, though we don’t know who it is until the last sentence, and the murder victim) and backstories. It’s pretty neat. And, it has a nice hotel bar where a fair amount of action – or in-action – takes place, including the drinking of Miller High Life! Now, way before the MHLife renaissance, my pals and I were big, big fans of the American beer, because it’s nice on a hot day, because it was a sort-of outsiders beer (and we were sort-of outsiders), because it didn’t cost a ton of $$ (and we didn’t have a ton of $$), and, well once we started, why stop? So, seeing a MHLife quote in a book from Fletcher Flora from 1958 was neat. And love that they call it Miller’s High Life. Read it, and you’ll agree:
An hour later, at eleven-thirty, the taproom of the Division Hotel was almost deserted. The only persons present were Bernie Juggins, the bartender, and Purvy Stubbs. Purvy sat on a stool and stared moodily into half a glass of Miller’s High Life that was going flat. He hadn’t drunk from the glass for quite a long time, and it looked like he sure as hell was never going to drink from it again, and for all Bernie could tell from looking at him, the fat bastard might be dead.
–Fletcher Flora, Let Me Kill You, Sweetheart
June 26, 2018
Just last week, I highlighted a Cocktail Talk quote from an old noir novel called Park Avenue Tramp
, which (as detailed there) was part of a Stark House Noir Classics collection that features three out-of-print noir novels all together. These collections are really worthy reads if you dig the pulps, noirs, and pocketbooks-with-saucy-covers, because they feature books not easily picked up today. In this collection, I liked all three reads, but my favorite might have been The Prettiest Girl I Ever Killed
, by Charles Runyon. A small town serial killer search, in a way, it moved fast, had a fair amount of twists and turns, tight and creative lingo and well-written prose-ing, and a female lead who showed some gumption. All good stuff! And a good Cocktail Talk quote about a country bar, which you’ll see below.
It was a little gas station and honky-tonk; the kind you see around the country with names like Burntwood Inn and Cozy Dell. This one was called Pine Cover Tavern and was crowded (there was no work in the fields because of the rain) with men in overalls and a couple of women in print dresses. We drew stares as we walked to a booth in the back. I felt wicked and daring, and though it was unlikely that any Shermanites would see me, I found that I didn’t really care if they did. I told Curt to order me a boilermaker: a glass of beer with a shot of bourbon inside it. He ordered the same for himself and drank silently for a few minutes.
–Charles Runyon, The Prettiest Girl I Ever Killed
June 12, 2018
Picked up another of the Day Keene short story collections recently, this one called The Case of the Bearded Bride
(it’s Volume 4 of the series bringing all his stories from the old detective pulp magazines), and it’s full of the same Day Keene delicious-ness as the earlier volumes. And by that I mean, fast-paced yarns that are sometimes hard-boiled, sometimes mysterious, sometimes noir-ish, and always fun to read. The proofing here as with past volumes leaves a lot to be desired, but hey, it’s just sweet these stories are back in print. There’s a fair amount of bars and booze in them, but I picked a beer quote for this volume’s Cocktail-Talk-ing (check out past Day Keene Cocktail Talks
for more sweetness), because I don’t often beer-it up, and also because I liked this portrayal of a man just out of prison. Oh, the name of this story is a humdinger, too, “It’s Better to Burn.”
Gone were the held-back jewels he had put aside as an umbrella against the day that it might rain. Gone were the luscious blondes and the redheads. Gone was his Cadillac car. All that remained were sixty-six dollars and twenty cents and the belly that even two years in a cell had failed to diminish. He promptly steered it to the nearest bar and spent a dollar and eighty cents of his capital to fill it with beer. It had been two years since he had had a drink. Mellowed by the beer, he considered his prospects. They weren’t bright.
–Day Keene, It’s Better to Burn