Recently decided that I was going to pick a random pocket book (here not specifically the company that shares that name, but the in-general usually, well, pocket-sized books popular mid-last-century, often leaning towards pulp-i-ness, but not always) from the stacks of them on one of my bookshelves, and ended up grabbing Dead Wrong, by George Bagby, pub’d by Dell way back in 1957. Featuring Bagby’s Inspector Schmidt and the author himself (one of the more interesting things in the Bagby canon is how he is in the books, just hanging with the Inspector and writing up his cases – things were looser in the police force back then), there’s the murder of a dancer, a short-but-curious list of possible suspects, and a few twists and turns. Not the most exciting of the genre, but worth a look, especially for the absolutely knock-out cover, with the knocking-out provided by (for me, at least) not just by the green-dress’d lady, but by the cool copy treatment. I would love to have that as a font option! It’s amazing. Oh, there are also a couple Cocktail Moments, highlighted by the below sleep cure. But that cover copy! The cover painting was by (according to the back cover), a Robert McGinnis, and Robert (wherever you may be), if you did the copy too, you are a genius!
The inspector introduced the two young men. Jack Champlin reached for the brandy bottle. He asked Andy if he would join him. Andy did.
“I’m not making myself drunk Inspector,” Jack said as he poured the brandy. “I seem to be using this instead of sleep tonight.”
Well, it’s sad day in a way (a small sadness), as we’re at the last of our cocktail talks from the Dickens classic Little Dorrit. It’s funny to phrase it as such, “Dickens classic” that is, being that I think all Dickens books are classics. We could go on about that, but I don’t want to get in the way of our final quote any more than to say, be sure that you don’t miss Little Dorrit Cocktail Talks Part I, Part II, and Part III, as well as reading all past Charles Dickens Cocktail Talks – but maybe read the below from Little Dorrit first. In it, we return to one of my favorite characters in the book, Flora, who may be the most digression-filled character in all of Dickens, which is saying something, as he liked to tangent in perhaps the best way yet in Western Lit. If she’s not, she’s up there! And, she likes a little tipple, too, which the below has, if not much of the digressionary tactics you sometimes get with Flora. But a good way to end our tipsy tour through Little Dorrit, which I’ve certainly enjoyed!
‘You see, my dear,’ said Flora, measuring out a spoonful or two of some brown liquid that smelt like brandy, and putting it into her tea, ‘I am obliged to be careful to follow the directions of my medical man though the flavour is anything but agreeable being a poor creature and it may be have never recovered the shock received in youth from too much giving way to crying in the next room when separated from Arthur, have you known him long?’
Well, tomorrow is once again Halloween, often one of the finest funtimes of the year, but in 2020, one of the lamest (not to mention tragic on many levels) years, Halloween like so many other things is different, let’s say. But what’s not different is your scrumptious duty to make a Warlock and turn into a zombie magician. Got it? Spooky good! If you’ve forgotten, the Warlock contains brandy, Strega, limoncello, orange juice, and Peychaud’s bitters, and is my favoritest Halloween special. As you can see below (and you can also learn how to make the Warlock, too)!
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——”
Well, as you know (if you don’t, welcome back from Mars I suppose), we have been and still are in the thick of some mad times. Said times keeping most around the world at home many more hours than usual, which has led many to muscular feats of home-organizing as a way to while away the time, or to catch up with projects that once seemed perfectly fine being set aside. If you have a fair amount of bottles of brown, clear, red, green, grey, blue, yellow, bottles glittering with the promise of delicious deliciousness, bottles that when opened have the capacity to unleash tongues in song while loosening the chains on the soul (if you’ll allow me a little hyperbole), bottles filled with spirits, liqueurs, bitters, and beauty, that is, if you have these, then, like me, those bottles fall into a “home-organizing feat” normally put off. But, due to said mad times, my wonderful wife took on this herculean boozy task (I get too distracted), and organized the shelves. When doing so, she found a few bottles that seemed to have just a sip here or there left in them, and moved them frontwards, enticing me to drink ‘em up. That, friends, is all preamble to the below cocktail, which at first glance may seem an odd combination: cherry brandy, rye, and allspice dram? But being trapped at home can take you down some paths that may at first appear odd. In this case, however, the path ended so pleasantly, I’m probably going to have to go to the store to restock the shelves so I have all these ingredients. But if you look them over and say to yourself, “what the hell,” step back, and think “what the lockdown leftovers?” Cause that’s what this tasty treat really is.
Only weeks in the past, I had a Cocktail Talk from the Robert Barnard story “Boxing Unclever,” which was featured in the awesome anthology The Big Book of Christmas Mysteries, which is both big as advertised (my version nearly 800 pages) and bouncing over with holiday cheer – meaning, murders, thievery, and the like, with authors ranging from 100s (or thereabouts) of years old to more modern fare. It’s a winter gem! This Cocktail Talk is in the older bracket, though not old in a pejorative sense! The story is by Damon Runyon, and, weirdly, I used to rent an apartment near where he was born in Manhattan, KS! He made his mark in the other Manhattan, where his writing on the glittering and tarnished made him famous. This story starts on a scrumptious holiday high note with the below quote, and then rolls its prohibition-y way from there, in a language and style right on time.
Now one time it comes on Christmas, and in fact it is the evening before Christmas, and I am in Good Time Charley Bernstein’s little speakeasy in West Forty-seventh Street, wishing Charley a Merry Christmas and having a few hot Tom and Jerrys with him.
This hot Tom and Jerry is an old time drink that is once used by one and all in this country to celebrate Christmas with, and in fact it is one so popular that many people think Christmas is invented only to furnish an excuse for hot Tom and Jerry, although of course this is by no means true.
You know, I think this here lovely drink is such a nice and lovely one for lovely Valentine’s Day that I’ve probably had it on this (lovely) blog before around the heart-iest day of the year. But today is the actual day! Not just close. You knew this right? I mean, you are on it, and have the appropriate gifts etc. for your sweetest, or if single, for yourself (I mean, you deserve it)? It is, naturally, a holiday created for commerce (if you can spare me a non-lovely thought), but darn it all, still fun, or, at least, still a lovely excuse for the below drink for the lovely couples and lovely singles in the house. What a combo! Brandy! Aperol! Sweetness! Citrus! Lovely! Admittedly, a smidge on the dessert-y side for some lovely folks, but hey, if that’s not you, here’s what you do – up the lovely brandy a bit. Just like that, a Valentine’s Day dream, ideal for you, lovely you.
You know those days when you wake up and think, “you know, I really want to get into an adventure in NYC with a 1950s lawyer who likes his drinks, knows the best bars, also knows the law quite well, is a bit pugnacious while also flirty, and seems to be surrounded by murders,” those kinds of days? You know them? I had one recently, and so of course set myself up with a big dose of books by Hal Masur (aka Harold Q Masur), starring Scott Jordan, the pocket-book-y-est lawyer in the land! I’ve had a fair amount of Hal M. Cocktail Talks, including one from Tall, Dark and Deadly, a sort-of mid-career Jordan rollicker, with a divorce, double talk, drinks, and the tagline “Divorce is messy. Murder is messier.” Indeed! And the below quote, perhaps the only book with the Saratoga cocktail – though a version different then some I’ve seen. Sounds intriguing? Check it out:
String instruments only in the orchestra, no brass, Hazel created a mild stir from the male contingent as we followed the major dee to a corner table. He hovered solicitously, pad ready in his hand.
The Man Behind the Evening's PlansA.J. Rathbun is a freelance food and entertainment writer, poet and author, a frequent guest on the Everyday Food program (Martha Stewart Living/Sirius satellite radio), and is a contributor to culinary & entertainment magazines such as Every Day with Rachael Ray, The Food Network Magazine, Real Simple, Wine Enthusiast, and many others. Of course, there's so much more to it than that...Read More