Our second Cocktail Talk from David Frome’s fits-in-the-pocket-sized-book (be sure to readMr. Pinkerton Goes to Scotland Yard Part I to learn more about the books, the murdering, and such) is brandy-based. It’s a little long, but wanted to set the whole scene, because it calls up multiple deficiencies in modern life. First: not enough people have brandy at hand like this for emergencies. Second: people don’t use the word “nip” enough to refer to a small drink. And third, people also don’t use the phrase “stiff peg” enough for a slightly larger strong pour of spirits in a glass. Let’s all work on bring these three things back into daily life, shall we?
“That Ellinger woman says my sister’s dead – is that true?
“Quite true, Mr. Ripley,” Bull said quietly. “Steady on, sir!”
He caught Hugh Ripley round the shoulders as he swayed in the doorway.
Superintendent Miller jumped to his feet and came over.
“Get some brandy,” he said to the maid. He pushed a chair up. Bull helped Ripley into it.
“I’m all right,” the young man said in a second. “Thanks.”
“This is Sir Charles Debenham, the Assistant Commissioner, and this is Superintendent Miller, of Scotland Yard,” Bull said. “They’re taking a hand in the investigation. Ah, here you are. Take a nip of this, sir.”
He took the decanter that Gaskins had fetched from the dining-room and poured out a stiff peg in the glass she held. Hugh Ripley poured it down his throat.
This is a cozy drink for a chilly March day! It reminds me, too (as I’ve been making it for a bit), of the dark days beforeAperol was available in the U.S., and when the now-everywhere (a good thing!) stateside Spritz was just something Italian sipped. Doesn’t seem that long ago to me (I am very old) when I used to have to always bring two bottles of Aperol back in my suitcase when traveling back from lovely Italy, one for personal use and one for a pal. What changes have come since then (now I just have to fill my suitcase with grappa unavailable here)! Back to this here, drink. It mingles in a cuddly manner bountiful brandy with that Aperol I was going on about, with a tiny salute of simple syrup and a fresh orange for a tint of tang. It can be a bit sweet, like you, so if you want to take the simple to even tinier levels or out altogether, it’s okay. Things will still be cuddly.
Can you believe it – it’s December, 2021, already. Holy time-moves-quickly! Though, even if we didn’t have calendars and suchlike to alert us to the fact, the weather outside might cause one (in the northern hemisphere, and suchlike) to think through chattering teeth, “I believe it’s December, because the cold has infested my bones.” Or, suchlike. What to do, as time machines are out of the question, currently? I mean, you can’t go back in time to escape the cold, and while putting layers of blanketing devices on your person will perhaps reduce the chill, it certainly isn’t as jolly as a good warm (or hot, even) drink. May I suggest, in this warming manner, Aunt Betsy’ Favorite? It’s a wine-based treat, one fortified as the season demands with port and brandy, and well-spiced (the season also seems to demand this – just look at holiday desserts). It also serves, depending on temperature, temperament, and suchlike, somewhere between 5 and 8 people – and, as well all know, a crowd of pals is a warming thing. So, this is doubly-warming! Take the edge off of December with it, and stay cozy, and suchlike!
24 ounces red wine (I suggest a Cabernet Sauvignon)
16 ounces tawny port
8 ounces brandy
4 ounces simple syrup
1 orange peel
3 whole cloves
1 stick cinnamon
1. Add all of the ingredients to a medium-size saucepan. Cook on medium heat, stirring regularly, for 10 minutes. You want it to get good and hot, but not start boiling, or even simmering. Reduce the heat midway through the cooking time if needed.
2. Once the 10 minutes have passed and the room smells wonderful, ladle the mix into heavy mugs. Avoid serving the orange peel, cloves, and cinnamon stick if your pals are worried about clunking up their smiles.
Well, what I can I say about the Henry Kane hard-boiled pocket-sized slurper Martinis and Murder which hasn’t been said in the Martinis and Murder Cocktail Talks Part I, Part II, Part III, and Part IV? Well, nothing really (and, really, the cover says it all!), so let’s just get to the below quote – you can catch up on the rest by reviewing the past posts while you sip something nice and potent.
We danced all through it, comfortably and close. We drank brandy from big Napoleon glasses. The music got hot. The place filled up, got warm and noisy.
“Peter,” she said, inhaling smoke through a long holder with a finger loop, “I’m beginning not to like it here. Can’t we go somewhere else where it is quieter?”
“Do you like Sibelius?”
“I adore Sibelius.”
“I have Sibelius in quantities on wax discs and I have a lovely fireplace and I have oil paintings that cost me much, and I have a book of pornographic studies dating back to the fifteenth century. No etchings. But I have Pernod.”
Can you believe it – it’s nearly Halloween! It’s Halloween weekend, with the day itself just hours away, and all the ghouls, goblins, witches, skellingtons, and whatever the kids are wearing these days, are about to arise (thinking safety-first, of course). And (even more important) the Warlock cocktails are about to flow, as they do this time every year, changing spooky drinkers into happy zombie magicians, thanks to the sorcerous combination of brandy, Strega, limoncello, orange juice, and Peychaud’s bitters. You’ll see the process (and learn how to make the drink if you’ve somehow missed it on past Halloweens) in the video below.
It’s a smidgen odd that I haven’t had more Peter Lovesey Cocktail Talks here on the ol’ Spiked Punch, just as I read and re-read his books (especially his Peter Diamond mysteries) as much as nearly any written words. Though, on the flip side, he doesn’t dwell in the bars and boozes as much as some, so maybe not so strange? Anyway, before I ramble so far we end up lost in the English countryside, today we are having a Lovesey Cocktail Talk, with a quote from the story “Bullets,” which I recently re-read when I was re-reading his killer (hahaha) collection, Murder on the Short List, a collection full of mysteries and mysterious deaths, some featuring a couple of his classic characters and some not. While I may shade my favoritism towards the longer works, many like his stories best, and he is a master – all of which is to say, pick this book up if you see it. This particular short story starts with an inspector getting ready to talk to the relatives of man found dead in his study, supposedly (!) by suicide.
They were sitting at the kitchen table in 7, Albert Street, their small suburban house in Teddington. They had a bottle of brandy between them.
The inspector accepted a drink and knocked it back in one swig. When talking to the recently bereaved he needed all the lubrication he could get.
You may have thought it couldn’t be done, but we’re back to Orley Farm after our cinematic sidestep last week, and I’m going to have one more Mr. Moulder Cocktail Talk from the Trollope novel (I may have more Cocktail Talks from the book that don’t feature him, too. Only time will tell pals, and even it might not know!). But we’ve had a few of him in his higher moments, and so I only felt it was right to have one when he’s snoozing away after a long day shilling for Hubbles and Grease and swilling brandy and water (and perhaps other potent potables, too). However, it’s the description of his waking in the below quote that does the most for me. Oh, before I forget! Don’t miss the Orley Farm Cocktail Talks Part I, Part II, and Part III for more about the book itself, and all the Anthony Trollope Cocktail Talks (there are a few!) for more Trollopean fun.
Soon after that Mr. Kenneby saw Mrs. Smiley home in a cab, and poor Mrs. Moulder sat by her lord till he roused himself from his sleep. Let us hope that her troubles with him were as little vexatious as possible; and console ourselves with the reflection that at twelve o’clock the next morning, after the second bottle of soda and brandy, he was ‘as sweet as sweet.’
Our third Orley Farm Cocktail Talk revisits a character introduced in Part II (for more on the overall book, see Part I, and for more Trollopean fun, see all past Anthony Trollope Cocktail Talks), traveling salesman for Hubbles and Grease, Mr. Moulder. In this quote, we find our rotund commercial traveler at home for Christmas celebrations, where he and his missus are hosting a few others for a big feast, and where Mr. Moulder is talking of the liquid possibilities for the day, specifically brandy and a special whiskey,
And then, as for drink, —”tipple,” as Mr. Moulder sportively was accustomed to name it among his friends, he opined that he was not altogether behind the mark in that respect. “He had got some brandy—he didn’t care what anybody might say about Cognac and eau de vie; but the brandy which he had got from Betts’ private establishment seventeen years ago, for richness of flavour and fullness of strength, would beat any French article that anybody in the city could show. That at least was his idea. If anybody didn’t like it, they needn’t take it. There was whisky that would make your hair stand on end.” So said Mr. Moulder, and I can believe him; for it has made my hair stand on end merely to see other people drinking it.
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