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.
Welcome to the second part of our tipsy tour through the Anthony Trollope novel Orley Farm (don’t miss Part I, or any of the past Anthony Trollope Cocktail Talks). In the first part, I chatted a smidge about the novel itself, and where it slots into my own personal Trollope-verse, if you will. One thing I didn’t mention there, however, is perhaps my top character in the book, a commercial traveler (or traveling salesman, if you will), named Mr, Moulder, a lover of food and drink and a representative of the fine old firm of Hubbles and Grease, purveyors of find coffee, tea, and brandy. Randomly showing up when one of the novel’s major players stops at a fine old English inn, The Bull, Mr. Moulder shows up again, and I was happier for it. But the below quote (they’ll be more from our Mr. Moulder) is in his introduction graph, and gives a nice view into him, if you will.
He wore no beard, and therefore showed plainly the triple bagging of his fat chin. In spite of his overwhelming fatness, there was something in his face that was masterful and almost vicious. His body had been overcome by eating, but not as yet his spirit—one would be inclined to say. This was Mr. Moulder, well known on the road as being in the grocery and spirit line; a pushing man, who understood his business, and was well trusted by his firm in spite of his habitual intemperance. What did the firm care whether or no he killed himself by eating and drinking? He sold his goods, collected his money, and made his remittances. If he got drunk at night that was nothing to them, seeing that he always did his quota of work the next day. But Mr. Moulder did not get drunk. His brandy and water went into his blood, and into his eyes, and into his feet, and into his hands, —but not into his brain.
You ever wake up and think to yourself as the mists of Morpheus (hahaha, that’s deep yo) roll away from your ever-loving brain, “what I really want to do today is have a Stinger?” I’m sure you, as most, do. Because, though this might be too, oh, lace-doily-y for many at first glance (crème de menthe not having that renaissance that many liquids have been having oh these last 20 odd years), when that “many,” or most of many at least, realize the hefty shot of brandy this is based on, one hopes they take a second look, realize not every drink needs like 6 or 10 obscurities to be tasty, then follows that up with a realization that maybe some of those lace-doily lovers had a good idea of a good drink, and then these smart people make one of these, love it, and at a future date go through the morning ritual described above. At that point, the only question is: at what point in the day should you have said Stinger? And the answer is: right now, friend, right now.
Ice cubes or cracked ice (depending on if you’re stirring or shaking, see Step 1 below)
2-1/2 ounces brandy (or Cognac, if the bottle and desire and daring is nearby)
1/2 ounce white crème de menthe
1. Fill a cocktail shaker halfway full with ice cubes. Add the brandy and crème de menthe. Stir well, or shake. Honestly, I like to stir here, in traditionally manner. But, I also think this is one drink that needs to be well-chilled. So, do what’s best.
2. Strain the mix into a cocktail glass. Bee-lieve it!
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)!
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