Have we had enough Cocktail Talking from the Dickens’ classic Barnaby Rudge? I doubt it! But we are going to turn the last page – or have the last quote – for now, calling last call with the below (be sure to learn more about the book, as well as enjoy more Barnaby Rudge Cocktail Talks by reading Part I, Part II, Part III, and Part IV! And why not read all the Charles Dickens Cocktail Talks? There is no good answer to that question). This snippet takes us back to the Maypole, the bar parts of the book revolve around, and is such a dandy description of the place, I wish I could dive right into the page and be there (the bar, that is, not the page). What a spot! And, what a book.
Old John would have it that they must sit in the bar, and nobody objecting, into the bar they went. All bars are snug places, but the Maypole’s was the very snuggest, cosiest, and completest bar, that ever the wit of man devised. Such amazing bottles in old oaken pigeon-holes; such gleaming tankards dangling from pegs at about the same inclination as thirsty men would hold them to their lips; such sturdy little Dutch kegs ranged in rows on shelves; so many lemons hanging in separate nets, and forming the fragrant grove already mentioned in this chronicle, suggestive, with goodly loaves of snowy sugar stowed away hard by, of punch, idealised beyond all mortal knowledge; such closets, such presses, such drawers full of pipes, such places for putting things away in hollow window-seats, all crammed to the throat with eatables, drinkables, or savoury condiments; lastly, and to crown all, as typical of the immense resources of the establishment, and its defiances to all visitors to cut and come again, such a stupendous cheese!
For our fourth (but not our last!) visit within the pages of the Charles Dickens delight, the criminally under-read Barnaby Rudge, we get a view into some family relations, here between the, I’d say, villain of the piece, or one of such (perhaps the most villainous, though also well admired by many), and his son – who is, by curious ways and means, one of the heroes of the piece. While Mr. Chester, the father, may not be one who induces admiration within a reader (or not many of such), you can’t fault him for his views on wine in the below. Which goes to show that few are totally irredeemable. One hopes at least. Avoid being such yourself by reading the Barnaby Rudge Cocktail Talks Part I, Part II, and Part III (and really, checking out all the Charles Dickens Cocktail Talks will probably make you heroic, too).
“My dear Edward,” said Mr. Chester at length, with a most engaging laugh, “do not extend your drowsy influence to the decanter. Suffer that to circulate, let your spirits be never so stagnant.”
Edward begged his pardon, passed it, and relapsed into his former state.
“You do wrong not to fill your glass,” said Mr. Chester, holding up his own before the light. “Wine in moderation — not in excess, for that makes men ugly — has a thousand pleasant influences. It brightens the eye, improves the voice, imparts a new vivacity to one’s thoughts and conversation: you should try it, Ned.”
“Ah, father!” cried his son, “if —”
“My good fellow,” interposed the parent hastily, as he set down his glass, and raised his eyebrows with a startled and horrified expression, “for Heaven’s sake don’t call me by that obsolete and ancient name. Have some regard for delicacy. Am I grey, or wrinkled, do I go on crutches, have I lost my teeth, that you adopt such a mode of address? Good God, how very coarse!”
For our second Cocktail Talk from Dickens’ novel of family, riots, and ravens (among other things), we head to a gathering of prentices, as they say. Focusing mostly on one specific apprentice, the Captain of the group, a man of slight size but outsized self-importance, perhaps, and of finely-tuned calves, the swell named Mr. Tappertit. Not the villain of the book (I’d say there isn’t solely one), but not the nobelest of characters, no matter the below quote. Oh, be sure you read the Barnaby Rudge Cocktail Talk Part 1 to learn more about the book (and don’t miss the many other Dickens Cocktail Talks, either).
‘Sound, captain, sound!’ cried the blind man; ‘what does my noble captain drink–is it brandy, rum, usquebaugh? Is it soaked gunpowder, or blazing oil? Give it a name, heart of oak, and we’d get it for you, if it was wine from a bishop’s cellar, or melted gold from King George’s mint.’
‘See,’ said Mr. Tappertit haughtily, ‘that it’s something strong, and comes quick; and so long as you take care of that, you may bring it from the devil’s cellar, if you like.’
‘Boldly said, noble captain!’ rejoined the blind man. ‘Spoken like the ‘Prentices’ Glory. Ha, ha! From the devil’s cellar! A brave joke! The captain joketh. Ha, ha, ha!’
I’ve had a goodly amount of Charles Dickens Cocktail Talk posts here on the Spiked Punch blog (started in the 1800s in honor of Dickens naturally), but never one from the underrated and underread book Barnaby Rudge, a situation which I’m going to remedy over the next few weeks, as I’ve recently re-read it, and so am primed for Cocktail Talks from it. You can learn more about the book from scholars more learned than I, but I will give you this: it has one of the finest, or most well-imagined, fictional pubs ever, The Maypole, in which some of the action centers. Also, it’s a book (like so much of Dickens) that while taking place in the past is finely attuned to the present, in this case as the sort-of second part of the book takes place around the actual London anti-Catholic (in theory, at least) riots, driven by Lord George Gordon, and the “politics” and demagoguery and players around such mirror a lot of what we see today. Sad, in a way. But the Maypole is nice! Until the . . . well, I won’t give too much more away. But I will start out at the Maypole, when one of the book’s main characters (out of a full and varied cast, as Dickens does), locksmith Gabriel Vaden, arrives at the pub on a stormy night.
When he got to the Maypole, however, and Joe, responding to his well-known hail, came running out to the horse’s head, leaving the door open behind him, and disclosing a delicious perspective of warmth and brightness – when the ruddy gleam of the fire, streaming through the old red curtains of the common room, seemed to bring with it, as part of itself, a pleasant hum of voices, and a fragrant odour of steaming grog and rare tobacco, all steeped as it were in the cheerful glow – when the shadows, flitting across the curtain, showed that those inside had risen from their snug seats, and were making room in the snuggest corner (how well he knew that corner!) for the honest locksmith, and a broad glare, suddenly streaming up, bespoke the goodness of the crackling log from which a brilliant train of sparks was doubtless at that moment whirling up the chimney in honour of his coming – when, superadded to these enticements, there stole upon him from the distant kitchen a gentle sound of frying, with a musical clatter of plates and dishes, and a savoury smell that made even the boisterous wind a perfume – Gabriel felt his firmness oozing rapidly away. He tried to look stoically at the tavern, but his features would relax into a look of fondness. He turned his head the other way, and the cold black country seemed to frown him off, and drive him for a refuge into its hospitable arms.
‘The merciful man, Joe,’ said the locksmith, ‘is merciful to his beast. I’ll get out for a little while.’
And how natural it was to get out! And how unnatural it seemed for a sober man to be plodding wearily along through miry roads, encountering the rude buffets of the wind and pelting of the rain, when there was a clean floor covered with crisp white sand, a well swept hearth, a blazing fire, a table decorated with white cloth, bright pewter flagons, and other tempting preparations for a well-cooked meal – when there were these things, and company disposed to make the most of them, all ready to his hand, and entreating him to enjoyment!
Just a week ago, I had a drink, The Ciliegia (a sort-of cherry-Negroni-influenced sipper, if you missed it), which featured Oomrang Cherry eau di vie, or fruit brandy, which is delicious, and, today, I’m following it up with another drink featuring another delicious Oomrang fruit brandy, this time their Blueberry Geist – featuring it in this drink, The Blueberry Cobbler. Whew, that was quite a sentence! And the Oomrang brandies are quite good brandies! About this time last year, I was lucky enough to be able to write an article about Oomrang (there are two umlauts by the way, in the name, so imagine them there) for the sparklicious Sip magazine. I don’t think it’s online as it was for subscribers only, perhaps, but research it up, see what you can find. Abbreviated version: Oomrang is a distillery and winery outside of Stanwood WA, and is a remarkable place, where they make lovely wine utilizing lesser-known German grapes: Mueller-Thurgau, Siegerrebe, Kerner, and Sylvaner. They also make fruit brandies – the real stuff, not the sickly sweet things sometimes marketed under that name. They have two kinds, the more traditional eaux de vies (when I say “more traditional” I mean in like Europe, as we aren’t as used to them yet in the U.S. – sadly) and geists. Because I don’t want to rewrite the whole article here, I’ll just quickly say that in eaux de vie the fruit is fermented, distilled, and bottled quickly, whereas with geists first you macerate the fruit in alcohol for a fair amount of time – Oomrang uses an alcohol made from grapes, and macerates a month – then distill and bottle it. Both brandy versions are strong spirits that taste yummy. I find the geists a wee bit more fragrant featuring an orchard-late-in-season vibe and fruit scrumptiousness. Which – we’ve finally gotten around to it – goes swell in this here drink.
A drink which is part of the Cobbler family, a family tracing its liquid lineage back to the early 1800s, when the Sherry Cobbler kicked off and kicked into gear, and then it and the Cobbler famile gained international name recognition when ol’ Chucky Dickens (as I called him, you may be more formal and all him Charles Dickens) included the drink in one of my favs, The Life and Adventures of Martin Chuzzlewit, in 1842. At one point, in 1888, bartender and writer Harry Johnson wrote “This drink is without doubt the most popular beverage in this country, with ladies as well as with gentlemen,” and though its popularity waned, the Cobbler is picking back up as more and more discover how swell it is for summer. Which leads us to the blueberry-rific Blueberry Cobbler, featuring Oomrang’s lush Blueberry Geist, a little simple, a little lemon (I feel Cobblers need both sweet and tang), a splash of soda (taking us off perhaps the super traditional Cobbler path, but it needed it, too, to me, especially when the sun’s high in the sky), and lots of crushed ice. It’s a summer hit, even if to get there you’ve now read a small novel.
1. Add the 10 blueberries, lemon juice, and simple to a cocktail shaker. Muddle well.
2. Add ice cubes to about the halfway full point, then the Blueberry Geist. Shake.
3. Fill a wine glass (or goblet) up with crushed or cracked ice. Strain the mix through a fine strainer into the glass. Top with the soda, stir briefly. Add more ice if needed. Garnish with blueberries and mint.
Here’s one more Bleak House Cocktail Talk for you, before we back away for now (cause there might be more in the future) from one of the finest books of all time, a big ol’ masterpiece by one of the masters themselves, Charles Dickens. Don’t miss the Bleak House Cocktail Talks Part I and Part II either, if you find yourself behind on your reading, so you can score a few more quotes and learn a bit more about the book (though who am I kidding – you probably know it well yourself already, cause you’re cool like that). This last quote features Mr. Bucket, one of the first detectives in literature. He’s an interesting character (duh! It is Dickens), and detective, as at the beginning when he shows up, you might think “hmm, not so sure about him – tool of the man? Not on the side of right and justice?” but then as he unfolds and becomes more realized and more spotlighted you think “yeah, Mr. Bucket! He’s the stuff!” There have been many created detectives that take some Bucketian characteristics since he made the scene, but none exactly like him. For one, how many detectives drink sherry? Not enough.
Having put the letters in his book of fate and girdled it up again, he unlocks the door just in time to admit his dinner, which is brought upon a goodly tray with a decanter of sherry. Mr. Bucket frequently observes, in friendly circles where there is no restraint, that he likes a toothful of your fine old brown East Inder sherry better than anything you can offer him. Consequently, he fills and empties his glass with a smack of his lips and is proceeding with his refreshment when an idea enters his mind.
Our second Cocktail Talk from the all-time classic (is that a strange turn of phrase? “All-time” should be inferred in “classic” I suppose) and amazing book of amazingness Bleak House has arrived right here! Be sure you read the Bleak House Part I Cocktail Talk, too, so you feel all caught up and can laugh at my silliness even more. In this here Cocktail Talk below, we are fully-focused on Mr. Tulkinghorn, who is both one of the villains, (there are layers of villainous behavior, but I’d call him the top layer) and then part of one of literature’s first mystery plots. That’s all I’m saying! Read the book. While Mr. T isn’t someone you like, like, his love of old port in the below is for me a tiny redeeming factor in his Dickens-driven makeup. And his name is great, too, like most Dickens names.
In his lowering magazine of dust, the universal article into which his papers and himself, and all his clients, and all things of earth, animate and inanimate, are resolving, Mr. Tulkinghorn sits at one of the open windows enjoying a bottle of old port. Though a hard-grained man, close, dry, and silent, he can enjoy old wine with the best. He has a priceless bin of port in some artful cellar under the Fields, which is one of his many secrets. When he dines alone in chambers, as he has dined to-day, and has his bit of fish and his steak or chicken brought in from the coffee-house, he descends with a candle to the echoing regions below the deserted mansion, and heralded by a remote reverberation of thundering doors, comes gravely back encircled by an earthy atmosphere and carrying a bottle from which he pours a radiant nectar, two score and ten years old, that blushes in the glass to find itself so famous and fills the whole room with the fragrance of southern grapes.
Whoa. This is one of the weirder days in my history. I’ve just realized I’ve never had a Bleak House Cocktail Talk on Spiked Punch before. I mean, you’d think I’d know, right? I write the posts! But there have been many, many posts on here, too many, really, and lots of Dickens Cocktail Talks, and my memory (writing about drinks and all) isn’t as up to snuff as the snuffiest, and I just on some level in my mind took it for granted that I’d had at least one Bleak House Cocktail Talks, but never stopped to check, until today, as I’m rereading said book, and so did indeed double and triple check and, well, weirdly, I never have had a quote from Bleak House on here. Whoa. See, Bleak House may be my favoritest Dickens book of the whole lot of ‘em. Maybe. Hard to say, and I am as we all are different people in some small manner on different days. But it is an all-time classic of the written world, an immense treasure for anyone who likes reading, and if you don’t, well, then check out the BBC Bleak House mini-series, cause it is the absolute tops. Bleak-Freaking-House! Not the peppiest, but I’ve laughed lots when re-reading. Cried, too. Jarndyce and Jarndyce man, it’s a killer. I don’t feel I need to outline the book, cause it’s well-known enough, but I do feel I need to have multiple Cocktail Talks from it to make up for my missteps in not having any on here already. I’m going to start with a dinner recitation from a ‘Slap-Bang’ dining house, where three chaps have been dining out: Guppy (a somewhat central character, who it’s hard not feel for, though he’s a little silly with his slicked-down hair, and a little, not un-savory, but not someone completely trustworthy), who works in one of the central law firms, and his pals Mr. Jobling (less central, law stationer), and Mr. Smallweed (lower clerk in the same firm as Guppy, and grandson to one serious shaking villain).
Mr. Smallweed, compelling the attendance of the waitress with one hitch of his eyelash, instantly replies as follows: Four veals and hams is three, and four potatoes is three and four, and one summer cabbage is three and six, and three marrows is four and six, and six breads is five, and three Cheshires is five and three, and four pints of half-and-half is six and three, and four small rums is eight and three, and three Pollys is eight and six. Eight and six in half a sovereign, Polly, and eighteenpence out!
Not at all excited by these stupendous calculations, Smallweed dismisses his friends with a cool nod, and remains behind to take a little admiring notice of Polly, as opportunity may serve, and to read the daily papers: which are so very large in proportion to himself, shorn of his hat, that when he holds up The Times to run his eye over the columns, he seems to have retired for the night, and to have disappeared under the bedclothes.
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