Those who have visited Spiked Punch before (and really, who hasn’t?) know that I have a love of Anthony Trollope books, as there are a number of Trollope Cocktail Talks underlining that love. Please, go read them all! But I haven’t yet had one I don’t believe from Castle Richmond, one of five of his novels set in Ireland, a place where he lived for a good chunk of time, working for the post and kicking off his writing career. It’s perhaps my favorite of the five? Perhaps. Taking place at the beginning of the Irish famine, it has some harrowing moments and insights into that tragedy, though the core story itself is of a more personal family tragedy, or mystery, or both. Tragestery? There are the normal Trollopean well-developed characters a’plenty, mostly of the upperish class or want to be kind, but with enough others sprinkled in to keep it interesting. As well as the main did-she-or-they-or-didn’t-they kind of plot in a way, with enough side plots and history sprinkled in to keep it fresh. And of course, or we wouldn’t be here, a nice Cocktail Talky quote or two. At least two. Maybe three? Come back and see! Our first starts at a bar-rooming-house spot, where two of the more disreputable, shall we say, characters are living at for a chunk of the book. Living and drinking at, that is.
“You are cold I suppose, governor, and had better get a bit of something to eat, and a little tea.”
“And put my feet in hot water, and tallow my nose, and go to bed, hadn’t I? Miss O’Dwyer, I’ll trouble you to mix me a glass of brandy-punch. Of all the roads I ever travelled, that’s the longest and hardest to get over. Dashed, if I didn’t begin to think I’d never be here.” And so saying he flung himself into a chair, and put up his feet on the two hobs.
There was a kettle on one of them, which the young lady pushed a little nearer to the hot coals, in order to show that the water should be boiling; and as she did so Aby gave her a wink over his father’s shoulder, by way of conveying to her an intimation that “the governor was a little cut,” or in other language tipsy, and that the brandy-punch should be brewed with a discreet view to past events of the same description. All which Miss O’Dwyer perfectly understood.
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!”
We are back at the Maypole (be sure and see the Barnaby Rudge Cocktail Talk Part I for more on the pub in question – lovely place that it is – and more on the book, and while you’re at it, check out the Barnaby Rudge Part II Cocktail Talk, and for that matter, all of the Dickens Cocktail Talks) for our third installation of tipsily delightful quotes from Dickens lesser-read, sadly, but still classic novel. This quote centers on the flip. Not the acrobatic movement, but the drink, very popular at one point in history, but not seen as much today, which is a shame, as you’ll see in the below that it isn’t just delicious, but also changes the whole atmosphere in a swell manner.
Nay, it was felt to be such a holiday and special night, that, on the motion of little Solomon Daisy, every man (including John himself) put down his sixpence for a can of flip, which grateful beverage was brewed with all despatch, and set down in the midst of them on the brick floor; both that it might simmer and stew before the fire, and that its fragrant steam, rising up among them, and mixing with the wreaths of vapour from their pipes, might shroud them in a delicious atmosphere of their own, and shut out all the world. The very furniture of the room seemed to mellow and deepen in its tone; the ceiling and walls looked blacker and more highly polished, the curtains of a ruddier red; the fire burnt clear and high, and the crickets in the hearthstone chirped with a more than wonted satisfaction.
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!
Out final Vanity Fair Cocktail Talk, before we leave the legendary Thackeray (at least until I re-read or read another book of his!) in whatever afterlife bar he’s hanging out in today. But before leaving him and the book, we’re going to go along with one of the book’s large cast of characters for what I can only call a mighty mighty impressive day of drinking and eating. It’s, well, legendary (as are the Vanity Fair Cocktail Talks Part I, Part II, and Part III, which you should read).
Having partaken of a copious breakfast, with fish, and rice, and hard eggs, at Southampton, he had so far rallied at Winchester as to think a glass of sherry necessary. At Alton he stepped out of the carriage at his servant’s request and imbibed some of the ale for which the place is famous. At Farnham he stopped to view the Bishop’s Castle and to partake of a light dinner of stewed eels, veal cutlets, and French beans, with a bottle of claret. He was cold over Bagshot Heath, where the native chattered more and more, and Jos Sahib took some brandy-and-water; in fact, when he drove into town he was as full of wine, beer, meat, pickles, cherry-brandy, and tobacco as the steward’s cabin of a steam-packet.
We continue along our Vanity Fair-ing, with Cocktail Talks and drinks, right here! Oh, because I like you, I’m gonna remind you that you need to be sure and catch the Vanity Fair Part I and Vanity Fair Part II Cocktail Talks, to read up more about the book itself (just a wee bit, cause if you want to go deep, there are better sources), and catch some sips of Champagne and other delights, including the mysterious (today) Rack Punch! Then come back here and get some rum-shrub, after the theater and oysters. Everybody’s doing it!
In the company of this gentleman they visited all the principal theatres of the metropolis; knew the names of all the actors from Drury Lane to Sadler’s Wells; and performed, indeed, many of the plays to the Todd family and their youthful friends, with West’s famous characters, on their pasteboard theatre. Rowson, the footman, who was of a generous disposition, would not unfrequently, when in cash, treat his young master to oysters after the play, and to a glass of rum-shrub for a night-cap. We may be pretty certain that Mr. Rowson profited in his turn by his young master’s liberality and gratitude for the pleasures to which the footman inducted him.
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