September 14, 2021
Agatha (Christie, naturally — not to throw shade on other Agathas, but really, if just using the first name “Agatha” don’t most people’s minds head towards her? Just me?) is deservedly known best for her detective (whether Belgian, small town observer, or husband-wife team) books. But she wrote others, too! Some falling into what I’d call “international intrigue,” including They Came To Baghdad. She was a well-traveled writer, with a flair for description, and so writing more globe-trotting – as opposed to set in the UK – books makes sense. Though, I have to admit, there are lots of mysterious threads intertwining here, but hey, she knows her stuff. Basically, after some set-up and stage-setting and character introducing, and a lot of “what’s happening here”-ing, the story follows Victoria Jones, who loses her job, meets a nice chap in a park, decides she’s in love, follows him (by picking up a random job with free airline tickets) to Baghdad, and drops right into a worldwide conspiracy, nearly gets killed, gets kidnapped, goes on an archeology dig, and stays in a hotel run by a man named Marcus who likes to buy drinks, which are delivered by a waiter named Jesus. And a whole lot more! There are murders, twists, neat scenes, and more drinks. Well worth picking up!
“Come and have a drink with us Miss Jones. Martini – Sidecar? This is Mr. Dakin. Miss Jones from England. Now then, my dear, what will you have?”
Victoria said she would have a Sidecar “and some of those lovely nuts?” she suggested hopefully, remembering that nuts were nutritious.
“You like nuts? Jesus!” He gave the order in rapid Arabic. Mr. Dakin said in a sad voice that he would have a lemonade.
“Ah,” cried Marcus, “but that is ridiculous.”
–Agatha Christie, They Came to Baghdad
August 31, 2021
This may be one of the weirdest Cocktail Talks ever! Boom! If you’ve read past Erle Stanley Gardner Cocktail Talks, and you should, you’ll already know that I lean towards liking his books written under the pseudonym A.A. Fair (the Donald Lam-Bertha Cool mysteries) better than his more famous Perry Mason books (though as I age, I’ve found more of those I like a little more than expected, too), so that’s not weird. The book has a fair number of twists and turns and unexpectedness happening for PI Lam and jolly moments from PI Cool, with more of the former, but that’s all expected in these yarns, so not weird at all. Though ending in LA, much of the book (which was pubbed in 1942) takes place in lovely New Orleans, and that’s where the weirdness happens. See, I’d expect as a famous writer, and as one fairly meticulous usually, Mr. Gardner would have actually visited that fair city, and spent time on the streets and in the bars and restaurants before writing this book – and had some of the city’s legendary cocktails and highballs and such. And there are many classic libations that trace their histories back to New Orleans! However, when a scene takes place in a bar and PI Lam is ordering drinks, his list of “New Orleans drinks” is bafflingly, oh, boring? Un-New-Orleans-y? Weird? To me, weird. Maybe there was a time in the 40s that people thought of the below as New Orleans drinks? I’m glad it’s not now! But the below Cocktail Talk is still worthy – weird can be fun, too.
We had no more than seated her when the waiter came up for an order.
“Plain whiskey and water,” she said.
“Gin and Coke,” I ordered.
Hale pursed his lips thoughtfully. “Well, let me see. Do you have any really good Cognac?”
I answered for the waiter. “No,” I said. “Since you’re here in New Orleans, why not drink a New Orleans drink? Gin and Seven-Up; Gin and Coke; rum and Coke; or bourbon and Seven-Up?”
–Erle Stanley Gardner (writing as A.A. Fair), Owls Don’t Blink
July 9, 2021
Oh, the life of a 1500’s explorer and colonialist, traipsing around under the sunshine, and probably never having this drink. I mean, without a time machine, I’ll admit, if I knew where and why this particular drink was attached to this particular explorer, I can’t remember it. There is a nice French and the Caribbean tying-in, as the drink features the boldness and beauty of both Cognac and rum, so at least there is some here-to-there-ing happening (though Ponce was from Spain, but let’s bring the Euro together today). However! The drink also contains Cointreau, which naturally came about a little later. And then there’s grapefruit juice and sparkling wine, which might imply a little globe-trotting. It’s a little elegant, which could be like the curve of a conquistador’s helmet, if you want to go along that particular flight of fancy. But overall, I think it’s that if you drink a couple of these, you may decide to go exploring, or at least meander in your mind hither and yon, or at least sit on the couch and watch a program that takes you on a exploration. However! If you want to just enjoy this layered, effervescent, citrus-y, number on a sunshine-y day without worrying about how our explorer name ties in, I certainly wouldn’t hassle you about it.
The Ponce de León, from Dark Spirits
1 ounce Cognac
1/2 ounce white rum
1/2 ounce Cointreau
1/2 ounce freshly squeezed grapefruit juice
Chilled brut Champagne or sparkling wine
1. Fill a cocktail shaker halfway full with ice cubes. Add the Cognac, rum, Cointreau, and grapefruit juice. Shake well.
2. Strain through a fine strainer into saucer-style Champagne glass or cocktail or coupe glass. Fill the glass not quite to the top with the Champagne.
May 28, 2021
You know those Fridays when you aren’t sure what to make, cocktail-wise, and you go to the shelves, and pick up the biggest library of cocktails you can get, or, to be specific (both language-wise and title-wise), Il Grande Libro dei Cocktails? Those ones? No? Yes? Well, either answer, this happened to me recently – luckily, I’d picked up said grand library, oh, now a few years back in a swell used bookstore in Sansepolcro (I sure hope that bookstore is still there and open through it all), so on this Friday I could open it, swing over to the “Cocktails del Amore” chapter (cause I’m a romantic, and cause I really like this picture of these cuddly glasses kissing – aren’t they cute!
), and decide to make a drink I’ve never made, called Baciami Subito, which was so intriguing, and which really shouldn’t have, to me at first glance at least, made sense: I mean, dark, rich, intriguing Cognac with light, springy, dry vermouth, and then bitter Angostura with it, too? On the flip side, it does sound good, now that I type it out, and, you know what, it is! Those lighter notes from the vermouth really start to accent the Cognac once mixed. But is it right for the romance chapter, which here (and otherwheres) tends to lean to sweeter liquid fare? However! If you realize or remember that Baciami Subito means “kiss me right now,” well, then, it’s a twist (no twist here though, but a cherry), because this drink does have a tasty kick that not only could induce rapid kissing, but also can me you feel fun-oozy like a good quick kiss. So, there we are, smooches all around!
2-1/4 ounces Cognac
1-1/2 ounces dry vermouth
2 dashes Scrappy’s Aromatic bitters (the book suggests Angostura, which is dandy I’m sure, but I had the also-dandy Scrappy’s Aromatic neat. The book also suggests three dashes, but I found two enough)
Cherry, for garnish
1. Fill a mixing glass or cocktail shaker halfway full with cracked ice. Add the Cognac, vermouth, and bitters. Stir well, or “vigorosamente!”
2. Add a cherry (or two if feeling flirty) to a cocktail glass. Strain the mix from Step 1 into the glass and over the cherry. Sip, and kiss at will.
April 9, 2021
You know (well, if you don’t, I’m about to tell you, and in some ways this is a rhetorical question just to set up the drink we’re going to have as this week’s Friday Night Cocktail) that some drinks get sadly relegated to only being had on very specific occasions – paired in a type of liquid wedlock, if you will – and not enjoyed year round. Take this drink, the Blushing Bride, whose name has led me to only suggesting it be had at weddings and wedding-related events. Which is sad, cause this delicious, multi-base-spirit drink is a treat (and a rarity, in a way, with brandy or Cognac and vodka together), with enough heft to get you through a chillier day (or a long relationship!), but enough fruitiness to make a summer day dawdle by in the best possible way, and then a cuddle of sweet that matches, well, springtime, as it is right now. So, take my advice, and have drinks you like any day of the 365, no matter if they carry a particular daily connection.
The Blushing Bride, from Dark Spirits
6 fresh raspberries
3 lime wedges
2 ounces Cognac
1 ounce vodka
1/2 ounce Simple Syrup
1. Put the raspberries and 2 of the lime wedges into a cocktail shaker. Using a muddler or wooden spoon, muddle well.
2. Fill the cocktail shaker halfway full with ice cubes. Add the Cognac, vodka, and simple syrup. Shake very well.
3. Strain the mix into a cocktail glass through a fine strainer. Garnish with the remaining lime wedge.
January 8, 2021
Welcome to 2021! Well, I’m a little late with the welcome, but it’s already been (to put it mildly) a strange week, and following up 2020’s strange year (and then some), well, tardiness is probably okay. As is drinking Fish House Punch. Luckily (for me!), some pals (Curtis and Eve!) made a big batch of Fish House Punch, and then bottled it for lucky folks (like me!), since they couldn’t, for obvious current reasons, have a big party as one usually would when making a big batch of this favorite that goes all the way, way, way back to Philadelphia’s Schuylkill Fishing Company sometime in the 1700s. There’s something about drinking a mix that traces back that far that’s wonderful, connecting us to drinkers from many years before, and then you can up the wonderful quotient ten times when it’s made by friends, and you get to share the drink with them (as well as those 1700s drinkers) in a communal, if distanced by both time and space, way. I’m not 100% sure if this is exactly the recipe they used, but it’s the one I use, from Dark Spirits. If you aren’t super thirsty, and want to do a bottling, I’d still mix with a little ice, or just add a little water, as water is one of the ingredients here (as with all chilled drinks). Let’s hope the rest of the year is as swell as this historical sipper.
Fish House Punch, Serve 10
Block of ice (or cracked ice)
1 750-milliliter bottle dark rum
15 ounces cognac
7-1/2 ounces peach brandy
7-1/2 ounces freshly-squeezed lemon juice
7-1/2 ounces Simple Syrup
1. Add the ice to a punch bowl (fill about three quarters full if using cracked ice.) Add the rum, cognac, brandy, juice, and syrup. Stir 10 times, while humming fishy songs or hymns to Pennsylvania.
2. Stir 10 more times. Serve in punch cups or wine glasses or bottle it to give to friends (in a distanced way).
March 4, 2020
I’ve never had a Cocktail Talk from Dan J. Marlowe before – welcome to the site, Mr. Marlowe! A fairly well-known writer of mid-century hardboiled crime fiction (and other things, here and there), Mr. Marlowe had two sort-of series, one with a guy named Drake (I’ve never read any of these) and one with a guy named Johnny Killain – The Fatal Frails stars the latter, and this is my first with him – and then a bunch of books without an on-going lead. My favorite book of his falls in the latter group, though The Fatal Frails with Mr. Killain (a sort-of rough-and-tumble type who is both quite a brawler and quite a lady magnet) was pretty fun, so maybe I’ll try another. The fun thing about Mr. Marlowe outside the books is that he actually hung out with a bank robber, and a murderer, and co-wrote some stories with the former, so lived the life a bit. And, he wrote the below Cocktail Talk, which may be the only French Seventy-five mention I’ve seen in a pulp – with a bonus, throwing itself into one side of a discussion mostly won by the other side these days, meaning Cognac vs. gin in said drink. Nice that it’s harder to say the drink is “much-neglected” these days, too!
His glance that had difficulty in focusing moved over to Johnny speculatively. “Although I don’t know how you knew. I was – disturbed, last evening. Upset, if you like. I am given to moods. I have – treatment for them. Early in the evening I repaired to a little place I know where the bartender is an artist in the preparation of that much-neglected drink, the French Seventy-five.” He smiled at Johnny, not quite vacuously despite the clouded eyes. “You’re familiar with the drink? Champagne over a Cognac base? Terrific morale builder. I had – several, after which I decided a spot of visiting was in order.”
–Dan J. Marlowe, The Fatal Frails
January 25, 2019
January isn’t called “the cold and flu” season as much as year’s end, but darnit, it’s still a month where you need your vitamins and need to have an eye (at least one) on your health. And what’s healthier than raspberries? Well nothing. Nothing but raspberries and vinegar, that is! Now that’s a healthy duo, especially when you combine it with soda water and Cognac (or brandy, in a pinch, another healthy item). Heck, that combo is so healthy that it was a top tipple of Count Louis Philippe Joseph de Roffignac, ex-French citizen and beloved Mayor of New Orleans from 1820 to 1828. If you can’t trust him (from whatever afterworld bar he may be at) on healthiness, then who can you trust? (Oh, you’ll need to make the raspberry-vinegar syrup to get full health benefits and to make this drink – see A Note, below – but you can do that. I have faith in you!)
2 ounces Cognac
1/2 ounce raspberry-vinegar syrup (which may once have been called Red Hembarig and various other names)
Chilled club soda
1. Fill a highball glass up with ice cubes. Add the cognac and the syrup. Stir once.
2. Top the glass off with club soda. Stir once again.
A Note: To make your syrup in a fairly-orderly and quick fashion, muddle two cups raspberries a bit in a bowl, then add a cup of apple cider vinegar, and stir briefly. Let sit overnight (I suggest putting a napkin or such on top). Then add it plus three cups sugar and 3/4 cup water to a saucepan. Heat to a simmer, let simmer for around 10 minutes, then take off the heat and let it cool completely in the pan. Strain through a fine strainer and then cheesecloth if you’re really worried about getting small bits of things in your teeth. Keep in the fridge.