February 18, 2014

Cocktail Talk: Confessions of a Bootlegger

compleat-imbiber-2There are a number of things we miss in the modern age: Myrna Loy, zoot suits, un-ironic swing bands, speakeasies that aren’t just trying to be trendy, and more. We also miss the chance to have “bootlegger” on our resumes. Ah well, at least the unmissable Compleat Imbiber # 2, itself a bit old (from 1958) lets us relive the bootlegging days in an essay it contains. An essay from which I present to you the below quote.

The first violinist, an expert chemist, skillfully diluted the contents of gin, rum, Scotch whisky, Bénédictine, and Cognac bottles which he bought at the crew’s fifty per cent reduction from the second-class barman. (In those days of Honesty, it was ‘second’ and not ‘cabin’ class.)

—Joseph Wechsberg, Confessions of a Bootlegger

October 15, 2013

Cocktail Talk, A Party for the Girls, The Compleat Imbiber

compleat-imbiber-5A few posts ago, I talked about my recent purchase of The Compleat Imbiber #5, and said there’d be more to come from it – and I didn’t lie, because now here we are and have another delightful Cocktail Talk quote straight from that august compendium. This particular one is from a story called A Party for the Girls, by H.E. Bates, in which a hero is tasked with making a Moselle Cup, but he can’t quite remember how it goes. So, foraging his path via experimentation, he ends up with a drink that ends up being “genius.” Sometimes it takes a little luck . . .

‘You said mint. What about mint now? Shall I go and get it? We’ve got lemon mint, too, I think’

Horace, who was trying hard to remember the exact proportions of the cup’s ingredients, put a dozen cubes of ice in a jug and coloured them with a golden film of brandy. Hesitant about something, he stood biting his lip. Oughtn’t there to be a dash or two of curaçao? Something seemed to tell him so.

‘You haven’t a spot of curaçao, I suppose?’

No, but they had maraschino, Maude said, and she thought also a little Cointreau. By now Horace was mildly confused. He couldn’t remember for the life of him whether it was curaçao, Cointreau, or maraschino that the cup demanded and again he stood biting his lip with that shy perplexity that affected Maude far more sharply than any look of open appeal.

–H.E. Bates, A Party for the Girls, The Compleat Imbiber 5

September 4, 2012

Cocktail Talk: Anthony Powell

Sometimes, a quote just speaks for itself (which means this may well be the shortest Cocktail Talk post on record. Oh, one thing: this is from one of the Complete Imbibers. Read more about them by following the link in the preceding sentence):

I remember, for example, being taken to see a neurotic Frenchman who was staying there with his wife, and vividly recall Sunday morning in his suite, the wireless resounding to a clergyman’s voice reading the Lesson, while we drank Pernod, and a Pekinese tried in vain to seduce a monkey.

–Anthony Powell, “A Bottle of Wine at the Cavendish,” from The Complete Imbiber 6, 1963

January 6, 2009

Cocktail Talk: The Wine and the Waistcoat

Wait, hold up, before introducing this quote, let me say happy freaking New Year booze-y pals. Here’s to a fantastically tipsy 2009. And, while it’s not 01/01/01/09 (the first second of the first day and all), it’s still the year’s start, and this quote is a sillily lovely way to start said year. It’s another bubbling gem from The Complete Imbiber #1, from an essay by Paul Holt (who, I feel bad to admit, I don’t know much about–any help?) called “The Wine and the Waistcoat.” In it, he talks about drinking and dressing, but it’s a fairly long quote, so I’m just gonna back out of its way:

“In this connection I feel I must deal with the problem of pink champagne. It is well known that many a romance has been wrecked for the lack of this romantic tipple.


I would say, here, that if it must be drunk in such a good cause, the costume is absolutely de rigueur. A sincere dressing-gown with red morocco slippers is as important as the guardsman’s bowler and brolly. (This last attire goes excellently with a large whiskey in the morning, particularly if you can manage to hide the brief-case that so cruelly accompanies it these days.) . . .


Perhaps, after all, it is best to stick to Pernod, if the sartorial consequences of imbibing interest you as much as they do me. This if only for the reason that however you start off drinking the stuff, you’re bound to end up more or less naked.”


— Paul Holt, “The Wine and the Waistcoat”

November 27, 2008

Cocktail Talk: Wise and Unwise Drinking

I have two quotes from John Betjeman’s jolly essay, “Unwise and Wise Drinking,” printed in The Complete Imbiber #1 (a collection any drinker should invest in, if they can find it. I pulled my copy from the basement shelves of a bookstore in York, England). These two seem ideal quotes to have at hand for the holidays. The first just in case you have a really vocal TT (teetotaler) at your holiday feast:


“I expect you know that story of the ancient and reverend head of an Oxford college, a man of few words and those remarkable. Someone had brought a guest to the high table who was a confirmed teetotaler. At the end of dinner he was offered a glass of port, and proclaimed in a loud voice ‘I would rather commit adultery than drink a glass of port.’ Then, that ancient and reverend head of the house broke the silence by saying ‘And who wouldn’t?’”


and the second to remind us not to forget the important “drink” part of the feast (though he doesn’t mention cocktails specifically, they should recognized as an “essential” part of any holiday meal along with the wine family):


“And there we are all ranged round the tables, how essential a part of the feast is the drink: sherry, the wines, and the port and brandy. What a beautiful procession they make, often so much better and more digestible than the food! How dull the feast would be without them. And how the tongues are loosed, the hearts warmed, the better qualities brought out . . .”


— John Betjeman, “Unwise and Wise Drinking”

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