April 26, 2022
Just a few weeks back I had a Chester Himes Cocktail Talk (called The Crazy Kill, Part III) where I bemoaned the fact that I hadn’t had any Cocktail Talking from the amazing Chester Himes in many a year, and talked more about my love of his work, especially his Harlem-based novels featuring police detectives Coffin Ed Johnson and Grave Digger Jones (some of the finest characters created in detective fiction I think, with razor dialogue, sharp personalizations, and many memorable moments). I was thinking about it enough that I had to re-read some more from Mr. Himes, and so went with All Shot Up (check out the All Shot Up Cocktail Talk Part I, and all the Chester Himes Cocktail Talks), which boasts a robbery, chilly temps, a hit-and-run (with all sorts of twists), violence, politicians and politics, dark humor, plot shenanigans, and much more rollicking over the page at a blistering pace. Including the below quote, which reminded me of the first time I read the book. When I saw the drink referenced below on that first read years and years back, I reached out to the great Gary Regan (one of the bar world’s fine gentlemen, and sadly now slinging and drinking drinks at the big bar in the beyond), knowing he both knew endless amounts about drinks but also that he had a taste for mystery and detective fiction, too, just to see if he’d heard of the drink. He hadn’t, but did some research (always kind, Mr. Regan), and even though he didn’t track down another mention of it, we had a fine time talking it through and talking over the book. Here’s to him, and to Chester Himes, and for that matter to you, too.
He was drinking a tall frappe highball of dark rum with a streak of grenadine running down the center, called a “Josephine Baker.” If La Baker herself had been running stark nude in the bottom of his glass he could not have given her any more attention.
–Chester Himes, All Shot Up
October 26, 2021
I went down a large Cornell Woolrich hole at one point in my life, and in some ways never came out (perhaps I’m not in as deep as I once was, which isn’t to say my liking of books by said author is less, but maybe to say I’ve read such a fair amount of those available that there aren’t that many more readily available) – heck, check out the past Cornell Woolrich Cocktail Talks for evidence. There are a fair few of them! You’ll get lots of background on this, the noir-y-est (in many ways – I mean, no mystery writer uses the word “black” in more titles for a start, but also he’s such a master of psychological dark moods and mental, as well as action-driven, thrillers that seem going down a dark path) of the pulp writers, perhaps. He also wrote under a couple pseudonyms, the best-known being William Irish, under-which name he became famous enough that I have a copy of The Best of William Irish which I was recently re-reading. Featuring two full-length reads and a handful of stories, the book’s highlight may well be “Rear Window” (from which the legendary movie was made, which you should re-watch right now), which, funny enough, I think was pub’d under Cornell’s own name originally (and originally called “It Had to be Murder”). But if you have a story which a famous movie is based on, you work it in. The whole collection starts with perhaps the most famous William Irish-monikered tale (though that could be debated), the novel Phantom Lady, which I am also lucky enough to have as a standalone book, and which was also made into a movie in 1944, a movie I haven’t seen, but would love to! The book’s chapters all countdown to an execution (28 Days Before the Execution, etc.), which gives an insight into the plot: a man is accused – falsely, we know – of the murder of his wife, with only one possible way to convince the police he’s innocent, finding of a missing woman who can place him at a bar at a particular time. It’s a good read and then some, keeping you moving and twisting around this way and that way, with a few more murders and lots of surprises. Having a bar with a key role doesn’t hurt, either, and neither does the mention of Jack Rose cocktails, among others, in the below Cocktail Talk quote.
He said, “I had a Scotch and water. I always have that, never anything else. Give me just a minute now, to see if I can get hers. It was all the way down near the bottom –“
The barman came back with a large tin box.
Henderson said, rubbing his forehead, “There was a cherry left in the bottom of the glass and – “
“That could be any one of six drinks. I’ll get it for you. Was the bottom stemmed or flat? And what color was the dregs? If it was a Manhattan the glass was stemmed and dregs, brown.”
Henderson said, “It was a stem-glass, she was fiddling with it. But the dregs weren’t brown, now, they were pink, like.”
“Jack Rose,” said the barman briskly. “I can get it for you easy, now.”
–Cornell Woolrich (writing as William Irish), Phantom Lady
June 29, 2021
Ah, Poirot. Hercule Poirot, that is (are there other Poirots? If so, I feel for them). I know that with many books, shows, films, poems, and sculptures, some may feel a Poirot overload at times – and this isn’t even to mention the many, many, Poirot imitations and bowdlerizations. But I still love the egg-shaped Belgian, in book and movie and TV show form. Thank you Mrs. Christie! Somedays, dipping back into a Poirot yarn is just the relief a long day needs. Especially when Poirot starts hitting the sweet liqueurs (you could probably guess this), which I’ll admit also loving, probably a rarity among English speakers in his day (well, the day his adventures were set within, that is), though hopefully something not as rare today, with our lucky-for-us wider palate of bar bottle resources and consumption. Hopefully! Anyway, this is all to say, I was re-reading the classic Poirot book Mrs. McGinty’s Dead, which has it all – a murder, a perhaps wronged potential murderer, small town England townies, historical murders, more murders, and very tight patent-leather shoes. Plus: well-groomed mustaches of course! And, a wonderful listing of Poirot’s fav sweet tipples, and beer.
Poirot pressed his guest with refreshments. A grenadine? Crème de Menthe? Benedictine? Crème de Cacao…
At this moment George entered with a tray on which was a whisky bottle and a siphon. “Or beer if you prefer it, sir?” he murmured to the visitor.
Superintendent Spence’s large red face lightened.
“Beer for me,” he said.
Poirot was left to wonder once more at the accomplishments of George. He himself had had no idea that there was beer in the flat and it seemed incomprehensible to him that it could be preferred to a sweet liqueur.
When Spence had his foaming tankard, Poirot poured himself out a tiny glass of gleaming green crème de menthe.
–Agatha Christie, Mrs. McGinty’s Dead
November 20, 2020
You know, 2020 hasn’t been overly-packed with good days. There have been some, I’m sure and I’m hoping, for everyone, some big-ish good days, and some small-ish good days, even within it all. I had one recently when some bubbly showed up here, which made the day more, well, bubbly. It was also bubby from Italy (you know I love Italy, right?), specifically Trentodoc sparkling wine – Trentodoc being from the Trentino region, which is in the far north of Italy, a mountain-alp-y region, one which also has some Mediterranean-ness on the lower slopes. I’ll admit that’s not the Italian area I know best, but after tasting the sparkling wine from there, I need to know more! Made in the Meted Classico, or classic method, Trentodoc sparklers are also made from picked-by-hands Trentino grapes. Sounds yummy, right? But the proof is in the bottle, as the saying goes, and the one I’m popping off now is Maso Martis Extra Brut Rose.
Starting with its pale pink-y coloring, and enticing effervescence, it’s a wine you’ll want to drink as you pour – which is what you want, right? The taste (pino nero grapes, if you’re interested) has a berry-centric-ness, raspberries, strawberries, and then some currants, with a few delicate herbal notes, too, and a creamy nature ideal for a sunny day, a date night around the appetizer course, or, really, almost anytime. It’s also a swell base for cocktails. Well, you wouldn’t think I wouldn’t try it in a cocktail, right? I do so love bubble mixes, and with a flavorsome rose like this, I had to see how it’d play with others. Starting with another delicious number (and by some crazy occurrence also showed on the porch), but from closer to US home: Clear Creek Pear brandy. Made with Bartlett pears grown in OR (where Clear Creek is), it has a phenomenal pear nature, from the small to the lingering pear echoes, while still maintaining a warming brandy undercurrent. Then, I traveled back to Italy (to help the wine feel at home), with bitter and beautiful classic Campari – which not only adds layers of taste, but a rich redness, which is further underlined by our last ingredient, homemade grenadine. Altogether, what a drink! Refreshing but bursting with delights, and one the showcases and perfectly utilizes the wine and brandy. Dive in.
Far More Red
1 ounce Clear Creek Pear brandy
1/2 ounce Campari
1/2 ounce homemade grenadine (see grenadine recipe here, in the Note section)
3-1/2 ounces Maso Martis Extra Brut Rose sparkling wine
1. Fill a cocktail shaker halfway full with ice cubes. Add the brandy, Campari, and grenadine. Shake it.
2. Strain the mix from Step 1 into a Champagne flute or comparable glass. Top with the bubbly. Stir carefully to combine. Enjoy.
November 13, 2020
Once upon a time (a recent time, admittedly between us friends) I had a drink here on the Spiked Punch drinks blog called Spirit and Substance, within which I dropped tales of some homepage plum shrub and grenadine that a powerful pleasant pal had gifted me and mine. In that drink tale, the plum shrub was used, and now, here, As Luck Would Have It, we’re using the grenadine. And it’s key to have homemade grenadine me thinks, as (in the main) most store-bought grenadine isn’t all that fine. There are a few brands perhaps? But be safe, make your own, and have the lush, tanged, deeply good grenadine you deserve. There’s a homemade grenadine recipe below, if needed. But that’s just the beginning of our luck! With the grenadine here are many more lucky things, beginning with Montefalco Rosso, an Italian wine made of a bland of Sangiovese and Sagrantino. Specifically, here, I used Cantina dell’Alunno Montefalco Rosso, which is robust, fruity (cranberries and plummy-ness), herbal, and approachable. Delicious, I tell you, and the ideal base for a fall-time wine cocktail like we’re whipping up here. To bring more fruits (and a nice belly warming), we’re also adding Sidetrack Plum brandy, made with plums grown not but yards from where the still is that makes this clear, strong, bracing, lovely brandy – oh, made in WA, by the way, much like our next introduced ingredient, Brovo Spirits Jammy sweet vermouth. If you haven’t had the Jammy, then jump on it, cause it really lives up to its name, with a rich, cherry, chocolate, spice flavor. And then, to round and even the flavor, a slip of lemon juice, and a twist of orange. Altogether, a bounty of yumminess that’s lucky indeed.
As Luck Would Have It
2 ounces Cantina dell’Alunno Montefalco Rosso
3/4 ounce Sidetrack Distillery Plum brandy
3/4 ounce Brovo Spirits Jammy sweet vermouth
1/2 ounce homemade grenadine (see Note below)
1/8 ounce freshly squeezed lemon juice
Orange twist, for garnish
1. Fill a cocktail shaker halfway full with ice cubes. Add everything but the twist. Feeling lucky yet? Shake well.
2. Strain the luck through a fine strainer into a cocktail glass. Garnish with orange.
A Note: Hey, homemade lovers! This grenadine recipe’s a snap to make, and a joy to add to cocktail or soda:
4 cups unsweetened pomegranate juice
1 pint fresh raspberries
4 cups sugar
2 ounces orange flower water
1. Add the pomegranate juice and raspberries to a large saucepan and place over high heat. Cook for 15 minutes.
2. Let the mixture stay at a steady boil, stirring occasionally, for 15 minutes longer, reducing the heat if needed to prevent burning.
3. Slowly stir in the sugar, stirring continuously. When the sugar is completely dissolved, remove the pan from the heat and stir in the orange flower water. When the sugar is completely dissolved, remove the pan from the heat and stir in the orange flower water.
4. Let cool, and strain into bottles. Refrigerate in an airtight container for up to 1 month.
July 3, 2020
This lesser-known (but awesome) drink from days of yore feels appropriate in many ways for this weekend (named after the sound bombs made and all that), and it is incredibly tasty (and sorta surprising when you look at the list of ingredients), and a drink if you haven’t made you sure should try, but, but, but, listen, I don’t want to soapbox, but I really am not a big 4th of July fan. Not the, oh, sentiment I suppose, but going overboard with the fireworks. As a long-time dog owner, and as someone with the belief that dogs are, actually, a higher species than humans (in the main), and knowing how said fireworks can drive, and do drive, dogs insane, then you can see why I don’t enjoy the holiday, or the days around it.
On the other hand, this is why I need a good drink, and why I’m having a Whizz Bang. A curiously explosive number, this time I’m starting with Woodinville Whiskey Co. bourbon, which is local (support your locals!), award-winning, and tasty. I’ve had this drink made with a smooth Scotch, and that’s not a bad idea. However, it being the fourth and all, wanted to stay more American, and the Woodinville is a treat. Next up: dry vermouth. You don’t see enough whiskey and dry vermouth combos, and even rarer (I think? I could be wrong) is that combo with anise-y Pernod! I believe this may have originally been made with absinthe, before the big silly oh-no-scary-absinthe moment in history, but I’ve grown to love the Pernod here, so we’ll stick with it. And we’re still going! Next up: grenadine. This drink only works with really good grenadine (it somehow brings it all together), so make your own, or have a friend make some good grenadine and convince them to give you some. That’s what I did! Our final sparkly addition is orange bitters, for those herbal undertones. I went with Scrappy’s orange bitters, cause it’s, well, sparkly! Altogether, the Whizz Bang’ll make any weekend shine. Maybe have one or two, with some pals, and skip exploding things and terrorizing pups? Just an idea!
The Whizz Bang
1-1/2 ounces Woodinville Whiskey Co. bourbon
3/4 ounce dry vermouth
1/4 ounce Pernod
1/4 ounce homemade grenadine
2 dashes Scrappy’s orange bitters
1. Fill a cocktail shaker halfway full with ice cubes. Add the bourbon, vermouth, Pernod, grenadine, and orange bitters. Shake well.
2. Strain into a cocktail glass and give your dog a pet.
March 23, 2018
It seems like spring should be in full force now, right? If, wherever you are, it doesn’t feel like spring, then, hey, knock back a couple of these springtime delights, and you’ll feel the presence of spring in your soul, no matter what the temperature and sky shading. Why, you ask? It could be the gin (I like a gin with solid juniper here, but a few orange and floral notes sure won’t hurt either), or the lemon juice or grenadine (use homemade for gosh sakes) with their tangy tangs, or even the fruity garnishing. But I think, even moreso perhaps, it’s the Yellow Chartreuse (you may have guessed I’d say that from the title)! With a recipe of 130 plants (a recipe known only to two monks, who also are the only two who know the secret macerating and aging processes), it’s surprisingly smooth, delicate almost, a little sweet, and with lovely botanical and herb layers. A perfect partner for your springtime sipping.
Chartreuse Daisy, from Ginger Bliss and the Violet Fizz
2 ounces gin
1/2 ounce freshly squeezed lemon juice
1/4 ounce grenadine
1 ounce Yellow Chartreuse
Strawberry, for garnish
Orange slice, for garnish
1. Fill a cocktail shaker halfway full with cracked ice. Add the gin, lemon juice, and grenadine. Shake very well, until the shaker gets frosty.
2. Fill a goblet three-quarters up with cracked ice. Strain the mixture over the ice. Stir briefly. Float the Chartreuse over the ice, and stir again briefly. Garnish with the strawberry and the orange slice.
February 24, 2017
There’s no need to yell at me – I realize with the title here, I’m nearly breaking my own soapbox (to stretch a metaphor to the breaking point), or favorite soapbox, as admittedly there are many I like to stand upon. But this one, it’s the one where bartenders make up new drinks and then just name them some bastardization of an existing classic drink. C’mon bartenders, be creative! Though, in this case, bartender heal thyself, as this drink name is partially a play on the classic Negroni. But it’s also a play on my favorite Italian winery, Donini, and really, The Doninoni is so much fun to say! And changed enough (as opposed to, oh, the numerous Strawberry Margaritas I made in college, or something like the Appletini for gawd’s sake) to make me not too egregious, right? Right! If you disagree, drink two of the below and call me in the morning.
1-1/2 ounces Nat’s gin (I used the gin wife Nat made at Scratch, cause she did such a good job – read more about making gin at Scratch)
1-1/2 ounces Donini Tarragoni (if you sadly can’t get this, another slightly-dry but full-bodied Umbrian red could suffice)
1-1/2 ounces Campari
1/2 ounce grenadine (go homemade or go home)
1. Fill a cocktail shaker halfway full with ice cubes. Add everything. Shake well.
2. Add a few good ice cubes to an Old Fashioned or comparable glass. Strain the mix into the glass and over the ice.