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
March 12, 2021
There are days when you want to unbury a drink from an old book or pamphlet, a drink that hasn’t been sipped for many years, and other days when you want to make up a whole new drink, one that you’ve created for your very self for the very first time, and then other days when you want to try and recreate a drink you had out (or as take-out, in currant circumstances) at a local watering hole, made by a talented drink-slinger, and then other days when you just want to have a classic Manhattan, one made with Early Times Bottled in Bond bourbon. Today is that day! For me, at least, as I recently received a bottle of said Early Times bourbon – lucky me! – making it all possible. Early Times Bottled in Bond bourbon has a long and interesting history, including being lost to all from I believe the 1980s until a slow re-release that started in 2017. Aged 4 years, and at 100 proof, this tipple treads an approachable path, with some umph beneath, swirling a sweetness on the nose that lingers through a citrus, caramel, vanilla flavor with spice hints popping up, and then popping up more and more through the finishing moments. Overall, just a delicious, friendly bourbon that everyone I know enjoys sipping slow as the sun goes down. But that approachability also means it’s a dandy cocktail base, too, and the Manhattan is a swell cocktail to base on it. As it has that little sweetness, I went with Punt e’ Mes as the vermouth, because it’s a little drier with beauteous bittery herbal notes – a good choice, I have to admit! And for the bitters themselves, I picked Scrappy’s Aromatic bitters, which is an ideally-balanced spice and herb bitters in a classic style, superb here.
2-1/2 ounces Early Times Bottled in Bond bourbon
1/2 ounce Punt e’ Mes sweet vermouth
1 dash Scrappy’s Aromatic bitters
Cherry (I used a Rainer cherry I’d had mulling with mates in some bourbon, but a good Maraschino would work a treat, too)
1. Fill a cocktail shaker or mixing glass halfway full with cracked ice. Add the bourbon, vermouth, and bitters. Stir well.
2. Add a cherry (or two!) to a cocktail glass. Strain the mix from Step 1 into said glass. Enjoy.
February 19, 2019
Well, when I posted an earlier Leave Her to Hell Cocktail Talk, I should have mentioned (or at least alluded to) that there might be more, but I wasn’t sure. However, in hindsight, why would I only want one, when there are multiple swell drinking scene in this book (which, as you learned when you read the earlier post, which you did read, right? but whichin you learned I’m reading via a you-should-own-it collection of three Fletcher Flora novels, said collection put out by Stark House). Heck, I’m guessing now that I’ll have even more from Kansas-born Mr. Fletcher (sadly gone from us a few years now), so you have that to look forward to (and if you need even more, see past Fletcher Flora Cocktail Talks, too). However, with that said, and with my admiration for said writer, I can’t completely agree with his final assertion in the below quote, which has three classic drinks in it. Three! Though, with novelists, you never know that the protagonist’s point of view is the authors, so really, maybe Mr. Flora loves an Alexander, and is having one right now at whatever afterworld bar he’s hanging at. Here’s hoping!
I looked right. A cocktail lounge was over that way, beyond a wide entrance and down a step. A number of people were drinking cocktails. There was no music. I recognized a Martini, which was all right, a Manhattan, which was better, and an Alexander, which you can have. Everything was very elegant, very sedate. Maybe someone saw me, maybe not.
–Fletcher Flora, Leave Her to Hell
May 29, 2018
I was at the amazing Seattle Public Library annual booksale
not to long back, and came across a great box of book (well, lots of boxes of book, many, many, many were there, but this was a particular
one) that had a fair amount of old pocket-sized books, the ones with good covers, including books from heavy-hitters like Hammett and Chandler. But also some names I didn’t know, which is where this beauty by Adam Knight, The Sunburned Corpse
, comes into the picture. It wasn’t the best pulpy pick-up, but it’s lots of fun – I mean, it has the subtitle “Murder in a Tropical Paradise” and what’s more fun than that! There was a tough detective, a bunch of double-dealing, a murder on a boat, rum, and more, including the below quote that isn’t about rum. I love booksales!
“Forgive me,” she said, after a great lurch of the boat. “If I’m making passes at you under the table, please blame it on Davy Jones.”
“I’m not complaining,” I said.
“You’re really nice,” she smiled. “What are you drinking?”
“Drambuie. It sits well after a big meal.”
“A man of discernment.” She cased me slyly, weighing me with her wise eyes. “You don’t find many Drambuie drinkers on a boat like this. I would have judged you a Scotch and soda man.”
“I didn’t think it showed.” I lifted her glass and sniffed it. “You fooled me, too. I would have called you the Manhattan type. Instead, you’re sipping Aquavit. Scandinavian ancestors?”
“I love the Swedes?” She laughed. “I also love Aquavit because it warms me and excites me. But Aquavit is a kind friend the morning after.”
–Adam Knight, The Sunburned Corpse
April 26, 2016
Our final Fredric Brown cocktail talk (in this run at least) comes from a story called “The Wench Is Dead,” which was later expanded into a novel. It’s about a genial drunk (who used to be high society), and murder, of course! And mishaps, and, as you’ll see below, Manhattans. Be sure to check out Part I and Part II to expand your Brown-ing. You’ll be happy you did.
‘Let’s drink our drink and then I’ve got a room around the corner. I registered double so it’ll be safe for us to go there and talk a while.’
The bartender had mixed her Manhattan and was pouring it. I ordered a refill on my whisky-high. Why not? It was going to be my last drink for a long while. The wagon from here on in, even after I got back to Chicago for at least a few weeks, until I was sure the stuff couldn’t get me, until I was sure I could do normal social drinking without letting it start me off.
–Fredric Brown, Miss Darkness
April 12, 2016
I recently received the book Miss Darkness: The Great Short Crime Fiction of Fredric Brown. I hadn’t had any experience with Mr. Brown before, which is a shame as he’s pretty darn good – smart, funny, able to write both super short stories and longer pieces, obsessed a bit with chess and Shakespeare and a few other choices things, like drinks. He also made a name for himself as a sci-fi writer (maybe even moreso) and I believe had a few movies made from his work. This collection is a monster of sorts, just in that it’s 726 pages, so hard to read on the bus (but not impossible!). A worthy monster to attack though, as it’s jam-packed with crime-noir-y goodness. And if you like circus sideshows, well, don’t miss it. I’m going to run a couple Cocktail Talk quotes from it, because Mr. Brown also enjoyed the tipples, as I’ve said. This one’s from the story “Good Night, Good Knight,” and has cocktail and bartending and acting and blackmail fun.
He got the haircut, which he needed, and the shave, which he didn’t really need — he’d shaved this morning. He bought a new white shirt and had his shoes shined and his suit pressed. He had his soul lifted with three Manhattans in a respectable bar — three, sipped slowly, and no more. And he ate — the three cherries from the Manhattans.
The back-bar mirror wasn’t smeary. It was blue glass, though, and it made him look sinister. He smiled a sinister smile at his reflection. He thought, Blackmailer. The role; play it to the hilt, throw yourself into it. And someday you’ll play Macbeth.
Should he try it on the bartender? No. He’d tried it on bartenders before.
The blue reflection in the back-bar mirror smiled at him.
–Fredric Brown, Miss Darkness
May 26, 2015
Okay, I’ve taken nearly a month since the Glass Key Part 1 post, and during that time haven’t been able to get this smashing Dashiell Hammett novel of politics and ka-pows out of my mind. So, that means – a second Cocktail Talk post on it. You are very lucky people (but not as lucky as when you actually read the book), cause it’s a swell, swell read, as the below demonstrates (in boozy fashion).
Lee Wilshire had returned to her table. She sat there with her cheeks between her fists, staring at the cloth.
Ned Beaumont sat down facing her. He said to the waiter: “Jimmy’s got a Manhattan that belongs to me. And I want some food. Eaten yet, Lee?”
“Yes,” she said without looking up. “I want a Silver Fizz.”
–Dashiell Hammett, The Glass Key
April 7, 2015
A lost novel by James M. Cain (James M. Cain!) came out a couple years ago, and I didn’t even realize it. Cause I am an idiot! But, that didn’t make me any less happy when I did find out, and when I found a copy I was ridiculously happy. Mr. Cain is of course one of the honest-and-true pulp and hardboiled masters, and so discovering The Cocktail Waitress, a lost novel of his, well, that’s treasure to a guy like me. And the book is fantastic, with many of the Cain hallmarks (sex, greed, stark, and characters that breathe), and with a fair amount of action in a bar called The Garden of Roses. In it, our main character learns a bit about what she’ll need to do besides delivering drinks.
“First set-up is for the old-fashioned. You know what an old- fashioned is?”
“You mean the orange slices and cherries?”
“…Yeah, them.” He gave me a long look, then went on: “And for Martinis?”
“I turn the olives out in a bowl and stick toothpicks in them.”
“Onions, no toothpicks.”
“O.K. Now, on Manhattans—”
“No toothpicks if they have stems on them. But sometimes the wrong kind is delivered, and them without stems take picks. On Margaritas—”
“Salt? In a dish? And a lemon, gashed on one end, to spin the glasses in?”
“Speaking of lemon—”
“Twists? How many?”
“Many as three lemons make. Cut them thick, put them in a bowl, and on top put plenty ice cubes, so they don’t go soft on me. I hate soft twists.” He looked at me like I was a dancing horse or some other marvel. “You sure you never…?”
I explained: “My mother used to give parties, and my father fixed the drinks. I was Papa’s little helper.”
— James M. Cain, The Cocktail Waitress