March 26, 2013

Cocktail Talk: Love, Liquor, and Classical Learning

It’s nice to know that the classics were full of Cocktail Talk. And nice to know that I’m still tappng into those great books, the Compleat Imbibers, those British compendiums of drink, wine, glassware, poetry, and so much more that everyone should pick up if they ever get a chance. If you don’t get a chance, well, read this quote:

Drinkers, such as Horace, were regularly mentioned in the New Year’s Honours. Indeed, Horace’s great ode on the defeat of Cleopatra begins, symbolically, with the words ‘Nunc est bibendum’: ‘Now for a drink.’ It is as if some patriotic American poet, the late Robert Frost perhaps, were to have celebrated the annihilation of an infinitely seductive female Mao tse Tung by demanding a Manhattan.

–Peter Dickinson, Love, Liquor, and Classical Learning, from The Compleat Imbiber 6

June 11, 2012

Cocktail Talk: Murder in Brass

First and foremost, before the murder-and-drink-talk starts, let me apologize for the lack of posts last week and for probably the next couple. Things, as they say, have come up. Fun things, and things I may tell you about later (well, except the part about me running in a grass skirt through grass fields. Cause you probably don’t want that image). Anyway, excuse time=over. Now, on to Murder in Brass, by Lewis Padgett. Who I don’t know a lot about, except that he was two guys. I do know that the protagonist of this book, retired-ish detective Seth Coleman is (as the back of the book tells us): Rough! Tought! Terrific! The book has something to do with a guy who may or may not be running around knocking folks off. The “Brass” part has to do with his pops, who is dead and who was obsessed by brass. It was upstate New York and gold hadn’t been invented yet. Perhaps the best part of the book is when Mr Coleman (Rough! Tough! Terriffic!) goes into a diner with his alcoholically-minded sidekick to get a drink and finds out this spot doesn’t serve booze:

‘Take it easy,’ Bedarian said, seizing a menu. ‘Jesus. The place is dry.’

A bitter voice voice said, ‘Listen, bud, you know what a liquor license costs?’

The thin, sour man in the white apron stood over us, a pad and pencil ready. Wilma Bird said, ‘Mike doesn’t have to serve liquor. He’s got the best food in town.’

Mike made an unpleasant noise in his throat. ‘So what? I don’t have Martinis and Manhattans and Zombies and Pink Women–’

‘Pink Ladies,’ Bedarian corrected, touched in a sore spot.

‘Pink tootsie-rolls for all I know,’ Mike said somberly. ‘Fine name for a drink. A man ought to drink rye. Then he knows where he’s at. Women shouldn’t ought to drink at all. What’s yours?’

Murder in Brass, Lewis Padgett

February 27, 2012

Cocktail Talk: Phyllis Diller’s Housekeeping Hints

It’s Friday! Which means you should be thinking kick-up-my-heels and not clean-up-my-kitchen. But, but, but, with work schedules that are so packed, and weekdays that don’t seem to have a stitch of free time, often the weekends end up being a time to only shepherd the house back from chaos and into shape for the next week. Well, here’s an idea–track down a copy of Phyllis Diller’s Housekeeping Hints and get some advice on how to keep a house clean with minimal effort. Or, no effort at all. Cause Madam Diller is much more about the yuks than the sweeps, being a famous comedian from back a-ways. So, the book is full of suggestions like, “leave your sink full of dirty dishes. It’s a good way to cover up the dirty sink.” Which are perfect for Friday, when you should be thinking young, wild, and free and not detergent, elbow grease, and bleach. She also talks a lot about her penny-grasping husband Fang, which leads to the below line, which I love for some odd reason, and which ties the book in to the booze blog.

When we have guests, he puts a cherry in a glass of beer and calls it a Manhattan.

— Phyllis Diller, Phyllis Diller’s Housekeeping Hints

November 19, 2011

Cocktail Talk: Death of a Red Heroine


It’s rare, in the mystery book genre, to find a protagonist that drinks. Oh, wait, you see that all the time. What’s really rare is a protagonist that writes poetry, or reads poetry, or reads at all, really. However, in Qiu Xiaolong’s wonderful Death of a Red Heroine, the main character, Chief Inspector Chen is a writer as well as a cop, and is always sprinkling in lines from classic Chinese poems into his conversations and thoughts. And, the mystery itself is good, while the setting and surroundings (late 80s China) are describing in a manner that’s both poetic and immersive. Add in a sidekick (Detective Yu) who’s got some sass in him and a whole host of intriguing surrounding characters (there’s even one called Overseas Chinese Lu) and intricate food descriptions and the following quote and you’ll be able to guess that I strongly suggest you read the book, for gosh sakes.

Behind him, across Zhongshan Road, stood the Peace Hotel with its black-and-red pinnacled roof. He had fantastized about spending an evening there in the jazz bar, in Wang’s company, with the musicians doing a great job with their piano, horns, and drums, and the waiters, starched napkins over their arms, serving Bloody Marys, Manhattans, Black Russians . . .

Death of a Red Heroine, Qiu Xiaolong


November 3, 2011

Manhattan Throw Down, Seattle Style

Hello dear readers. For those of you not living in Seattle or visiting in the next few days, feel free to walk away from this post right now (I mean walk away, too—I expect you to leave the computer on with this site up so the drunken elves that live in your house can read this). For those in Seattle, I’m sorry this is a little last minute, but there’s still time to clear your calendar so you can go to the Manhattan Experience contest (sponsored by Woodford Reserve bourbon and Esquire Magazine) this Monday, November 7th, at the Columbia Tower Club’s Columbia Room at 701 Fifth Avenue, downtown Seattle. You do have to register first (though it’s free!) at They’ll be a host of local and local-ish (all from in-state, mind you, if not in city) bartenders (well, a small host of six I think) making their updated takes on the mighty Manhattan. Does the Manhattan need an updated take? No. But, is it nice to have a bunch of drinks made in the spirit of the Manhattan? Yes. And is it even more fun if I get to judge which one is best? Double yes. And yes, I am one of the judges, which means I’ll get to spout off to someone about why the Manhattan is the Dark Knight of drinks, and my whole DC-cosmology-into-drinks theory. Which is always nice. But it’ll be nice if you’re there. So, come on by. But leave the drunken elves at home.


PS: The Manhattan photo above, which is the best Manhattan photo ever, was taken by Melissa Punch for Good Spirits. Which, if you don’t have, you should have.

October 13, 2009

Cocktail Talk: Washington Whispers Murder

Sometimes, even in a book (or comic book) you’re not especially fond of (or, haven’t grown fond of yet, because some books and comics, like cats, sneak up on you. At first, you’re all “take-it-or-leave-it” and then all-of-a-sudden you can’t put the book or comic or cat down), a quote just jumps up and makes you happy. Or, at least, this happened to me this morning while I was reading the Leslie Ford book Washington Whispers Murder. I’ve picked up a couple of Mrs. (Miss? Ms? Madame?) Ford’s books because, well, I liked the covers. And I’m a sucker. Or, sucka, if you prefer. Though I haven’t read one yet I can honestly say I dig. But what I do dig is a pitcher of Manhattans made for me when I come over to visit. Which is why I liked this quote (and cause I know you like the same–the Manhattans, that is–I figured you might like the quote, too).


Her pale blue eyes widened inquiringly as she looked at the Manhattan pitcher he’d picked up. If he’d been a magician, and the Manhattan he poured then a chinchilla rabbit, and she a child of five, her eyes couldn’t have shone with greater or more enchanted wonder.


Washington Whispers Murder, Leslie Ford

July 31, 2009

Cocktail Talk: Benefit Performance

Happy last day of July, 2009. And, happy last day of the hottest work week Seattle’s ever had (that’s what the weather people are going on about at least). You know what really hot weeks like this lead to? Drinking, naturally. But you know what else hot weeks like this lead to? You got it: murder. And mayhem. And mangling. And mauling. And muzzles. All those devious and deadly “m” words. Which is why I thought there’d be nothing better to start the weekend then a quote or two from Richard Sale’s Benefit Performance. Not that this is the most murderous of Dell pocket-sized book (which are about the same size as Pocket Books), but it does take place in Hollywood, which is of course also hot, matching up with the theme of murder and temperature (or something along those lines–really, I just like the quotes).

To the left was the bar. The bar looked as good as the band sounded. “We’ll have a drink,” Kerry said.

“We’ll go up to the office and wait,” said Willie.

“You heard what the Bull of the Pampas said,” Kerry replied. “Clam isn’t here yet. I’ll buy you a drink.”

Willie nudged him with a round hard muzzle.

Kerry said meaningly, “Shoot me in front of all these people. It’s good for business and it stretches your neck.” He pushed the muzzle away boldly. Then he walked into the bar and ordered a Scotch old fashioned. When he glanced around, Willie had joined him, looking mad and frustrated. “You’ve been seeing too many movies,” Kerry said, amused.

A night club in the daytime is full of phantoms.

He took a breath and passed through the dusty light shaft as if it had depth and breadth. When he reached the bar, there was no daylight, and the dust danced invisibly. The bartender was working patiently behind his bar, designing his architecture of inebriation. He was cutting his lemons, putting his olives and cherries in their receptacles, anticipating Manhattans and Martinis.


–Richard Sale, Benefit Performance

March 10, 2009

Cocktail Talk: Fright

Cornell Woolrich was one of the top crime writers of his time, though he isn’t as super well known as a couple fedora-wearing others (I supposed in-the-know crime buffs are hip to him, but hey, everyone isn’t in the know all the time)–his time being mainly the 1940s and 50s, though he had outlying books from the 1920s until the 1960s. He wrote under some assumed names, wrote literate (and pretty downbeat by and large) crime and noirish numbers, did some time in Hollywood and had movies made from his books and stories (the most cherished being the Hitchcock classic and generally kick-cinematic-ass Rear Window), and then lived the latter part of his life in a seedy hotel in NY next to or with his mother (who never read a word he wrote). I’m a fan. Not of the living in a seedy NY hotel (though maybe that’s okay, too), but of all the books of his I’ve read. Which leads to the following quote, which is from a book called Fright. Originally published in 1950 (with a dandy Hard Case reprint in 2007) under the name George Hopley, it’s not my favorite book by Mr. Woolrich, but the following quote rings right for today, a frigid day in March, a Tuesday (the gloomiest day of the week), a day that would be best spent musing about life while drinking a host of Manhattans.


Sometimes they were like pinwheels, revolving around a single colored center. The bright red cherry of a Manhattan. He must have been looking straight down into his own glass when that happened. He was on Manhattans.


— Cornell Woolrich, Fright

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