June 19, 2018
Recently got my hands on another one of the superb (if you’re into such things, which I hope you are, so we can be friends and all that, though of course we could maybe still be friends even if you aren’t, but it’s not quite
as easy) Stark House Noir Classics collections. Often these are collections of out-of-print books by a single author, but in this one, there are three authors from the pulp-y period. All are worthy reads – your favorite is up to you – but the one I’m highlighting here is Park Avenue Tramp
, a book by Fletcher Flora (great name, too, and one I hadn’t been acquainted with before) about booze, a dangerous (in a sort-of different way) broad, a piano player, and bleakness in the best way, the way true noir books deliver it. Enough so that I was fairly, oh, downbeat for a moment when finishing this tale. Then I moved on to the next one (which is nice in these collections). A bar plays a central role, too, which is also nice, and where we get the below Cocktail Talk quote from.
She looked at him gravely and decided that he was undoubtedly a superior bartender, which would make him very superior indeed. It might seem unlikely on first thought that a superior bartender would be working in a little unassuming bar that was only trying to get along, but on second thought it didn’t seem unlikely at all, for it was often the little unassuming places that had genuine quality and character and were perfectly what they were supposed to be, which was rare, and it was exactly such a place in which a superior bartender would want to work, even at some material sacrifice. She felt a great deal of respect for this honest and dedicated bartender. She was certain that she could rely on him implicitly.
“Perhaps you can help me,” she said. “In your opinion, what have I been drinking?”
“You look like a Martini to me,” he said.
“Really, a Martini?”
“That’s right. The second you came in I said to myself that you were a Martini.”
–Fletcher Flora, Park Avenue Tramp
May 12, 2017
Boodles and Dolin sound a smidge like they could be an old Vaudevillian comedy duo, with the spinning ties, just-about-bawdy bawdiness, and maybe even a seltzer dispenser for a wet-faced final guffaw. The latter of course would be out of place today, as I decided that I needed to keep it about as canonical as you can (or close, I suppose), after having an assortment of high-faluting liquid creations lately. I don’t consume a wheelbarrowful of Martinis, but once in a while I get the urge, and when urge-ing go with a ratio that all should (that’s what really old drinkers would tell us – like, say, 90ish), 2-1/2 to 1/2, stirred (screw off Bond), and go with a lemon, because lemons are fruits of the gods and olives aren’t. Feel free to seltzer me in the face, but not until I finish this drink. Actually, not until I finish the next drink. I surely deserve two.
2-1/2 ounces Boodles gin
1/2 ounce Dolin dry vermouth
Lemon twist, for garnish
1. Fill a cocktail shaker or mixing glass halfway full with cracked ice. Add Boodles and Dolin. Laff! Then stir. Then laff!
2. Strain into a cocktail glass. Garnish with the lemon, in a manner that would make your grandfather’s grandmother proud.
December 27, 2016
Just for fun recently, I re-read Charles Williams’ Man on a Leash. It might not have even been that long since I read it the first time – I know I had a Spiked Punch post about it not that long ago. Go read that so you can get some background. You back? Good. Anywho, decided to re-read it when in one of those Williams moods, and came across another quote, ideal for Cocktail Talk-ing. Check it out – bet you agree.
“No,” she said. “I’m glad you came; I wanted to talk to you. She led the way down the short vestibule into the living room. “Come on into the kitchen,” she said, “while I fix the drinks. It’s Carmelita’s day off.”
The kitchen was in front, on the opposite side of the living room, with a separate dining room in back of it. There was a door at the far end of it, probably to the garage. She opened the refrigerator for ice cubes. “Martini, vodka and tonic, Scotch?”
“Vodka and tonic would be fine,” he said.
She began assembling the drinks, the old ebullience and blatant sexiness subdued now, though the simple sheath she wore was still overpowered by the figure that nothing would ever quite restrain. Her legs were bare, as usual.
–Charles Williams, Man on a Leash
November 22, 2016
See, I told you (in Part I) that I’d probably have a second quote from Hal Masur’s (aka Harold Q. Masur) lawyer-y pulp-y book from last century, You Can’t Live Forever. And here we are! Check out the below, and know that I can predict the future.
It was a nice quiet bar on a side street off Park Avenue, cool and dim and silken, a high-class oasis with retiring waiters and a hushed atmosphere. The chairs were softly pliant to make you comfortable and the pretzels crisp and dry to keep you thirsty. Enclosed booths ringed the room and smoke wove a gauze-like web that hung motionless in the still air.
We were on our third pair of Martinis and were calling each other by our first names. Conversation so far had been limited to that polite badinage used between two people on mutual fishing expeditions. I was in rare form.
— Hal Masur, You Can’t Live Forever
March 25, 2016
Okay, let’s start with another drink – the Martini. Don’t worry, I’ll get to widows. But recently I received (poor me!) a bottle of Ransom Gin and a bottle of Ransom dry vermouth in the mail. If you don’t know (and, if so, why don’t you?), Ransom is a farm-to-glass distillery and winery in Sheridan, OR, started up by owner and distiller Tad Seestedt. With the f-to-g earlier, you can probably guess that they use local ingredients by the bucketful, including in the gin alone, hops, marionberry, coriander, fennel seeds, and chamomile all produced on the Oregon farm where the distillery is, which is fantastic. And the vermouth also features wine and brandy made on the farm, using OR ingredients, too. That’s pretty darn awesome, and means these old pals (gin and vermouth, that is), in this situation are old, old pals, down to the ground. So, when one (if you’re one like me) gets a bottle of gin and a bottle of vermouth from the same spot and sharing the same agricultural legacy, the first thing that happens is opening the bottles. Then making a Martini, of course.
Mine are made in old school style, 2-1/2 parts gin to 1/2 part vermouth, with a twist of lemon. The end result here – darn delicious. Hints of herb and spice, but with a really lovely smoothness overall. Everything, as you’d expect, plays so nicely together. Of course, me being me and all that, I couldn’t just try the Martini, I had to push the envelope beyond the obvious with a lesser-in-the-road’s-middle cocktail. And that cocktail was the Merry Widow, which I’d recently re-discovered (I can’t remember if this is where I saw it first, honestly) in a fun book from 1936 called Burke’s Complete Cocktail and Tastybite Recipes – a fine read if you can find it. Anyway, the Merry Widow lets the vermouth shine a bit more (which is good here, because the Ransom vermouth is very drinkable all alone, with an balanced herbal, citrus, combo), and also introduces just a hint of a few other players, all of whom played well. Give it a whirl, and see if you can taste that good Oregon terroir coming through. I served a round to some pals, and they all could – and thought the drink would make any widow get up and dance.
The Merry Widow
1-1/2 ounces Ransom gin
1-1/2 ounces Ransom dry vermouth
2 dashes Absinthe
2 dashes Benedictine
1 dash Angostura bitters
Lemon twist, for garnish
1. Fill a cocktail shaker or mixing glass halfway full with cracked ice. Add everything but the twist. Stir well.
2. Strain into a cocktail glass. Now, bring that twist to the OR party.
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
April 1, 2014
I’ve had a few Cocktail Talk quotes from Lawrence Block books before – I tend to like the older ones, some of which have awesomely been reprinted by the awesome Hard Case Crime folks. The Girl with the Long Green Heart falls firmly into the latter category, as it was originally published in 1955, then reprinted in 2005, and as it’s full of cons, dames (one real serious dame, really), back-dealings, and drinks. No foolin’, just check out the below quotes:
The maître d’ beamed his way over to us, and Evvie said something about Mr. Gunderman’s table, and we were passed along to a captain and bowed through a cocktail lounge and a large dining room into something called the Terrace Room. The tables were set far apart, the lighting dim and intimate. We ordered martinis. “You might as well order big,” she told me. “He’ll be unhappy if I don’t give you the full treatment. This is quite a place, isn’t it? You don’t expect it in Olean. But they have people who come from miles to eat here.” The martinis were cold and dry and crisp. We had a second round, then ordered dinner. She touted the chateaubriand for two and I rode along with it.
—The Girl with the Long Green Heart, Lawrence Block
April 9, 2013
Day Keene is one of my favorite pulp-ateers. And by that I don’t mean someone who does puppet shows with puppets made of fruit. Though that would be, um, interesting, too. No, I mean one of the writers who wrote in the middle of last century, and who wrote books that usually fit in your pocket and stories in magazine with vaguely lurid names. Both genres tended to be about crimes, criminal, down-on-their luckers, drinkers, back-alley brawlers, just-in-troublers, and anyone who’s run into, or looked for, trouble. Day Keene wrote a whole giant bar full of tales featuring those kind of folks, with tight plots that keep you on the edge and wondering how it’ll all end in a manner that’s not quite bleak, but close enough to call out to bleak without a raised voice. Anywho, his characters usually need a stiff drink, and Dead Dolls Don’t Talk (which is part of an amazing collection of three Day Keene novels reprinted by Stark House) isn’t any different. As this quote shows us:
As he sipped his second drink Hart gave the girl her due. Peggy made good Martinis, albeit they were a trifle strong and she served them in Old-fashioned glasses. The date, if it could be called that, was proceeding according to pattern. Peggy had made the usual announcement that she wanted to change into something cooler and more comfortable. However, instead of donning the usual filmy negligee, she’d put on a smart red shantung coolie coat that ended halfway down her thighs, creating the illusion that there was nothing by flesh and girl under the provocative garment.
—Dead Dolls Don’t Talk, Day Keene
*See all Day Keene Cocktail Talks