November 13, 2012
It’s weird, but I don’t think I’ve had a Cocktail Talk post featuring a quote or quotes from a Donald E. Westlake book. Or, I just can’t track one down. Or maybe it’s not so weird — I haven’t read a ton of Westlake, but it feels like I’ve enjoyed enough books here and there. And now I’m meandering. Bank Shot is a caper book, one of like 100 books by Westlake (oh, he also wrote the screenplay for The Grifters, which is rad), and probably the only book where the not-always-so-smooth criminals rob a bank by actually stealing the whole bank building. It also was the basis for a movie. They also do a lot of their planning in the back of a bar, which is if not the safest at least the most congenial spot I can think of to plan a robbery. And you can have a drink while planning. They drink a fair amount in Bank Shot, too, and now I have drawn everything full circle, which means it’s time for the quotes:
Victor said, “I’m drinking tonight.” He sounded very pleased. Dortmunder ducked his head a little more and looked at Victor under his fingers. He was smiling, of course, and holding up a tall glass. It was pink. Dortmunder said, “Oh, yeah?” “A slow-gin fizz,” Victor said.
He had planned his menu with the greatest of care. The cocktails to begin had been Negronis, the power of the gin obscured by the gentleness of vermouth and Campari.
—Bank Shot, Donald E. Westlake
March 31, 2011
I have a whole host of Dr. Strange posts over on my Italy blog (if you don’t know who Dr. Strange is, then, well, I pity you pal. Go over to Neilalien and do some learning), and have already posted this pic up there, but I liked it so much I wanted to double it up and post it here, too. The long and short is that we were in Florence, having a Negroni at Giacosa (which is the spot where the Negroni was born), and Dr. Strange was thirsty and he wanted one, too. Which was wonderful by me:
April 28, 2009
See, friends, due to these Italian blog posts running a little long, I can only muster one a week. No, that’s weak. It’s really cause I’m lazy. Or, just trying to get the photos together makes me so sad I’m not still in Italy that I can hardly type. Or, at least, not type hardily. You get the picture, my bubbling glasses of prosecco. Or Moretti, as, truth be told, I consumed a fair amount of Italian beer (as did my co-travelers), because, well I love it, and because after touristing all day, sometimes there’s nothing better. And if that wasn’t good enough, in Florence, a cold one tastes even better than that.
Ah, Florence, how I love thee. Or, in Italian, “come amo il thee.” Either way, Florence is one of my favorite cities. The art, the architecture, the cuisina, the effervescence, pals Caterina, Emanuele, and Emiliano, and just walking the twisty lanes–all equaling total Italian city awesomeness. This trip, wife Nat and I even upped the awesomeness ante by checking our bags and finding our beds at the luscious Hotel Lungarno (it was my 40th b-day trip after all, so I had to splurge a little with my euros). Artistic just on its own, while still being friendly and comfortable (biggest bathtubs of any hotel I’ve stayed in–Ed Skoog and I could have both fit at once I think), the Lungarno is well worth the price, and the views from Nat and I’s balcony were phenomenal. But don’t take my few bumbling words for it, check out this photo taken from said balcony on a day when the clouds and sun were both struggling for control of the sky (the sun won this time, eventually):
The Lungarno also had a sweetly stylish bar/common area, where we hung out one night before dinner with pals Stereolad, Schticker girl, Andyo, and Deenayo (all of who were nice enough to meet us in Florence, then hang with us in Italy for a bit) and had that perfect Italian invention, the pre-dinner aperitif. I had a Negroni (which is natural in Florence), but forgot to take a pic. Stereolad and Andyo had some aperitifs which came with inspired fresh fruit salad garnishes:
We all had dinner one night a little outside the center historic area, traveling closer to where aforementioned Florentine friends Caterina, Emanuele, and Emiliano (check out his cute mug in the picture–oodles of liveliness and got over our talking funny quick), live, to Le Carceri, a ristorante and pizzeria that’s next to an old prison (not in use anymore–no matter that some think I should maybe spend a night behind bars for good measure). I had a creamy-cheese-and-mushroom-tastic Sformato di Fungi Porcini con Fonduta di Formaggi for starters, and basic-but-beautiful Penne Quatro Formaggio (that’s right yo–mac-and-cheese for the Kansan). But, interestingly, my favorite pics of the night came from pal Stereolad’s giant hunk of meat, so vegetarians, consider this your:
**Big Meat Pictures Comin’–Skip Next Two Photos If You Can’t Take It!!**
alert. His dish was out of hand, and smelled pretty lush (the caramelized onion smell is hard to not be entranced by) and from all reports tasted even better. The name matches the smell (hah!) and also rules: Stinco di Maile Al Forno: roast shank of pork with red onions. Whoa:
And Sterolad, with a little help from Andyo (and maybe even a bite taken by Deenayo) went all TCB on it:
To wash that down, it takes a bunch of bubbles, even on into the next day. Which meant that after walking all over the Giardino di Boboli, or Boboli Gardens (a gianormous garden full of sculptures, fountains, hills, trees, and cats behind the Pitti Palace) we parked it at one of the outdoor tables in Piazza Spirito and threw down some of the nasty, Nastro Azzurro, which is another beer that became a group favorite. Notice, also, in the below picture that thick wood tray–Andyo and Deenayo’s plate o’ salumi came out riding on that:
As this is already getting too long, let me sing for just a few more seconds about one of my essential Florence food-and-drink spots (so much so that I went in it three times this trip, and twice one day), Procacci, on Via Tornabuoni 64/r. A small breath of beauty away from the crowds, streets, and often crowded streets, Procacci is an oasis of grace with a dedication to truffles.
It’s deservedly beloved for its panini tartufati (a mouth-watering truffle-and-buttery-spread sandwich) and other small sandwiches. But by small, I mean in stature, not in taste. In taste, these little morsels are giants. Giants! When paired with a glass of prosecco or a spritz (and I’m calling for at least three panini in this equation–or maybe seven) and followed by an apple tart, they are without a doubt one of the world’s best afternoon snacks. While the truffle version is my top sandwich, Stereolad picked up a goose sausage number that made him smile so wide I took a pic (of the sandwich):
Ah, Florence, how lovely and how, well, yummy. I plan on going back at least 20 times, and I suggest you do the same. For that matter, maybe we should just go at the same time, so you don’t get lost. Before we say our last buona serra to Tuscany’s capital, here’s another pic from the balcony, a nighttime view of the Arno and a bit of the Ponte Vecchio, too:
February 17, 2009
Cut the clamoring–I know I sloshed it up about Kingsley Amis just down the page, but I wanted to get another quote in quick, before I forget (hey, I’m getting older by the day. Just like you by the way). The following is from the second part of Everyday Drinking, called, strangely, “Every Day Drinking,” which is a collection of columns Mr. Amis wrote for some London newspaper I haven’t yet tracked down, cause I was too busy writing this. Each column is shortish and on a different subject, making them brilliant bus reads (not as brilliant as a Herbie the Fat Fury comic, but darn close). The following quote’s near to my heart cause it’s about Campari, which I love, and about drinks using it–drinks I also love, if I may be so bold:
Next in line comes Campari, which as everyone knows has made an immense impression on the British market in the last twenty years or so. Not my cup of tea, alas. But, hurray, an acceptable drink can be cobbled together from this and another innocuous potation. Take two parts Italian vermouth and one part Campari (or in another recipe, one of each), mix them with ice and add Pellegrino or soda water and a slice of orange, and you have an Americano. Good at lunchtime, and before Italian food.
If you feel that, pleasant as it is, it still lack something, throw in a shot of gin and the result is a Negroni. This is a really fine invention. It has the power, rare with drinks and indeed with anything else, of cheering you up. This may be down to the Campari, said by its fans to have great restorative powers.
–Kingsley Amis, Everyday Drinking
August 6, 2008
I love the Negroni. It’s such an accurate mingling of flavors, a demonstration of how, with a little attention to balance, the world (or at least the drinking world) can come into alignment in a manner that has to make the universe applaud. Sure, I’m going overboard a bit with my fluffy language, but that’s what a really good drink drives us to, flights of poetic fancy usually reserved for singing the praises of nymphs–or at least of the hottie at the other end of the bar.
I love the Negroni so much that I made wife Natalie and pals Jeremy and Meg track down Café Giacosa in Florence, when we were visiting Italy, which is where the Negroni was thought to have been invented by a Florentine count, Camillo Negroni, and bartender Fosco Scarselli, who was bartending at the Bar Casoni, which became Café Giacosa (that sentence is much more confusing than the drink itself). The count wanted more kick in his Americano (which is Campari, sweet vermouth, and soda, and which, if you haven’t had one, is tasty in its own right when the sun’s heat is descending on your head like warm cotton) one day after a long night of dancing the Volta, and the Negroni was born. At least that’s the story. The Café Giacosa is now owned by Italian designer Roberto Cavalli, and packed with animal print stools and I suppose oodles of style (I think we weren’t up to the normal clientele, as we were a bit sweaty and rocking shorts and t-shirts), as well as super friendly bartenders–super friendly and super attractive bartenders. My guess is that they’re models between gigs, or wannabe models, or just modelesque drink slingers. They made dandy Negronis though, which, in the end, matters more than the history, even. Drinking them there, surrounded by the faux leopard prints, in the one of the world’s finest cities, was a perfect way to while away the afternoon.
The Negroni I’m having now is being consumed at night (though who knows when I’ll actually get this post posted), and in “up” format. Sometimes I enjoy my Negronis over the rocks (when it’s a little sweaty out and I want to have some ice for accompaniment; then it’s “Negroni on the rocks, ain’t no big surprise” as the song says), but the moon is out, and I’m wearing a tux and feeling classy, and having it up seemed the right way to accent the evening. I don’t always feel that a drink should be changeable like that (and I’m sure some will turn up their noses at my even suggesting it, and that’s okay, too, cause everyone has to make those choices. And, while we’re admitting things, I’m not really wearing a tux). But, somehow, the Negroni works both ways for me.
Much in the same way as both Diana Prince and Wonder Woman work for me–one is more outwardly heroic, but the secret identity is also important, and also a key role. See, I tend to think (as I’ve mentioned before somewhere) of the Negroni as the Wonder Woman of drinks (this taking drinks into the DC universe, and showing my boundless love for the Negroni in geek form), after the Martini’s Superman and the Manhattan’s Batman. This may be giving it outlandish props (again, disagree if you want–do it in the comments though, and let me know who you’d sub in instead). The Wonder Woman TV show theme song does have the line “dressed in satin tights, fighting for your rights,” and I see the Campari as the satin tights in this situation, which I guess makes the gin the rest of the costume, and that sweet vermouth the magic lasso and the bullet-deflecting bracelets (as without it, the drink would be too metallic? Seems to make sense). And, the Negroni has an even-keeled nature (like Wonder Woman), but is still somewhat a drink of the people (attached to the world, and not belong to the universe). But I’m going far afield. Make yourself one tonight, and you’ll soon have your own theories. Here’s the recipe I used:
1-1/2 ounces gin
1-1/2 ounces Campari
1-1/2 ounces sweet vermouth
Orange twist, for garnish
1. Fill a cocktail shaker halfway with ice cubes. Add everything. Shake well.
2. Strain into a cocktail glass and garnish with an orange twist.
A Variation: I heard about this from Pierre, a Florence bartender (who I met at the Hotel Casci). If you make a Negroni with Champagne or sparkling wine (you’d have to put it in after shaking and straining the Campari and vermouth, then top with the bubbly), it’s called a “Spagliato.” Which means “wrong.”