The Old Fashioned – so tasty. But, sometimes a wee bit overlooked today. Not by your normal drinker, but by (a bit, I think) those who maybe talk a lot or write a lot about drinks, as focus sits more maybe on drinks with lots of ingredients and such. Not all the time! A little, though. Anyway, all of this is to say, I was super happy to be able to write about some awesome Old Fashioneds recently, made in the awesome city of Seattle (best bartenders in the world!), for the also awesome Seattle magazine. If you missed it, check out my Seattle Old Fashioneds article, and then go have one. Or have one while you read! What a great idea.
I have to admit; sometime I pick up pulps and pocket books for the covers – or the titles. Sometimes they’re good, sometimes not so good. But I just can’t resist! Such is the case with this little upstate New York thriller/mystery. I mean, it’s called The Groom Lay Dead! It all revolves around the killing of a rich jerk, which I’m sorta good with, too, and there’s a fair amount of imbibing – and the first murder (there is never just one) takes place in a winery! Sometimes you can tell a book by its cover.
It was dark when we came out of the tavern and I drove along until, somewhere beyond the two lakes we’d passed, I noticed a place on the side of the road that had a neon sign. When I saw it said: Wines and Liquors, I turned in.
Linda didn’t offer a thing. She got out of the car and we went into this place. There was a small bar and booths along one wall and at the end, a tiny dance floor and a big juke box. There were three men at the bar and about a third of the booths were occupied. I ordered two Old Fashioneds at the bar and carried them over to the table Linda had picked.
— George Harmon Coxe, The Groom Lay Dead
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
I have to imagine there are people who miss the cold war. Old spies, counterfeit passport makers, marketers of microfiche. But most of us are probably pretty good with the cold war being far enough in the past that people under 20 probably don’t really know what the phrase means. However, you can still (if you are a you that looks for things like this) uncover books that fall into the cold-war literary genre. Not a big genre, but the one that Who Is Elissa Sheldon? by David Montross fits into. It’s a book where everyone is a double agent, many characters have multiple names, and “the Reds” is a phrase that doesn’t refer to a baseball team in Cincinnati. Not the best read, but fun in its double-dealing way. And, one of things that defined the cold war was fairly straight-ahead drinking, usually an Old Fashioned like in the below quote:
‘No, I waited for you.’ She didn’t look well, her eyes were heavy and her mouth dropped. ‘I’ll have an Old Fashioned if they can make it. That’s what she used to drink.’ Adam ordered for the girl and refused anything for himself. Then he sat back and studied her. The blue suit was wrinkled, and her blouse was wilted and greyish. There was a certain pathos in her, but his involuntary concern hardened because there was no remorse in her. The worse she looked, the better he liked it.
— Who Is Elissa Sheldon?, David Montross