January 4, 2022
Here’s an interesting tidbit – when I picked up this Pocket Books book (which is actually pocket-sized), called The Last Score, I didn’t even read the back-cover summation closely, taking it for granted that it was both written by Ellery Queen (which is in fact one pseudonym for two people writing together: Frederic Dannay and Manfred Bennington Lee) and starring their mystery writer/crime solving main character Ellery Queen. A strange state of affairs I find amazing, even though I haven’t read a ton of Ellery Queen books (also strange, as those books and stories I’ve read starring Mr. Queen I’ve enjoyed, which is probably why I picked up this one). Which is why when I started actually, you know, reading, I was surprised to find he’s not in this book at all. I kept trying to find him, but nope. Instead, it stars Texan travel agent (adventure travel only, that is) Reid Rance, who goes as a chaperon/bodyguard with a rich Texas lass who wants to live the on the road lifestyle a bit, and then trouble ensues, as you might expect. More adventure, less mystery, perhaps not what I was expecting, but not too bad. I did keep thinking, “well, Ellery Queen’s gonna show;” but nope, he never did. And I have now learned to read the back book cover more closely! Though if I had in this situation, I might have missed the below Cocktail Talk, I suppose.
He felt the vulture claw in his belly again then a sudden thirst. Locals were used to American tourists drinking in mid-morning.
Reid turned away from the plaza and walked into the bar of the Hotel Mexico. There he ordered a straight Bacardi, drank it quickly, ordered a second. The second he drank slowly, chasing it with Tehuacán.
–Ellery Queen, The Last Score
September 10, 2021
A little lesser-known than some of it’s more famous tropical tiki siblings, the rummy Painkiller is an early-summer, mid-summer, and late-summer treat (though honestly, why not bring summer into any day by having this year round? I can’t conjure up a single reason). I once wrote “old pirates say this was first mixed using Pusser’s rum by Daphne Henderson (owner and bartender) at the six-seat Soggy Dollar Bar at White Bay, British Virgin Islands in the 1970s” and still believe that to be the historical case. I used to love the Painkiller at Seattle’s much-missed No Bones Beach Club (you can see me on Seattle’s King 5 talking about it and other Seattle tiki treats if so inspired), and currently love the one at the bubbly Baker’s up this way, but I also like to sail my own ship once in a while, high winds be damned, and you should tack the same direction. Because the Painkiller isn’t tough to make, and will leave you singing sea shanties in a superior manner – which is how every day should end, right? If you’ve never had a Painkiller, it’s a near cousin to the Pina Colada (if only Rupert Holmes would have sung about a Painkiller, we might be having a different conversation), meaning it’s coconutty, creamy, fruity, strong, and lush, with a dark rum base. Historically (see: above) it should be Pusser’s rum, but I am currently, sadly, Pusser’s deficient, and so went with Ron Abuelo 12-year old dark rum and it was yummy. Sometimes to relieve the pain you have to do what you have to do! So, get tropical y’all.
2 ounces Ron Abuelo 12-year old dark rum (or Pusser’s, if you got it)
4 ounces pineapple juice
1 ounce orange juice
1 ounce cream of coconut (I used Coco Lopez)
Freshly grated nutmeg, for garnish
Crushed or cracked ice
1. Fill a cocktail shaker halfway full with ice cubes. Add the rum, juices, and cream of coconut. Shake really well.
2. Fill a highball glass or comparable glass three-quarters up with cracked or crushed ice. If you happen to have a Lewis bag (and I hope you do!), now’s a good time to use it!
3. Strain the drink into the glass. Garnish with fresh nutmeg. You could also garnish with an orange slice and a cherry (both or one or the other, you might see). I wasn’t feeling the fruit salad, so left them off, this time!
September 7, 2021
Don’t miss the weird (!) Owls Don’t Blink Cocktail Talk Part I, or you’ll be sorry (in little ways, maybe, but probably not losing sleep, which would make me sad), which not only has a strange New Orleans-y quote, but more info on this book by Erle Stanley Gardner, though writing as A.A. Fair. And, while being thorough about your research, check out all the Erle Stanley Gardner Cocktail Talks, to get the skinny of how I feel (hmm, is this too much all about me? You’ll get good cocktail quotes, too) about his famous creation Perry Mason, and private investigators Donald Lam and Betha Cool, who star in this particular mystery yarn. In the below quote, Lam is taking one of the potentially murderous (!) female characters in the book out for a ginormous dinner. I can’t imagine eating this much, but in the 40s, people were heartier.
The waiter brought our daiquiris. We touched glasses, took the first sip.
The waiter stood by our table, exerting a silent pressure for our orders.
“Could you bring some oysters on the half shell with a lot of cocktail sauce, some horseradish and lemon?” I asked. “Then bring us some of those cold, peppered shrimp, some onion soup, a steak about three inches thick, done medium rare, some French-fried onions, shoestring potatoes, cut some French bread, put on lots of butter, sprinkle on just a trace of garlic, put it in the oven, let it get good and hot so the butter melts all through the bread, put some sparkling Burgundy on the ice, and after that bring us a dish of ice cream, a huge pot of coffee, and the check.”
The waiter never batted an eyelash. “I could do that very nicely, sir.”
–Erle Stanley Gardner (writing as A.A. Fair), Owls Don’t Blink
August 31, 2021
This may be one of the weirdest Cocktail Talks ever! Boom! If you’ve read past Erle Stanley Gardner Cocktail Talks, and you should, you’ll already know that I lean towards liking his books written under the pseudonym A.A. Fair (the Donald Lam-Bertha Cool mysteries) better than his more famous Perry Mason books (though as I age, I’ve found more of those I like a little more than expected, too), so that’s not weird. The book has a fair number of twists and turns and unexpectedness happening for PI Lam and jolly moments from PI Cool, with more of the former, but that’s all expected in these yarns, so not weird at all. Though ending in LA, much of the book (which was pubbed in 1942) takes place in lovely New Orleans, and that’s where the weirdness happens. See, I’d expect as a famous writer, and as one fairly meticulous usually, Mr. Gardner would have actually visited that fair city, and spent time on the streets and in the bars and restaurants before writing this book – and had some of the city’s legendary cocktails and highballs and such. And there are many classic libations that trace their histories back to New Orleans! However, when a scene takes place in a bar and PI Lam is ordering drinks, his list of “New Orleans drinks” is bafflingly, oh, boring? Un-New-Orleans-y? Weird? To me, weird. Maybe there was a time in the 40s that people thought of the below as New Orleans drinks? I’m glad it’s not now! But the below Cocktail Talk is still worthy – weird can be fun, too.
We had no more than seated her when the waiter came up for an order.
“Plain whiskey and water,” she said.
“Gin and Coke,” I ordered.
Hale pursed his lips thoughtfully. “Well, let me see. Do you have any really good Cognac?”
I answered for the waiter. “No,” I said. “Since you’re here in New Orleans, why not drink a New Orleans drink? Gin and Seven-Up; Gin and Coke; rum and Coke; or bourbon and Seven-Up?”
–Erle Stanley Gardner (writing as A.A. Fair), Owls Don’t Blink
July 30, 2021
Poor tangerine, always jealous of it’s more famous citrus siblings, even during summer (which is when tangerines start showing more on shelves, start showing off a bit, and start becoming a part of people’s mind palaces). I like them, even with their jealousies, tangerines, that is. Like many this sunny time of year, I picked up some lately, and have been loving them, and used them in this sunny-time sipper. The slightly sweeter (than oranges, at least) juice makes a swell addition to drinks, especially, perhaps, with rum in summer? Is that recency bias? Perhaps! But in this tangerine-y bubbler, the white rum and juice go particularly well, especially with the addition of two more citrus cousins (we’ll put the jealous aside here), in the form of Scrappy’s lovely (and singular, I think) Lime bitters, which is lime-y and lightly herbal, and another WA-state made product, Grandeza orange liqueur, boasting a rich orange-and-vanilla-ness (you could sub another orange liqueur here, but while it might be good, it might not be great). While tangerine juice has that sweet nature, I felt a touch more was needed, so also added some simple syrup. And then, as the sun is shining and the mercury is risen (I’m typing here in summer, you know), some chilled club soda and ice, and finally, one more addition to give our old jealous tangerine the last word, here, at least: a tangerine twist. A wide one, I suggest.
The Tangerinian Defense
3/4 ounce freshly squeezed tangerine juice
1-1/2 ounces white rum
1/2 ounce simple syrup
1 dashes Scrappy’s lime bitters
1/2 ounce Grandeza
5 ounces chilled club soda
Tangerine twist, for garnish
1. Fill a cocktail shaker halfway full with ice cubes. Add the tangerine juice, rum, syrup, bitters, and Grandeza. Shake well.
2. Fill a highball or comparable glass three-quarters full with ice cubes. Strain the mix from Step 1 through a fine strainer into the glass.
2. Add the soda to the glass. Stir carefully, to mix everything nicely together, but no need to get wacky about it. Garnish with the twist.
July 9, 2021
Oh, the life of a 1500’s explorer and colonialist, traipsing around under the sunshine, and probably never having this drink. I mean, without a time machine, I’ll admit, if I knew where and why this particular drink was attached to this particular explorer, I can’t remember it. There is a nice French and the Caribbean tying-in, as the drink features the boldness and beauty of both Cognac and rum, so at least there is some here-to-there-ing happening (though Ponce was from Spain, but let’s bring the Euro together today). However! The drink also contains Cointreau, which naturally came about a little later. And then there’s grapefruit juice and sparkling wine, which might imply a little globe-trotting. It’s a little elegant, which could be like the curve of a conquistador’s helmet, if you want to go along that particular flight of fancy. But overall, I think it’s that if you drink a couple of these, you may decide to go exploring, or at least meander in your mind hither and yon, or at least sit on the couch and watch a program that takes you on a exploration. However! If you want to just enjoy this layered, effervescent, citrus-y, number on a sunshine-y day without worrying about how our explorer name ties in, I certainly wouldn’t hassle you about it.
The Ponce de León, from Dark Spirits
1 ounce Cognac
1/2 ounce white rum
1/2 ounce Cointreau
1/2 ounce freshly squeezed grapefruit juice
Chilled brut Champagne or sparkling wine
1. Fill a cocktail shaker halfway full with ice cubes. Add the Cognac, rum, Cointreau, and grapefruit juice. Shake well.
2. Strain through a fine strainer into saucer-style Champagne glass or cocktail or coupe glass. Fill the glass not quite to the top with the Champagne.
May 7, 2021
Summer proper (first day of summer and all that) is still over a month away, but I can feel it creeping up with every sunny day, temperature rising, refreshing fruity drinks bubbling, flowers blooming, gardens growing, sweat sweating, outdoor meals aromatizing evenings, and did I mention the drinks? We had a precursor summer day recently, one of those days that provides a preview of all that sun and such just described, and I just had to make up a new drink to accompany said day, and had to name it after summer, and had to transport my mind into a summer mindset, and between us, I (humbly), think I did a fairly decent job, and that Theros would approve. Oh, what’s in the drink? I started with rum (a summer favorite), white rum, that is, and then upped the rummy-ness with a little Stiggins’ Fancy rum, which is a referred to as “pineapple rum,” but for summer’s sakes don’t take that to mean chemically-induced or saccharin-y or against nature, as (if you haven’t had it), Stiggins’ is none of those, instead, wafting a perfectly roasted pineapple aroma over a dark flavorful rum. If you haven’t had it, try it now. Then, to round out those rummy siblings and to underline with citrus, herbs, caramel, sweetness, and lushness, I added some Montenegro amaro – one might not think of amari as summer standbys, but one also might be foolish, as these flavor-packed pals can bring just the right layers to hot weather treats, when mixed with the right partners. Like rums! And, like pineapple juice, our next ingredient. And, like Scrappy’s Lime bitters, which delights with lime and lighter herbal notes (remember kids: bitters makes it better). Finally, ice, club soda, mint, and here we are, summer, a month or so early. Enjoy it now, and then.
1 ounce white rum
3/4 ounce Stiggins’ Fancy Pineapple rum
1/2 ounce Montenegro amaro
1-1/2 ounce pineapple juice
1 dash Scrappy’s Lime bitters
4 ounces chilled club soda
Fresh mint sprig, for garnish
1. Fill a cocktail shaker or mixing glass halfway full with ice cubes. Add the rums, amaro, juice, and bitters. Shake well.
2. Fill a highball or comparable glass with ice cubes. Strain the mix from step 1 into the glass. Top with club soda. Stir, carefully (no need to spill). Garnish with the mint.
A Note: You could serve this over cracked ice, even crushed ice. But I wasn’t so prepared or industrious as you might be. Next time, I might be!
December 11, 2020
Bit chilly out dontcha know? Wind coming in quick and cool from the north, nipping at your nose, toes, and panty-hose? Perhaps a flake or two of snow wisping on the currents of air here and there (but not yet everywhere)? Fluffy orange mittens mittening on your hands? You know, winter (for those in the hemisphere where it is winter) is here, so, not so surprising if you’re thinking of thicker socks and watching the mercury mingle lower, and wondering – how might I warm up? If I can be a bold as an impertinent icicle, can I suggest the Rumoddy? Which (shhhh, don’t tell) is, to speak the cold truth, a rum toddy with maybe a wrinkle or two (like a warm shirt that has been in the closet a long time). And Rumoddy is such a warming sounding name, yummy. And this is yummy! With dark rum, lime, and rosemary simple syrup I had nearby, and which you could make if you want (and why wouldn’t you, rosemary being such a swell winter herb), but if not, you could go with regular simple (rosemary simple recipe below btw), and then hot water to take that chilly mentioned way back in sentence one far, far away – for a few moments, at least.
2 ounces dark rum
1/2 ounce freshly-squeezed lime juice
3/4 ounces rosemary simple syrup (recipe in Note)
5 ounces hot water
Lime twist, for garnish
1. Add the rum, lime, and syrup to a cocktail shaker (no ice!). Shake well.
2. Strain through a fine strainer into a pre-warmed (just by running it up warm water) sturdy mug.
3. Top with the hot water. Stir to combine. Garnish with a lime twist.
A Note: To make rosemary simple syrup, add three-quarters cup fresh rosemary to a saucepan. Muddle a little bit with a muddler or wooden spoon. Add 1-1/2 cups sugar and 1 cup water to the saucepan and raise the heat to medium-high. Stirring regularly, let the mixture come to a low boil, and keep it there until the sugar is dissolved. Simmer for ten minutes, remove the heat, and let cool completely. Strain out the rosemary, and pour into a container with a good lid. Store in the fridge for up to two weeks.