He had dined in town, and by the time that his chamber had been stripped of its appendages, he was nearly ready for bed. Before he did so, he was asked to take a glass of sherry.
‘Ah! sherry,’ said he, taking up the bottle and putting it down again. ‘Sherry, ah! yes; very good wine, I am sure. You haven’t a drop of rum in the house, have you?’
Mrs. Woodward declared with sorrow that she had not.
‘Or Hollands?’ said Uncle Bat. But the ladies of Surbiton Cottage were unsupplied also with Hollands.
‘Gin?’ suggested the captain, almost in despair.
Mrs. Woodward had no gin, but she could send out and get it; and the first evening of Captain Cuttwater’s visit saw Mrs. Woodward’s own parlour-maid standing at the bar of the Green Dragon, while two gills of spirits were being measured out for her.
— Anthony Trollope, The Three Clerks
Obviously, Alfred Hitchcock was the tops. Movies, television, and being an overall memorable figure, today, we sometimes forget that he also edited a host of anthology horror and mystery books. How much did he actually have to do with them? Heck, I’m saying a lot, but he was a famous figure, and you know how that goes. Doesn’t matter one way or another to me though – I have a couple of these little pocket-sized collections, and keep my eyes open for more. Recently, I grabbed another one called Bar the Doors, which contains “thirteen superlative tales” selected, as it says, by Alfred himself. One of those is a sea-going yarn called “The Upper Berth,” by F. Marion Crawford – more a ghost or creature feature, it mostly takes place on a ship you wouldn’t want to voyage upon. It was a favorite of mine in the book, as well as having a whisky cocktail and a sherry scene with a great name in it.
“One hundred and five, lower berth,” said I, in the businesslike tone peculiar to men who think no more of crossing the Atlantic than taking a whisky cocktail at downtown Delmonico’s.
The steward took my portmanteau and greatcoat. I shall never forget the expression of his face. Not that he turned pale. It is maintained by the most eminent divines that some miracles cannot change the course of nature. I have no hesitation in saying that he did not turn pale; but, from his expression, I judged that he was either about to shed tears, to sneeze, or to drop my portmanteau. As the latter contained two bottled of particularly fine old sherry presented to me for my voyage by my old friend Snigginson van Pickyns, I felt extremely nervous.
—The Upper Berth, F. Marion Crawford
Published originally in 1838 (that’s when it started publication, at least, as it was a serial as many books were back then), Nicholas Nickleby hasn’t yet been featured in a Cocktail Talk post, which is a little surprising, since I’ve had a fair amount of Dickens Cocktail Talking. While it’s not my favorite Dickens, and maybe is considered second tier, that just means it’s amazing. It’s a little more romantic in a way then many Dickens books, and has a more Trollopean ending (if that makes sense), but I sorta like that. It’s a long read, too, which for many today in our rush-rush world is tough (wimps), but well worth reading, and sticking with, as it really starts to roll and then you get completely involved with our eponymous hero and his family, and enemies. But while it’s here, of course, is because like most Dickens (all, probably, would be safe) books, there’s a fair amount of times in pubs, at punch bowls, and just folks sipping this and that. Enough so that I’m planning a number of quotes from it here, maybe even the whole month! Let’s see how it goes, shall we? Dickens would be happy about it, I think (he’s probably one of the most, be-fun-to-have-a-drink-with authors throughout history). I’m going to start with one from a fair of sorts, where there’s a tent with a rouge-et-noir table with a loud barker, bringing people in to play with the promise of bubbly and more.
‘Gentlemen, we’ve port, sherry, cigars, and most excellent champagne. Here, wai-ter, bring a bottle of champagne, and let’s have a dozen or fifteen cigars here–and let’s be comfortable, gentlemen–and bring some clean glasses–any time while the ball rolls!–I lost one hundred and thirty-seven pound yesterday, gentlemen, at one roll of the ball, I did indeed!–how do you do, sir?’ (recognising some knowing gentleman without any halt or change of voice, and giving a wink so slight that it seems an accident), ‘will you take a glass of sherry, sir?–here, wai-ter! bring a clean glass, and hand the sherry to this gentleman–and hand it round, will you, waiter?–this is the rooge-a-nore from Paris, gentlemen–any time while the ball rolls!–gentlemen, make your game, and back your own opinions–it’s the rooge-a-nore from Paris– quite a new game, I brought it over myself, I did indeed–gentlemen, the ball’s a-rolling!’
— Charles Dickens, Nicholas Nickleby
I’ve had a handful of Allingham Campion Cocktail Talks here recently (I picked up a handful of Campion books recently, too, trying to catch up and see what I thought of them all at once). Tether’s End (aka Hide My Eyes, aka Ten Were Missing – lots of aka here) is one of my favorites, though also a tiny bit disappointing in that Campion actually isn’t in it a ton. But it’s still a fine yarn around a somewhat charming psychopath and various other intriguing characters, all happening within a short time period. But, best of all, is the below Cocktail Talking, because it’s fairly rare in my experience to come across the legendary Fernet-Branca in a mystery book (outside of Italian mysteries, I suppose). So, I was super excited to see it. Actually, I think I’m going to create a drink with said legendary liquid, and call it Tether’s End. It’s such a dandy drink name, and I’m sure Campion wouldn’t mind.
Again the childhood friends exchanged glances, and as Gerry went out of the back door nearest to the theatre the manager’s soothing voice reached him as it addressed Mr. Vick.
“If you’ve been on sherry since opening time, sir, I wonder if you’d like a change? What about a nice Fernet-Branca cocktail?”
— Tether’s End, Margery Allingham
Not too many weeks ago here on the Spiked Punch, I talked about making a swell drink with golden-hued Tio Pepe Fino sherry. That drink was the Gleanbriar, and if you missed it, well, go back and check it out. Neat, right? But sherry, being a lower-alcohol, not too heavy, really, the opposite of heavy, sort-of a ballet dancing booze in a way, is so nice in summertime that I wasn’t going to have just that one drink. Oh, no! My momma didn’t raise no fools. So, I’ve also been delving into other sherry drinks, including the easy-and-classic-y Sherry and Tonic. What a perfect summer fix. Have one today, trust me. Easy, tasty, summer-y, sherry.
1. Fill a highball, Old Fashioned, brandy snifter (I sorta like this idea), or other glass about half way (depending on glass) with ice cubes.
2. Add the sherry and tonic. Stir lightly, but seriously.
3. Garnish with the twisty twist.
In case it slipped by you like a ship in the night (for shame, for shame), my most recent Seattle magazine Bar Method article is about local bar Westward, bar manager Andy McClellan, and a cocktail of his, The Tale of Two Sherries – which uses two different kinds of sherry! It’s truly a fine mix, and one you should probably read about, right? So, check it out.
*See all Seattle magazine articles by me
First: no ducks are actually used in this drink. If you were worried. Second, it’s Friday the 13th, and you have enough to be worried about without worrying about ducks. I mean, it’s a day renowned for bad luck (especially if you’re camping) and all that. However, this drink is sure to balance out any bad luck, so I suggest you make one double quick.
Why is this particular drink lucky? I’m glad you asked. It starts with Château du Tariquet VS Classique Bas-Armagnac. Armagnac isn’t as well-known at the level it should be. Distilled once, but aged more than most spirits in barrels, it leans towards warm, full flavors, and is usually made by smaller, family-owned producers who’ve been Armagnac-ing for hundreds of years. Château du Tariquet VS Classique Bas-Armagnac is aged in oak for 3 years, and is lovely, with toffee and bread aromas followed up vanilla, oak, and more. It’s well worth sipping solo, but also makes a fairly magnificent base for cocktails.
Especially when added to just a few other key ingredients. Here, the first is Gonzalez Byass Tio Pepe Fino Sherry (Sherry, by the way, is another ingredient not enough think of for cocktails, though it’s thankfully on the rise). Delicate in color, this Sherry is made by one the preeminent Sherry-making families (they’ve been making fine Sherries since 1835) aged for four years, and is quite dry, but with a light almond aroma, and a nutty taste with just a few fruity hints. It’s also quite nice by itself, with food, but brings an individual note to drinks. And if those two charmers weren’t enough, enter old pal Green Chartreuse. Which also brings a very signature style and flavor to any drink. And a little umph.
All together (plus a tiny bit of simple syrup to round out the edged), this is one seriously swell drink. Rich, layered, elegant (in a way that only certain drinks can be), but still approachable. If you can swing it, change your lucky to the better by tracking down these ingredients and making this before the day ends.
2 ounces Château du Tariquet VS Classique Bas-Armagnac
1/2 ounce Gonzalez Byass Tio Pepe Fino Sherry
1/2 ounce Green Chartreuse
1/4 ounce simple syrup
1. Fill a cocktail shaker halfway full with cracked ice. Add the Armagnac, Sherry, Chartreuse, and simple syrup. Stir well.
2. Strain into a cocktail glass. Feel lucky.
Last week, we had a little Cocktail Talking from the Dorothy Sayers’ Lord Peter Wimsey book Whose Body?, and there I mentioned the four-pack of Lord Peter I’d picked up. Wait, what’s that you say? You missed that? Well, go read it now.
Welcome back! This week, we’re on to Busman’s Honeymoon, when Lord Peter and his new wife find a body, naturally, in the house they’ve picked up for their honeymoon. Bodies everywhere! And, as usual, my Lord’s wondrous butler, Bunter, is around, helping out, taking photos, and bringing the drinks. Which at one point leads to a little fun talk about sherry. Though I’m not sure I agree about these cocktails he mentions.
‘Sherry,’ he said, pleasantly, ‘had always appeared to me a most agreeable wine. I was so glad to read in the newspaper that it was coming into its own again. Madeira, too. They tell me that both sherry and madeira are returning to favour in London. And in the Universities. That is a very reassuring sign. I cannot think that these modern cocktails can be either healthful or palatable.
— Dorothy Sayers, Busman’s Honeymoon