March 24, 2020
When you’re sorta, oh, staying at home for an extended period as some are at the moment, it’s good to have a big, big book (or many). If you’re looking for a good big, big book, may I suggest what I’m reading, The Big Book of Christmas Mysteries? Cause it is very big (700 plus pages in the version I have), and very good (I mean, it features tons of heavy-hitters covering many genres), and very holiday-y, which brings a nice feeling these days. Christmas and winter holidays are mystery-story hotspots, if you didn’t know, probably due to balancing the cheer out with murder. That’s a guess, but I’m just happy there are so many good stories here! Including one by Robert Barnard called Boxing Unclever. I have to admit, I didn’t know Mr. Barnard well before this story (I know, I probably should!), but one of the fun things about a big anthology like this is discovering the writers new to you, alongside your favorites. And this story is an intriguing one, a story within a story, and one with some nice – and murderous! – cocktail-talking, in the form of the below quote:
And so it was time for a second round of drinks. I decided on that as I saw toiling up the drive the figure of my dear old dresser, Jack Roden. My once dear old dresser. I poured out a variety of drinks including some already-mixed cocktails, two kinds of sherry, some gins and tonic, and two glasses of neat whisky. There was only one person in the room with the appalling taste to drink neat whisky before luncheon. Pouring two glasses gave that person a fifty-fifty chance of survival. Depending on how the tray was presented. With my back to the guests I dropped the hyoscine into one of the whisky glasses.
— Robert Barnard, Boxing Unclever
December 13, 2019
I was browsing the small-but-swell Standard Cocktail Guide from Crosby Gaige today, and read this, “In this year of 1944 it behooves the prudent mixer to know his rums. Good whiskey is now scarce and will be scarcer for some time to come while good rum is in plentiful supply.” First off: glad we have so many plentiful options of both rums and whiskey (and other delights) today! Secondly, it still behooves the prudent mixer to know and love rum. Thirdly, I found a delightful little recipe in this Rum section of this delightful little book, one I can’t remember if I’d made before, called The Frank Morgan. So, I wanted to make it again, even though I’m not sure which Frank Morgan it’s named after – though I think it’s the early 19th century actor. Let’s say that!
Anywho, the drink is deceptively simple: rum, sherry, Angostura bitters. But with that simplicity, the rum must be one – it behooves the drink – that really shines. Lucky for me, I recently received a bottle of Bacardi Gran Reserva Especial dark rum in the mail (don’t hate me, be happy for me!). Admittedly, this is a really fine, fine rum, and one that in most situations you’d want to sip solo. I mean, it’s a limited-edition number, aged a minimum of 16 years (!) in American white oak in the Caribbean. You’ll find stone fruits, caramel, a little island forest, and more unveiling as you sip, and an overall lushness that can’t be beat. So, sip solo for sure. But, you know me (right?), I had to try it in a cocktail, too, and this one is ideal, cause the rum really does shine, with just a few other players. Starting with the sherry side, where I went with Williams & Humbert Dry Sack Medium sherry, which has a nice nutty and spice notioning that matched well. Add old pal Angostura, and here we are. Well, almost! Though it’s not in the original recipe from the esteemed (from whatever afterlife bar he’s at) Mr. Gaige, I added a small orange twist. And that burst of citrus was a treat. Both he and Mr. Morgan would approve, I believe.
The Frank Morgan
2-1/4 ounces Bacardi Gran Reserva Especial dark rum
3/4 ounces Williams & Humbert Dry Sack Medium sherry
Dash Angostura bitters
Thin orange twist, for garnish
1. Fill a cocktail shaker or mixing glass halfway full with cracked ice. Add all but the twist. Stir well.
2. Strain into a cocktail glass. Garnish with the twist. Sip, and think about 1944 – and about the bounties in your local liquor store.
September 18, 2018
Our re-visit to the Trollope late-period romantic comedy Ayala’s Angel continues (be sure to dip your toes into Part I, as well as our first Ayala’s Angel Cocktail Talk from years ago, so that you get a little more background on the book, as well as adding a few more smiles and cocktail-ing to your day), with a little sherry and bitters and some nice ranting about sherry and bitters.
Sir Thomas went on, with a servant at his heels, chucking about the doors rather violently, till he found Mr. Traffick alone in the drawing-room. Mr. Traffick had had a glass of sherry and bitters brought in for his refreshment, and Sir Thomas saw the glass on the mantelpiece. He never took sherry and bitters himself. One glass of wine, with his two o’clock mutton chop, sufficed him till dinner. It was all very well to be a Member of Parliament, but, after all, Members of Parliament never do anything. Men who work don’t take sherry and bitters! Men who work don’t put their hats in other people’s halls without leave from the master of the house!
—Ayala’s Angel, Anthony Trollope
May 11, 2018
I’ve been wanting to name a drink “Snigginson van Pickyns” since like September 27, 2017. See, back then I had a Cocktail Talk quote from a F. Marion Crawford story called “The Upper Berth,” which was in (for me, at least) an Alfred Hitchcock collection called, Bar the Doors. Actually, it was the twenty-sixth day in said month when I had that post, but then I think it was the following day when I put got word on the social medea* from pals @stereolad and @PaulTobin that, really, a drink should be named Snigginson van Pickyns. And, and usual, they were right!
But it’s taken a time to find the right drink. First, due to the quote (go read it, if you haven’t), said drink needed to be sherry-based. Then, it needed to be awesome, cause, well, it’s called Snigginson van Pickyns! That demands awesome. Luckily, not too long ago I received a little sample of Martini & Rossi Riserva Speciale Ambrato vermouth, a limited-time number celebrating the 150th Anniversary of the vermouth maker – and that was exactly what was needed for this drink. Made on a base of Moscato D’Asti and boasting an array of botanicals (cinchona bark, Chinese rhubarb, and other global-traveling, Snigginson van Pickyns-y things), it’s a well-balanced liquid one could drink solo, but its lovely floral nature underlined by a light sweetness, citrus, and ethereal herbs and spices goes neatly into certain cocktails, too. Good stuff. And an ideal match for sherry, especially the more delicate (perhaps) Fino sherry.
But that wasn’t enough for Snigginson van Pickyns! While the above two ingredients were an amazing start, something else was needed to round things off, and I kept it in the vermouth family – Dolin Blanc vermouth. Hopefully our two vermouth producers get along (hey, we’re all drinking, it’s fun, they should), because the double shot of vermouth with sherry is a match made in spring-and-summer-time drinker’s heaven. Lots of tantalizing and tactful flavor, but all graceful enough that it won’t weigh you down when sipping under the sun. A little lemon in twist form finishes everything off, and voila! A drink worthy of the name Snigginson van Pickyns. It only took about six months.
Snigginson van Pickyns
1-1/2 ounces fino sherry
1 ounce Martini & Rossi Riserva Speciale Ambrato vermouth
1/2 ounce Dolin Blanc vermouth
Lemon twist, for garnish
1. Fill a cocktail shaker or mixing glass halfway full with cracked ice. Add the sherry and the two vermouths (quick aside: Sherry & the Two Vermouths might be a good band name). Stir well.
2. Strain into a cocktail glass. Garnish with the twist.
*If you’ve read/seen the Jean Anouilh play of the same name, you get this! Though maybe even if you’ve just ready the Euripides, you get it, too!
April 3, 2018
For our third stop on the Dombey and Son
drinking tour (be sure to read Part I
and Part II
to catch up, and to learn a little more about why you should be reading Dombey and Son
right now, unless you have already, in which case you should be re-reading it! Heck, for that matter, catch the full roll call of Charles Dickens Cocktail Talks
, because there are many, due to the awesome-ness of Dickens, dontcha know), we hit the healthy benefits of sherry one more time. Heck, I want some sherry right now, even though I feel fine – as a preventative, of course!
Even Mrs. Pipchin, agitated by the occasion, rings her bell, and sends down word that she requests to have that little bit of sweet-bread that was left, warmed up for her supper, and sent to her on a tray with about a quarter of a tumbler-full of mulled sherry; for she feels poorly.
— Charles Dickens, Dombey and Son
March 27, 2018
We started out our Dombey and Son
Cocktail Talk-ing (be sure to read the Dombey and Son Part I
post) with a little Negus and a little overview of the book, and a little Dickens chatter – heck, why not read all the Charles Dickens Cocktail Talk posts
and get an even fuller story. Now that you’re back, let’s dive right in to another Dombey and Son
drinking moment, or at least a drink suggestion, for someone in need of a little pick-them-up (or a large one, or many). It’s sherry and a few friends that do it – heck, you might just call it a Sherry flip, and Dickens probably wouldn’t complain as long as you made him on.
If my friend Dombey suffers from bodily weakness, and would allow me to recommend what has frequently done myself good, as a man who has been extremely queer at times, and who lived pretty freely in the days when men lived very freely, I should say, let it be in point of fact the yolk of an egg, beat up with sugar and nutmeg, in a glass of sherry, and taken in the morning with a slice of dry toast. Jackson, who kept the boxing-rooms in Bond Street – man of very superior qualifications, with whose reputation my friend Gay is no doubt acquainted – used to mention that in training for the ring they substituted rum for sherry. I should recommend sherry in this case, on account of my friend Dombey being in an invalided condition; which might occasion rum to fly – in point of fact to his head – and throw him into a devil of a state.
— Charles Dickens, Dombey and Son
December 12, 2017
I recently re-read The Three Clerks
by the awesome Anthony Trollope – one of his earlier books, and one at the time that he himself called “the best novel I have ever written.” It was his sixth novel, out of a whole lot of novels, and weaves together the story of, as you might expect from the title, three clerks working in government offices in London, with varying degrees of success. Another thing you might expect, after reading that briefest of descriptions, is that these young gentlemen probably enjoy a sip of the tipsy now and again – being young and out on the town. Which is why there are a lot of good cocktail talking in here, enough that I’ve already had one Cocktail Talk quote from The Three Clerks
on the Spiked Punch. But with the re-reading, I realized just how many there are! So, a few more are demanded, I say, in honor of Trollope. Starting with this gem that contains multiple booze-y treats, as an old sailor-y uncle of a few other main characters looks for a drink.
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
September 26, 2017
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