February 18, 2014

Cocktail Talk: Confessions of a Bootlegger

compleat-imbiber-2There are a number of things we miss in the modern age: Myrna Loy, zoot suits, un-ironic swing bands, speakeasies that aren’t just trying to be trendy, and more. We also miss the chance to have “bootlegger” on our resumes. Ah well, at least the unmissable Compleat Imbiber # 2, itself a bit old (from 1958) lets us relive the bootlegging days in an essay it contains. An essay from which I present to you the below quote.

The first violinist, an expert chemist, skillfully diluted the contents of gin, rum, Scotch whisky, Bénédictine, and Cognac bottles which he bought at the crew’s fifty per cent reduction from the second-class barman. (In those days of Honesty, it was ‘second’ and not ‘cabin’ class.)

—Joseph Wechsberg, Confessions of a Bootlegger

October 29, 2013

Cocktail Talk, Four O’Clock at the Five O’Clock, The Compleat Imbiber

compleat-imbiber-5Hello dear hearts. There’s time I think for one more quote from the The Compleat Imbiber #5, which we’ve been talking up here on the ol’ Spiked Punch due to it’s greatness and my love of The Compleat Imbiber series. This time, it’s from a piece called Four O’Clock at the Five O’Clock, by a gentleman named Hugh Massingham. It’s mainly a look at American drinking establishments by someone not native to this country, and is built off a stop at a spot in Denver (I wonder if it’s still there) called the Five O’Clock, which didn’t at first seem friendly, but which had, from the below quote, quite a friendly line up for the times.

Suddenly, behind the bar, artfully lit from below, is a blaze of welcoming friends. There is good old Johnnie Walker, as spry as ever. There is that authentic notes of Floreat Etona, Harvey’s sherry. There is historic Beefeater – the snob gin in the United States – and those two dogs yapping away on behalf of Black and White, and soft-tasting ding-dong Bells and kindly tempting Teachers and Cutty Sarks in full sail. There is bicarbonate of soda on draught and tots of Alka Seltzer – the necessities for a hangover morning, familiar sights in an English bathroom, but unknown in English pubs. True, there are a number of bottles that are strangers, and that wink away at you with the offer of novel and perhaps dangerous pleasures. Leroux’s ‘Ginger-Flavoured Brandy’ should surely tickle some secret spot hitherto unexplored by the milder and less adventurous brews of your native land? Then there is gay Dixie Rose, a cross, perhaps, between a Gone-With-The-Wind lady and a gypsy, who is offering for your relaxation in this subdued light a bottle of London dry gin. There is Hill Billy Reserve Whiskey, with its suggestion of some smoky still in a mountain chasm. There is Popcorn Straight Cut Whiskey, made, apparently – and yet can this be true? – from the same fat white salted ears piled up in the dish by your elbow. There is ancient Carstairs (established 1788) with his White Seal Blended. There is good old Thompson – don’t let’s forget his blended bourbon. And there is Vernon and Paddy and a bottle with a playing-card label, showing a King both face upwards and face downwards – delights still not tested after all these weeks of travel.

— Hugh Massingham, Four O’Clock at the Five O’Clock, The Compleat Imbiber #5

October 15, 2013

Cocktail Talk, A Party for the Girls, The Compleat Imbiber

compleat-imbiber-5A few posts ago, I talked about my recent purchase of The Compleat Imbiber #5, and said there’d be more to come from it – and I didn’t lie, because now here we are and have another delightful Cocktail Talk quote straight from that august compendium. This particular one is from a story called A Party for the Girls, by H.E. Bates, in which a hero is tasked with making a Moselle Cup, but he can’t quite remember how it goes. So, foraging his path via experimentation, he ends up with a drink that ends up being “genius.” Sometimes it takes a little luck . . .

‘You said mint. What about mint now? Shall I go and get it? We’ve got lemon mint, too, I think’

Horace, who was trying hard to remember the exact proportions of the cup’s ingredients, put a dozen cubes of ice in a jug and coloured them with a golden film of brandy. Hesitant about something, he stood biting his lip. Oughtn’t there to be a dash or two of curaçao? Something seemed to tell him so.

‘You haven’t a spot of curaçao, I suppose?’

No, but they had maraschino, Maude said, and she thought also a little Cointreau. By now Horace was mildly confused. He couldn’t remember for the life of him whether it was curaçao, Cointreau, or maraschino that the cup demanded and again he stood biting his lip with that shy perplexity that affected Maude far more sharply than any look of open appeal.

–H.E. Bates, A Party for the Girls, The Compleat Imbiber 5

October 1, 2013

Cocktail Talk, The Compleat Imbiber 5, Boring at the Bar

compleat-imbiber-5Those chosen few, who have dawdled here on Spiked Punch since days of yore, or since days of long ago, may have been blessed enough to chance across a Cocktail Talk post featuring some wit or wisdom from one of the Compleat Imbibers that I am lucky to own. If you, rascal that you are, missed one of those earlier posts (my guess is you were out chasing whiskey bottles up trees), then by all means, go read them. Now you know that The Compleat Imbiber was a series of anthologies covering everything about drinking, with lots of wine talk, some boozy poems, some pictures of glassware, some etching of famous tipplers, and more. Overall, awesome. And during my recent trip to the U.K., I managed in a London bookstore to find a copy I didn’t yet own, number 5. So, expect some quotes over the next little while from it, starting with this one from a short essay by C. Gordon Glover about those who might bore you at the bar with their chatter.

‘Good gracious Fossbridge! Never seen you drinking gin before.’ ‘Hollands, dear boy. And chilled. I always telephone Mrs. Mason in the afternoon if I propose to drink a glass of Hollands in the early evening. She puts a bottle in the refrigerator for me. But not gin, as you understand it – definitely not the brutish juniper. . .’

Of course, there is no need to suffer it at all. There is always the snug fireside. But yet, and yet – they would be missed. And we, too, possibly, may bore the dying nightlights out of them!

– C. Gordon Glover, Boring at the Bar, The Compleat Imbiber 5

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