December 26, 2021
If you can, picture this: it is 86 years ago today (you have to use your imagination here, people). You are with the family, or friends, or just solo, and decide to go to a movie. What do you pick? Why The Philadelphia Story, of course. Romance, comedy, and the legendary trio of Katharine Hepburn, Cary Grant, and Jimmy Stewart? How could you go to anything else! And then, while watching you get to hear the below quote, which is an ideal Cocktail Talk. Of course, it being today and not 86 years ago, you can just stream up said movie. Go to!
Champagne’s funny stuff. I’m used to whiskey. Whiskey is a slap on the back, and Champagne’s a heavy mist before my eyes.
–Jimmy Stewart, The Philadelphia Story
December 21, 2021
As we wind our way into the final Some Slips Don’t Show Cocktail Talk (by the way: love the book cover here!), we find ourselves back at a situation touched on briefly in the book’s Cocktail Talk Part I (don’t miss Part II, either), where the real star of the series, detective Donald Lam (don’t tell his partner Bertha Cool I said he was the star, though), is getting cuddlier with one of the murder suspects in this here tale. And, as happens in the books (written by Erle Stanley Gardner writing as A.A. Fair), this cuddling, or prelude to cuddling, happens over drinks. Doubles, even.
A waiter came over and she ordered a double Manhattan.
“Single for me,” I said.
“Bring him a double, she said, smiling at the waiter. “I don’t want to get ahead of him.”
The waiter nodded and withdrew.
We nibbled pretzels and did a little verbal sparring until the waiter came back with the Manhattans. They were both doubles.
–A.A. Fair, Some Slips Don’t Show
October 26, 2021
I went down a large Cornell Woolrich hole at one point in my life, and in some ways never came out (perhaps I’m not in as deep as I once was, which isn’t to say my liking of books by said author is less, but maybe to say I’ve read such a fair amount of those available that there aren’t that many more readily available) – heck, check out the past Cornell Woolrich Cocktail Talks for evidence. There are a fair few of them! You’ll get lots of background on this, the noir-y-est (in many ways – I mean, no mystery writer uses the word “black” in more titles for a start, but also he’s such a master of psychological dark moods and mental, as well as action-driven, thrillers that seem going down a dark path) of the pulp writers, perhaps. He also wrote under a couple pseudonyms, the best-known being William Irish, under-which name he became famous enough that I have a copy of The Best of William Irish which I was recently re-reading. Featuring two full-length reads and a handful of stories, the book’s highlight may well be “Rear Window” (from which the legendary movie was made, which you should re-watch right now), which, funny enough, I think was pub’d under Cornell’s own name originally (and originally called “It Had to be Murder”). But if you have a story which a famous movie is based on, you work it in. The whole collection starts with perhaps the most famous William Irish-monikered tale (though that could be debated), the novel Phantom Lady, which I am also lucky enough to have as a standalone book, and which was also made into a movie in 1944, a movie I haven’t seen, but would love to! The book’s chapters all countdown to an execution (28 Days Before the Execution, etc.), which gives an insight into the plot: a man is accused – falsely, we know – of the murder of his wife, with only one possible way to convince the police he’s innocent, finding of a missing woman who can place him at a bar at a particular time. It’s a good read and then some, keeping you moving and twisting around this way and that way, with a few more murders and lots of surprises. Having a bar with a key role doesn’t hurt, either, and neither does the mention of Jack Rose cocktails, among others, in the below Cocktail Talk quote.
He said, “I had a Scotch and water. I always have that, never anything else. Give me just a minute now, to see if I can get hers. It was all the way down near the bottom –“
The barman came back with a large tin box.
Henderson said, rubbing his forehead, “There was a cherry left in the bottom of the glass and – “
“That could be any one of six drinks. I’ll get it for you. Was the bottom stemmed or flat? And what color was the dregs? If it was a Manhattan the glass was stemmed and dregs, brown.”
Henderson said, “It was a stem-glass, she was fiddling with it. But the dregs weren’t brown, now, they were pink, like.”
“Jack Rose,” said the barman briskly. “I can get it for you easy, now.”
–Cornell Woolrich (writing as William Irish), Phantom Lady
October 12, 2021
I wasn’t sure we’d have two An Old Man’s Love Cocktail Talks, as it’s a quicker read (especially in comparison with many Trollope gems). However, here we are! I had to feature the quote in Part I (read it, to find out why, and to find out more about the book, the last full novel written by the English great, and for even more, check out all the Trollope Cocktail Talks), and then when mulling things over, didn’t want to miss the below, either. In it, we learn our lead character has had drinking whiskey as a doctor’s recommendation – something that doesn’t happen enough today!
He had, indeed, felt but little his want of success in regard to money, but he had encountered failure in one or two other matters which had touched him nearly. In some things his life had been successful; but these were matters in which the world does not write down a man’s good luck as being generally conducive to his happiness. He had never had a headache, rarely a cold, and not a touch of the gout. One little finger had become crooked, and he was recommended to drink whisky, which he did willingly,—because it was cheap. He was now fifty, and as fit, bodily and mentally, for hard work as ever he had been.
–Anthony Trollope, An Old Man’s Love
September 28, 2021
Recently (not today recent, but just weeks ago), I had a few Cocktail Talks from the A.A. Fair book Owls Don’t Blink (you can read Part I and Part II as desired). A.A. Fair of course being an alias of Erle Stanley Gardner, who is/was/will be mostly famous for his series of books featuring dashing and mystery-solving attorney Perry Mason. I’ve written before here on Spiked Punch (check out past Erle Cocktail Talks for evidence) how I generally like the Perry Mason television show better than the books, in a twist, and how I also tend to like the A.A. Fair books better. Hey, I’m strange! I don’t dislike the Perry Mason books, but sometimes our loveable lawyer is a little too, oh, cool? I dunno. I will say this: the Perry Mason books are worth reading, A: to make up your own mind, B: cause some (like The Case of the Cautious Coquette) are dandy reads, C: they all tend to move fast and frolicsome, and D: the versions in the 40s, 50s, maybe even early 60s usually have outstanding covers. This one, featuring our red-headed heroine holding a smoking gun and wearing a smoking pantsuit, is no different. The tale itself features a mysterious letter, woman, murder, gun, car wreck, and more. And an un-mysterious drink for Perry.
He arose as Mason entered the room, said, “Mr. Mason, the lawyer?”
The man extended his hand. “I’m Stephen Argyle. I’ve very glad to meet you. I have heard about you. Won’t you sit down and join me in a drink?”
He was thin to the point of being bony, with long fingers, high cheekbones, bleached out eyes, think hair which was well shot with gray. He wore glasses which clamped on the bridge of a high nose with a black ribbon hanging from the side, giving him an expression of austere power.
Mason said, “Thank you. I’ll have a Scotch and soda, please.”
Argyle nodded to the butler, who walked over to the portable bar, dropped ice cubes in a glass, mixed a Scotch and soda, and wordlessly handed it to Mason.
–Erle Stanley Gardener, The Case of the Cautious Coquette
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
August 20, 2021
Let’s just be open about it: today is Friday the 13th. For some (how many I wonder, actually listen deep in their brain to the old luck lore?), today is a potentially very unlucky day, one in which all are prone to accidents, downer deeds, bad juju, and the potential for potentially poor potentiality. I certainly don’t want to argue with other’s deep held beliefs on this blog, so if you’ve a worry about Friday the 13th, well, do what you do. I will say that I believe you can balance out a bit of potential bad luck by drinking something tall and refreshing and named to be lucky. It’s all about the balance! Here, the balance begins with a WA-state treat: 3 Howls single malt whiskey. Made out this-a-way with Northwest brewing specialty grains and traditional Scottish peat smoked barley (a lucky combination if ever), it’s a lush number, vanilla-y and caramel-y and smoky in a friendly way. Good solo for sure, but also good here, mixed with, first, legendary Italian, Sicilian specifically, amaro Averna, whose sweet-bitter herbal and other tastes (citrus, juniper, rosemary, sage, and more) goes in a lovely manner with our single malt. And also with apple cider, the non-booze kind. Apples and our above two players are quite a lucky thing. I’m going with nice and straightforward Tree Top 3 Blend cider, but you can experiment a bit. A sprig of mint in the manner of an extra stitch of summer funtime luck, some ice, and we’ve moved from potential into perfection, balancing out the day’s bad luck lore with some darn good sipping.
The Lucky Apple
1-1/2 ounces 3 Howls single malt whiskey
3/4 ounce Averna
4 ounces Tree Top 3 Blend apple cider
Mint sprig, for garnish
1. Fill a highball or comparable glass three-quarters up with ice cubes. Add the whiskey and Averna. Stir a bit.
2. Top the glass off with the apple cider. Stir a bit more. Garnish with the mint. Feel lucky.
July 20, 2021
Our third Orley Farm Cocktail Talk revisits a character introduced in Part II (for more on the overall book, see Part I, and for more Trollopean fun, see all past Anthony Trollope Cocktail Talks), traveling salesman for Hubbles and Grease, Mr. Moulder. In this quote, we find our rotund commercial traveler at home for Christmas celebrations, where he and his missus are hosting a few others for a big feast, and where Mr. Moulder is talking of the liquid possibilities for the day, specifically brandy and a special whiskey,
And then, as for drink, —”tipple,” as Mr. Moulder sportively was accustomed to name it among his friends, he opined that he was not altogether behind the mark in that respect. “He had got some brandy—he didn’t care what anybody might say about Cognac and eau de vie; but the brandy which he had got from Betts’ private establishment seventeen years ago, for richness of flavour and fullness of strength, would beat any French article that anybody in the city could show. That at least was his idea. If anybody didn’t like it, they needn’t take it. There was whisky that would make your hair stand on end.” So said Mr. Moulder, and I can believe him; for it has made my hair stand on end merely to see other people drinking it.
— Anthony Trollope, Orley Farm