May 25, 2021
I’ve been re-reading (until I can get my happy hands on some of the books and stories I don’t yet have) a couple of George Simenon’s marvelous Inspector Maigret stories and books lately. Like many of my favorite yarns by my favorite yarn-spinners, I like to read or re-read some Maigret every so often. It’s always enjoyable just to delve back into the wonderful Parisian/French and mystery/crime and memorable character atmosphere and world Simenon created. One of the books re-read not long ago was Maigret and the Madwoman, which touches on a murder and a crime, but also into the, oh, person of Maigret himself in a way that pulls you in – or me, at least! Since it’s a re-read, and since Maigret liked tipples of various sorts, not so surprising that there is already a Maigret and the Madwoman Cocktail Talk Part I (which you should read, along with all the Inspector Maigret Cocktail Talks). Part II, this one, is wine-centric, and ideal for a spring day like today. Actually, I think I’m going to continue my reading with a chilled glass of white wine myself!
On his way back to the Quai des Orfevres, Maigret stopped at the Brasserie Dauphine for a glass of white wine from the Loire. He didn’t feel like a beer. The white wine in the frosted glass, with just a hint of a sparkle, seemed more appropriate on this lovely spring day.
It was one of the slackest time of the day. Except for a delivery man in a blue apron, there was no in the café.
He decided to order another.
–George Simenon, Maigret and the Madwoman
October 2, 2020
Here’s a fine kettle of various ingredients mixed with booze. I had the mad/smart/odd/random/bored/inventive/normal idea not more than a couple weeks ago that I should make up a wine-based liqueur or aperitivo if you like (I like, so I’m gonna call it that), and that it should have basil in it (cause my basil plants were doing so well then, if, admittedly, not as well now as summer has dwindled), and maybe orange (cause I had an orange), and a roasted peach (which also was around and needed to be used, sans pit, but the roasting felt important), and some spices but not too many, and a hint of bitterness cause the best aperitivos (or many of them) tend to have that, and it should be pretty as that hour on a sunny late-summer day when night is nearly there, but not quite there, the hour you realize once again that summer and all things are transient, ephemeral, lovely. Whew, seems like a lot to ask of something made in a big glass jar!
But, you know, it worked out quite well. Not sure I reached the full heights I wanted, but came close-ish, to my taste, which might be different than yours. The basil is the strangest part of the equation, as it lost some of its, well, basil-ness if that makes sense. There’s not overriding basil smell or taste, or any, or very little; instead, it adds a slightly vegetal minty-ness. Interesting! The orange notes come through strong, with a little other citrus (thanks to lemon) and a dream of toasty peach, and the spice notes (tiny bits of ginger, star anise) are more inferred than active, if that makes sense. Oh, I should have started with: the wine I used as the base was an Orvieto Classico white wine, which I love, and which is dry-ish, but fruit-y-ish (more peach notes here), and grape-ish enough to bring a lot of flavor. I also added some vodka, as the wine solo didn’t seem to have enough umph for the end-of-summer delicate sadness I wanted. Sure, I’m weird! Gentian, the bittering agent of choice for so many things, underlines that thought, as well as balancing the sweetness. Really, all joshing and flighty language aside, Caducitivo (caduco in Italian meaning transient or ephemeral) was an awfully fun, and tasty, experiment, a fine pre-dinner, sipper, with a layered, light, orange-citrus-herb flavor containing a friendly bitter back end. Heck, I think I’ll make it again next year! And, with the below recipe, you can try it, too. I like sipping it at room temp, but think it’s best over ice, or chilled a bit. While I haven’t tried it yet, my guess is it’d be great with Prosecco, and also as a cocktail ingredient.
2 cups basil
1 roasted peach (see Note)
1 whole star anise
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
3 wide orange twists
2 wide lemon twists
2-1/2 cups Orvieto Classico (I used Ruffino, which is nice, solid, and not overly pricey)
1/2 cup vodka (I used Prairie Organic vodka, which is swell and came in the mail)
1 cup simple syrup
1/4 teaspoon crushed gentian
1. Add the basil, peach, star anise, ginger, and citrus twists to a large glass container with a good lid. Muddle nicely. Add the wine and vodka, stir, and put that lid on it. Store in a cool dark place away from the sun. Let sit two weeks, swirling occasionally.
2. Open it back up, add the simple syrup and gentian (see Second Note), and stir well. Place it back in the cool dark place, and let sit two more weeks, swirling occasionally.
3. Strain – I went once through a decent fine strainer to get the fruit out, and then through cheesecloth to add more clarity. You might need a third straining, too.
A Note: For the peach, I just baked it at 425 F until it was slightly roasted, not charred. Also, I didn’t use the pit, just the peach itself.
A Second Note: You could add this in Step 1, but I had unexpectedly ran out, so couldn’t. And there’s something (probably nothing) in adding that bittering agent later, letting the other ingredients meet up first.
February 25, 2020
Well, as I said recently (as I’m sure you recall), I’ve been reading a book every pulp, detective, mystery, American literature lover should read, The Giant Collection of the Continental Op. By dashing (okay, I’m not the first to say this) Dashiell Hammett, author of, well, if you don’t know I feel for you, cause the list includes some of the best works from last century (including The Maltese Falcon, The Thin Man, and The Glass Key, all seminal works of words), in this giant collection, you’ll find a huge host of stories featuring his un-named, pudgy (but tough), old-ish (but tough), work-a-day detective, and all keep the pace up, and often the body-count. A great read, I must say, so great that I had to have two Cocktail Talks from it. If you missed the first (the Golden Horseshoe Cocktail Talk) then go check it. This second one isn’t quite as drunk-y, and includes a lot of food. But I couldn’t miss it, cause it has the Continental Op drinking crème de menthe, which is both awesome and hard to picture.
Two men servants waited on us. There was a lot of food and all of it was well turned out. We are caviar, some sort of consume, sand dabs, potatoes and cucumber jelly, roast lamb, corn and string beans, asparagus, wild deck and hominy cakes, artichoke-and-tomato salad, and orange ice. We drank white wine, claret, Burgundy, coffee, and crème de menthe.
–Dashiell Hammett, The Farewell Murder