March 9, 2021
While this isn’t going to turn into The Uncommercial Traveller blog – though that wouldn’t be a horrible idea, honestly – we do have a few more stops with the wandering Charles Dickens, as he wanders through London and the UK and other parts and places as well, writing essays along the way. Today, we’re taking a journey with him to the essay called “An Old Stage-Coaching House,” where he visits a bar and town that used to be a stop for stage coaches, when such ran, before the trains took the wind out of the stage coach business, leaving towns fading behind (as in some ways the highways did to a lot of train towns). Our actual Cocktail Talk is from the owner of the Dolphin (the inn mentioned above), who still wants to give the Traveller a good meal, even if there are no stages running. Oh, don’t miss The Uncommercial Traveller Cocktail Talks Part I, Part II, and Part III, for more about the book, and all the Dickens Cocktail Talks for more good Dickens quotes.
‘If I couldn’t give you a pint of good wine, I’d—there!—I’d take and drown myself in a pail. But I was deceived when I bought this business, and the stock was higgledy-piggledy, and I haven’t yet tasted my way quite through it with a view to sorting it. Therefore, if you order one kind and get another, change till it comes right. For what,’ said Mellows, unloading his hat as before, ‘what would you or any gentleman do, if you ordered one kind of wine and was required to drink another? Why, you’d (and naturally and properly, having the feelings of a gentleman), you’d take and drown yourself in a pail!’
–Charles Dickens, The Uncommercial Traveller
October 27, 2020
Recently (just last week!) I had a Cocktail Talk from Qiu Xiaolong’s Death of a Red Heroine, which if you missed, you should read, and in the past, I’ve had Qiu Xiaolong Cocktail Talks, from it as well as other books featuring Xiaolong’s Chief Inspector Chen (and his partner Detective Yu, and other reoccurring characters), and you should read those Cocktail Talks, too, as well as reading the books they come from, if you’re interested in well-written mysteries, modern Chinese cultural expositions, classical Chinese poetry, or food, because all of that flows through the books like fine wine. Enigma of China is nearer the latter stages of the series (to date), and is a definite page turner. But where we’re Cocktail Talking from today is a part focused a little more on Wang Xizi than modern day, Wang being a poet from the Jin dynasty. Chen is visiting a place famous for Wang associations, and talks about a wine-poem game Wang and other poets played. A wine-poem game!
“It’s here. This is Lanting,” he exclaimed. “Wang and the other poets gathered at this stream, engaged in a wine-poem game.”
“A wine-poem game?
“They let wine cups flow down from the head of the stream. If a cup came to a stop in front of someone, he had to write a poem. If he failed to do so, he had to drink three cups as punishment. The poems were then collected, and Want composed a preface to the collection. He must have been very drunk, flourishing his brush pen inspired by the exquisite scene.
–Qiu Xiaolong, Enigma of China
May 12, 2020
Some May days, don’t you just wake up thinking about 65 B.C. Greek poet Nicaentus? I mean he who in the big W (Wikipedia that is) is called Nikainetos, which is probably right, but by golly, when he and I were talking (in my dreams, that is) he goes by Nicaentus. And, in said dream, we were sipping a little wine and chatting about the news of the day and days past, and reclining on some chaise lounge type loungers, and eating a few grapes, and wearing laurels in our hair, and sipping a little more wine. Then we had some dates, which were a little date-y, but still good, but left me with one of those catches in the throat that leaves you unable to dialogue, and without thinking I said, “could I get a little water,” to which he replied the below.
Wine to the poet is a winged steed
Those who drink water gain but little speed.
–Nicaentus, Greek poet, 65 B.C.
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
April 27, 2018
I can’t really tell you anything about the creation of this drink – what to led to it at least. It’s a secret, in a way, and in another way, I just can’t remember. This is a big drink! And one that’s interesting, in yet another way (a third way?), in that it marries wine and rum, yet I didn’t think of it for Wine Cocktails, instead thought of it for a pal o’ mine . . . but wait, I can’t tell you about that. In a way (fourth way), it almost feels this could be a wonderful winter warmer, in a mulled wine way (fifth). Especially because it also has a coffee component, which goes well with warming liquids, but gives it a way (the sixth way) into being a morning drink, too. Though I like it best served cold, after dinner, where it’s deep, dark, nature would go well in our seventh way, with chocolate. Hence the reason it’s called what it’s called, instead of the honestly-makes-more-sense “seventh way.”
The Foregone Conclusion
3 ounces Cesari Sangiovese Riserva or another intense full-bodied red wine
1-1/2 ounces dark rum
1 ounce Galliano Ristretto or other tasty coffee liqueur
1/2 ounce Punt e’ Mes
1. Fill a cocktail shaker or mixing glass halfway full with cracked ice. Add everything. Stir well.
2. Strain into a goblet or wine glass. Or two, if you feel like sharing – this is a good-sized drink, and sharing might not be bad.
November 3, 2017
I’ll admit, I never actually had an Aunt Betsy – but I did have a great pal named Betsy at one point, and when drinking this (even though we weren’t even related) I tend to think about her. It’s a drink to sip slowly, while you’re thinking of your Aunt Betsy, or another aunt, or another Betsy, or just a great pal, because it’s served hot, which also means it’s ideal for months like November, due to (in my Pacific Northwest neck of the woods, at least) the chiller temperature. And it has a warming depth, as well, with a trio of red wine, brandy, and port – a trio that sings to November days. So, heat one up, and toast all the aunts and Betsy’s and hot drinks and cold days, which never last forever.
Aunt Betsy’s Favorite, from Dark Spirits
24 ounces red wine (I suggest a Cabernet Sauvignon)
16 ounces tawny port
8 ounces brandy
4 ounces simple syrup
1 orange peel
3 whole cloves
1 stick cinnamon
1. Add all of the ingredients to a medium-size saucepan. Cook on medium heat, stirring regularly, for 10 minutes. You want it to get good and hot, but not start boiling, or even simmering. Reduce the heat midway through the cooking time if needed.
2. Once the 10 minutes have passed and the room smells wonderful, ladle the mix into heavy mugs. Avoid serving the orange peel, cloves, and cinnamon stick if your pals are worried about clunking up their smiles.
PS: I adapted this from the House & Garden’s Drink Guide. Which means this drink is also ideal for houses and gardens, I suppose.
August 16, 2016
We don’t have a lot of comic book Cocktail Talks around the Spiked Punch parts, which does, I suppose, make sense, as not too many comics have drinky, cocktaily sections or such. Though, on the flip side, I read a fair amount of comics, so it should balance out, and today it does! With a power-booze-packed panel from Milk and Cheese: Dairy Products Gone Bad. If you haven’t read Milk and Cheese, well, a warning: it is about a carton of milk and a wedge of cheese, who happened to be the badass-est dairy products, and who revel in violence, drinking, ranting, and all that, in a way that’s serves up a dose of hilarity and spite-ful-ness. It’s sorta hard to describe, really! But when they celebrate birthdays, they do it like the below (around messing up people, places, and things):
–Evan Dorkin, Milk and Cheese
July 14, 2015
Hey, I think everyone in the world knows this, but if you’re one of the few that don’t, well, I am here to tell you – I love me some Anthony Trollope. I wonder where I rank, now that I’m pondering the whole thing, on the world’s list of Anthony Trollope fans. I’ll bet I’m in the top 100! Really! I’ve read nearly everything (and that’s saying something, cause he was one prolific mid-1800s English writer) and many things twice. I’ve read so much Trollope I’m amazed when I find one of the few books I’ve missed. Amazed and happy, as when I picked up John Caldigate recently. Most of those I haven’t read aren’t considered “major” Trollope works (whatever that means), but damn, I believe John Caligate should get some consideration. One of the more epic Trollope’s I’ve read, it has a huge cast of characters, a sea voyage, some time spent in the Australian gold mines, a bigamy trial, and lots of the English countryside-ing that Trollope is so known for. I loved it. And not just because of the below quote, which describes how a certain farmer drinks his wine.
Then the tray was brought in with wine, and everybody drank everybody’s health, and there was another shaking of hands all round. Mr. Purvidge, it was observed, drank the health of every separate member of the family in a separate bumper, pressing the edge of the glass securely to his lips, and then sending the whole contents down his throat at one throw with a chunk from his little finger.
– Anthony Trollop, John Caldigate