• Books,  Cocktails,  Crime Fiction,  jazz

    Southern Comfort, Niall Ferguson and Peter Gunn

    Cocktails, books, jazz, and crime. COCKTAILS Crude and low-fi, one’s early-life alcohol memories resonate, but they do so uneasily in our era of craft beers and hyper-precious cocktails. I spent the first semester of my junior year in high school at a lycee in Clermont-Ferrand, France, a city in Auvergne known primarily as the global headquarters of Michelin.  A classmate and I broke into his father’s liquor cabinet and downed half a bottle of a dreadful eau-de-vie.  I barely made it back to the home of my host family, doubtless thinking I was some combination of Albert Camus and Jacques Brel. But one flavor from those early years, once I…

  • Cocktails,  Crime Fiction,  Music

    New Year’s Day: Reflection, Not Resolution

    Reflection without discipline can be self-indulgent, especially as the year draws to a close and a new one opens before us. So, let us impose discipline; avoid white-collar crime (there will be plenty in 2018); and focus on music, booze and books. First, music is especially appropriate at this season, whether for reflection or not.  Here is the Miles Black Quintet, Jazz For The New Year: As jazz critic for the Wall Street Journal (and JazzWax blogger) Marc Myers notes: Sixty-three years ago, on New Year’s Day in 1955, pianist Teddy Wilson, bassist Milt Hinton and drummer Jo Jones went into a studio for Norgran Records and recorded The Creative…

  • Cocktails,  Literature,  Theology

    Christmas: Cocktails and Crime, Choirs and Cool

    A few notes, as Christmas is upon us. First, what to drink? I don’t care for Bloody Marys; they’re too acid.  The best Christmas drinks for morning or lunch are milk punch and the French 75. Here is a Garden & Gun article about (and recipe for) milk punch: And, just this past Thanksgiving, I shared notes about the French 75: Second, what to read? This blog dwells on crime fiction, so consider these “best of 2017” lists from the New York Times — — and from The Guardian, the Wall Street Journal, and The Rap Sheet. Third, what to listen to? I first read about jazz pianist David Ian…

  • Cocktails,  Poetry

    Thanksgiving Cocktails, Truman Capote, Puritan Poetry

    A few notes for your Thanksgiving: a holiday examination, Mumm champagne, an old-fashioned cocktail from Garden & Gun, the French 75 (its history and variants), Puritan poetry (no Puritans = no Thanksgiving), Truman Capote and Loudon Wainwright III. First, while still sober, take this test from Liquor.com: From the formidable Emily Arden Wells  at Gastronomista, a Cocktail Friendsgiving with G.H. Mumm Champagne.   Although I usually repair to gin drinks, this recipe for an old-fashioned from Garden & Gun is the real thing: If, like me, you do not care for Bloody Marys, a French 75 — essentially, a cocktail made with gin (or sometimes cognac), simple syrup, fresh lemon…

  • Cocktails,  Crime Fiction

    Lauren Bacall and The Big Sleep: Film Noir Cool, White Collar Crime, Cocktail Cold

    To the extent that it reflected crime, Lauren Bacall’s work was noir, not white-collar; black, not white; guns, not accounting fraud.  Yet, there was an elegance and a fierceness about her films – especially those with Humphrey Bogart – that are familiar to those who work in a white-collar crime landscape. David Brooks, writing in the New York Times, reflects on The Bacall Standard.  In particular: [Raymond] Chandler was not particularly kind to women, though. It was up to the director Howard Hawks and his star, Lauren Bacall — who died this week — to give that era a counterpart female ideal, a hero both tough and tender, urbane and fast-talking,…

  • Cocktails

    Gin Van, Joan Collins and Rare Earth

    Friday is upon us, so a few notes about cocktails. The cocktail snob is suffering a (deserved) backlash, as Robert O. Simonson of the New York Times points out in When Bad Drinks Go Good: Just as the cocktail renaissance has brought renewed fame to classics like the martini, the Manhattan and the Negroni, it has heaped fresh infamy on a rogues’ gallery of less classy concoctions, most of which emerged during the final decades of the last century. Now a backlash of sorts has begun, as some high-end bartenders apply their skills to a new challenge: doing bad drinks well. Bars like Holiday Cocktail Lounge in New York; Pépé Le Moko…

  • Cocktails

    Summer Crime, “Young Lawyers,” Martinis

    Summer’s heat is fully upon us.  Let us take a moment for crime fiction and cocktails. For recent crime-fiction releases, take a look at Midmonth Book Notes  from The Poisoned Pen bookstore. Also, here is a useful “review of reviewers” from The Rap Sheet blog.  And, for the visually-oriented, The Rap Sheet has a YouTube channel.  One clip I found there was for a show called “The Young Lawyers,” which ran from 1969 to 1971 and which I vaguely recall.  As described by IMDb: David Barrett [a young-looking Lee J. Cobb] heads an organization in Boston that supports poor and indigent clients with the aid of young lawyers, Aaron Silverman is the young…

  • Cocktails

    Vermouth, Bitters and Black Coffee

    In speaking of the martini, Winston Churchill supposedly observed   “I would like to observe the vermouth from across the room while I drink my martini.”  Here is a recipe for a “Churchill martini,” which is basically a glass of cold gin. On the other hand, Julia Child supposedly went to the opposite extreme: a glass filled with vermouth and topped with gin, also known in this recipe as an “upside down martini.” I am no Churchill or Child, on several counts, but I have never understood the anti-vermouth wing of the martini party.  A martini is a cocktail.  A cocktail, by definition, is “an alcoholic drink consisting of a spirit or…

  • Cocktails

    Needful of a Negroni Cocktail?

    I have been drinking Negroni cocktails recently.  The Negroni presents three virtues: it contains gin, it is bitter and it is simple to make (equal parts gin, Campari and sweet vermouth).  Its simplicity makes it superior for quiet mixing at home or when one is faced with modestly-adept bartenders, as noted by Kevin Sintumuang in the Wall Street Journal: “That’s it?” Yep. Boozy, bitter, bold and built right in the glass, the Negroni has become a steadfast sidekick for me when I need a proper cocktail at a not-so-proper bar, from dive to airport. And when I’m mixing at home, there’s no other drink that produces so much satisfaction with…

  • Cocktails,  Crime Fiction,  Theology

    White (Collar) Christmas: Gin, Crime, Theology and the Rat Pack

      The hour is upon us, so herewith a few Christmas items. Cocktails Here from the archives is a recipe (via Garden & Gun magazine) for Milk Punch for Christmas Morning and a new recipe for An Old Old-Fashioned   . From our friends at the Gin Monkey blog, a gin drinker’s gift list and from Gastronomista, a recipe for Jagermeister and Rye.  Yikes.       Crime From J. Kingston Pierce of The Rap Sheet, here are 10 of The Most Arresting Crime Novels of 2015. Marilyn Stasio, crime fiction reviewer for the New York Times, sets out her 2015 favorites in Death Takes No Holiday   . Theology From David Zahl at Mockingbird, Consuming 2015:…