Vermouth, Bitters and Black Coffee

The transatlantic bond.

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.

Hammering the martinis.

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 spirits mixed with other ingredients, such as fruit juice or cream.”  Ignore the “fruit juice or cream” modifier.  The point is that a cocktail is a mixture of things, and a martini mixes gin with vermouth (by being stirred, one hopes, not shaken).

On the other hand, we can consider drinking vermouth by itself, a concept that does not offend because vermouth by itself does not call itself a “martini.”

Vermouth shooters?

Lettie Teague of the Wall Street Journal offers a thorough article on  The Best Vermouths for Sipping.  In particular, she notes the new drive towards drinking vermouth on its own, which is apparently the way that things started out:

A tall order, perhaps, but that’s how vermouth is usually consumed in Europe—not as a component in a Manhattan or martini, as in the U.S. Back in 1786, in Turin, Italy, Antonio Benedetto Carpano created vermouth to be sipped as an aperitif. He infused a white wine with herbs and spices, and it was an immediate hit, so popular that Turin cafes purportedly had to stay open day and night to meet the demand.

Such practices have a ways to go in the United States, but who knows?

Either way, Fred Astaire in 1943 was having none of it:

 

“Celery.”  It sounds . . . English.

Bitters are now a “thing” again.  (I like celery bitters with Plymouth or Death’s Door gin).

One may reasonably ask, with EpicuriousWhat Are Bitters, Anyway?

Basically:

Bitters are made from botanicals, like aromatic herbs, bark, roots, and fruit. These ingredients are infused into a flavorless alcohol base to create a potent flavoring. You know how you add salt to almost everything you cook for that extra flavor boost? That’s sort of like what bitters do for cocktails.

There are all sorts of ways to use them in cocktails, and there is even a book about bitters.  Originally, they were touted as having digestive and even medicinal properties.  Dropped into gin, I have certainly found them so.

No matter how you take your martinis, if you are over-served, you may need a pot of black coffee (via Julie London (on “Around Midnight” (1960)):


 


Needful of a Negroni Cocktail?

Balance

Balance

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 so little effort.

Read the article here: The Only Negroni Recipe You Need


One place to start for a little history is Conde Nast Traveler:

Iconic bartender Gary Regan, a Brit who now makes his home in the Hudson Valley, is the go-to man for Negroni history. He recently published The Negroni: Drinking to La Dolce Vita,which traces the drink back to Florence in 1919. According to reliable lore, the cocktail was born when an Italian bartender responded to a customer’s demand for a stiffer riff on an Americano cocktail (a much-tamer mix of Campari, sweet vermouth, and club soda). The patron, Count Camillo Negroni, had picked up a taste for strong liquor while working—true story—as a rodeo clown in the American Wild West, and gave his name to the resulting concoction. Today, Regan estimates that the drink appears on “about 300 percent more cocktail lists than 10 years ago.” One caution for the uninitiated, via Negroni fan Anthony Bourdain: The drink will “hit you like a freight train after four or five.”

After four or five?  True.  Read the entire article: How The Negroni Became Today’s It Cocktail 

Watch that twist.

Watch that twist.

Here is a post by Vince Keenan, and an even more detailed article from Difford’s Guide

It’s even possible to dive into literary theory:

So I have to conclude that like the novels of F. Scott Fitzgerald, or the paintings of Henri Matisse, the Negroni has become a symbol of an older iteration of the modernist idea. Its pedigree comes with the passage of time. Just as how Matisse and his cohorts were once denounced as fauves, the insult became a badge of honor, before becoming a simple historical descriptor. The cocktail is no longer a “barbaric horror,” a bucking of antique tradition, but a part of that antique tradition itself.

It’s easier just to drink the thing and then fix another, but here’s the full post from the Subject/Object blog: On the Negroni.

Another instructional video, this time from Liquor.com:

With regard to the Negroni and films, here’s an excerpt from a post by Trevor Kensey:

“There is a thirty year age difference between us thought Mrs. Stone. Then she was ashamed of herself and by the time Paolo had emerged from the bathroom she had mixed two negronis and placed them on the glass-topped table on the still sunny terrace with a bowl of olives between. Paolo came outside with an air of abstraction. He paid no attention to the drinks, but left her sipping hers while he wandered over to the balustrade and looked moodily down into the little piazza at the top of the Spanish stairs. Mrs. Stone thought to herself, This is a time to lie low. And so she made no comment. She sipped her drink with her eyes on his grey flannel back and she thought of the night when the flannel would not stand between them.”

– Page 31, “The Roman Spring of Mrs. Stone”, Tennessee Williams.

Even its most ardent fans, myself included, must admit that the Negroni is not always enjoyable at first contact. It is a near-universal first time sipper experience that can often block one from falling in love with this stubbornly seductive cocktail. Stick with that drink and what begins by leaving a bad taste in your mouth becomes a complete joy by the time you finish your inaugural glass. By your third you will be well on your way to a lifetime of full Negroni enjoyment.

Read the full article here: The Negroni Cocktail .

If you want to see more of Mrs. Stone [Vivien Leigh] and Paolo [Warren Beatty], here is the 1961 trailer:

Let’s close with a quote by F. Scott Fitzgerald, a man who knew a good bit about cocktails:

The bar is in full swing, and floating rounds of cocktails permeate the garden outside, until the air is alive with chatter and laughter, and casual innuendo and introductions forgotten on the spot, and enthusiastic meetings between women who never knew each other’s names.

–F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Great Gatsby

The great American novel. And, cocktails.

The great American novel. And, cocktails.

 


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

Deck the halls.

Deck the halls.

 

The hour is upon us, so herewith a few Christmas items.

Cocktails

"Thought I'd never finish shopping."

“Thought I’d never finish shopping.”

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.

 

 

 

The Christmas rush.

The Christmas rush.

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 MockingbirdConsuming 2015: Favorite Music, Media, Books and Humor.

Billable hours done.

Billable hours done.

Here is my piece for the Cathedral Church of the Advent blog on Christmas Movies and Serial Killers.

 

 

 

 

 

 

And finally, a Rat Pack Christmas scene — Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin and Sammy Davis, Jr. — from 1967’s Robin and The Seven Hoods:

Merry Christmas!


Friday cocktails: Barware, Jameson Slushies, Perfect Martinis and Emerson, Lake & Palmer

A brief guide for the weekend.

(Hennie Haworth)

(Hennie Haworth)

It’s hard to operate a home bar without good barware, as explained in All the Essential Barware You Need at Home

 

Inside-Job-e1432667629585From Liquor.com, a short on a bourbon-based cocktail (at right) called The Inside Job.

 

Lots of anti-oxidants.

Lots of anti-oxidants.

Perhaps a bit frothy, but a Dye House cocktail (left) (from Samuel Nelis, Waterworks Food + Drink, Winooski, Vermont via Gaz Ragan) looks cool.

 

The Jameson Slushie

The Jameson Slushie

From Gastronomista, this idea (right) beats all hell out of an Icee: Jameson Slushies.

 

 

My mother has always enjoyed an old-fashioned at Christmas.  See this below from Liquor.com:

And finally, from Crave, a return to The Perfect Martini, which is likely a bit sweet for many these days.

Very retro.

Very retro.

At the end of the week, I am always grateful for the many blessings bestowed upon me.  I am reminded that “it is better to take refuge in the Lord than to trust in princes” (Psalm 118:9).

Which, in turn, puts me in mind of Emerson, Lake & Palmer’s “Lucky Man” (1970):

 

 


The Drinking Reader, Our Cocktails Magazine, Tom Jones and Other Weekend Matters

Cocktails on Flipboard.

Cocktails on Flipboard.

White Collar Wire supports cocktails.

As part of that effort, I have a magazine on Flipboard called (helpfully) “Cocktails.”  Follow here, read on and use good ice.

Two items we focus on — books and cocktails — come together in How to Build a Solid Drinking Library, by New York Times writer (and bartender) Rosie Schaap:

Are there places I like as much as great bars? Yes: great bookshops. And if I had to pick a favorite in the latter category, it’s Dog Ears Book Barn in the little town of Hoosick, N.Y. Conveniently, it’s just a little ways down Route 7 from the Man of Kent, one of America’s best bars. A couple of hours spent digging through Dog Ears for treasure, then bringing those books to the Man of Kent and perusing them over a few pints for a few more hours? That’s what I call a perfect day.

Read the entire piece here.

All you need (courtesy of Gear Patrol).

All you need (courtesy of Gear Patrol).

On the subject of cocktails, absinthe has made a comeback, as shown in Gear Patrol‘s piece on How to Drink Absinthe Like a Gentleman.

Absinthe’s history mirrors the way it’s meant to be prepared: a mix of the misunderstood and the legitimately unusual. For most of its existence, the spirit has been slandered, ostracized and, in rarer cases, revered. It’s been dragged across borders, masqueraded as other liquors, aspersed with hallucination claims and — since its ban was lifted in America in 2007 — the spirit has been secretly embracing it all.

“There’s a tradition. There’s a lure to the preparation of absinthe”, says Will Elliot, a bartender at Brooklyn’s Maison Premiere, an oyster and cocktail den with the allure of a New Orleans haunt. Absinthe, at 68 percent alcohol, is a compacted spirit. Once diluted with water, the essential oils and flavors loosen to reveal the drink’s nuances. Preparing an absinthe drink involves combining botanicals, flavors and aromatic elements, Elliot says. “It’s not the sort of spirit that you just toss back.” As for lighting it on fire, which often is brought up in discussions on how absinthe’s served, “You wouldn’t…that’s really damaging the alcohol”, Elliot says. He got behind the bar to debunk some myths and walk us through two traditional absinthe drinks — a drip and a frappe — and a new twist on an old cocktail.

The Martinez (via The Cabinet Rooms)

The Martinez (via The Cabinet Rooms)

From the The Cabinet Rooms blog, a recipe for the Martinez, a precursor to the modern martini:

Continuing our exploration into the world of gin, we’ve been perusing classic gin-based cocktails this week. One dating back to the 1880’s is the Martinez; a smooth and refreshing drink, packed full of herbal aromatics. Usually made by mixing gin, vermouth and bitters with either maraschino liqueur or orange curaçao, this drink is a great alternative to the Martini. We love the combination of the gin’s botanicals with the fruitier notes of the vermouth and sweetness of the maraschino. Here we’ve used Burleigh’s London Dry and garnished with a black cherry, soaked in a rich Kirsch syrup, for a touch of added luxury.

A frosty one.

A frosty one.

From the Garden & Gun blog, a video recipe  for a modern mint julep.

From The Telegraph, a review of fancy bitters:

“You’re writing about bitters – great beers!” my husband said. But no, with respect to him and Britain’s brewers, I’m going to talk about something far more chic and high fashion. And bitters – those little, apothecary-like bottles of intensely aromatic botanical tinctures – are about as on-trend as you can get right now.

This follows on from the premium gin craze, as what could be better than bitters to dash in your G&T? Angostura, the brand that most of us know, is good stuff, but do branch out and try other, distinctive smaller-batch bitters, such as the extraordinary range made by The Bitter Truth.

Finally, a clip of Tom Jones singing “She’s A Lady,” just because we can:


Crime, Cocktails, Fiction and Scripture: blogs, links and sources on white-collar crime, cocktails, crime fiction and theology

I know that page is here somewhere.

I know that page is here somewhere.

We have recently updated and supplemented our “Blogs | Links | Sources” page here.  It might be the most useful page on the site, with multiple links to writers and journalists dealing with White Collar Wire’s primary afflictions: white collar crime, cocktails, crime fiction and theology.

Blogs|Links|Sources

White Collar Generally

Walt Pavlo  — excellent source of daily news and commentary.  Also, see his articles in Forbes.

PonziTracker — by Jordan Maglich.  The source for all things Ponzi.

DealBook — New York Times blog led by Andrew Ross Sorkin.

White Collar Crime Prof Blog — thoughtful source edited by Ellen Podgor, with contributions by Solomon Wisenberg.

White Collar Watch — by Peter J. Henning, a professor at Wayne State University Law School and the author of “The Prosecution and Defense of Public Corruption: The Law & Legal Strategies.” Before teaching, he worked at the Securities and Exchange Commission’s enforcement division and then as a prosecutor at the Justice Department.

FCPA Professor — all FCPA, all the time.  Blogged by  Mike Koehler, a law professor at Southern Illinois University.

WSJ Risk and Compliance  — the compliance blog of the Wall Street Journal.  It “provides news and commentary to corporate executives and others who need to understand, monitor and control the many risks that can tarnish brands, distract management and harm investors. Its content spans governance, risk and compliance and includes analysis of the significance of laws and regulations, the risks inherent in global expansion and the protective moves taken by companies.”

Sentencing Law & Policy — a blog devoted entirely to sentencing issues from Douglas A. Berman, a law professor at Moritz (Ohio State).

Cyb3rcrim3 — notes on digital-crime cases by Susan Brenner, a law professor who speaks, writes and consults on cybercrime and cyberconflict.

The BLT — the blog of The Legal Times (Washington, D.C.).  Not a white-collar blog, strictly speaking, but often has news items of note.

Brandon L. Garrett and Jon Ashley, Federal Organizational Prosecution Agreements, University of Virginia School of Law, at http://lib.law.virginia.edu/Garrett/prosecution_agreements/home.suphp — interesting collection of deferred-prosecution and non-prosecution agreements (“DPAs” and “NPAs”)

ABA White-Collar Blog Directory  — the American Bar Association Journal “Blawg” list of white-collar crime blogs.  Some are better than others.

NACDL White-Collar Crime  — the white-collar page of the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers.  Useful  resources.

University of Richmond Anti-Bribery Database  —  good resources for researching various legal topics relating to anti-bribery law in international business.

William & Mary Law School Library White-Collar Materials  — some items are only available at the Wolf Law Library, but generally a good guide.

 

All three branches.

All three branches.

Government

DOJ — the United States Department of Justice main site.

U.S. Attorneys’ Manual  — searchable DOJ policy.

United States Sentencing Commission  — good resource for Guidelines applications, cases, news and proposed rules.

Supreme Court — search for slip opinions.

FINCEN  — the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network at the Department of the Treasury.

Environmental Crimes Section at DOJ  — federal environmental criminal investigation and enforcement.

Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts  — especially useful for statistics and the basics of the federal judicial system.

DEA — the federal Drug Enforcement Administration.

ICE  — U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement is “the principal investigative arm of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS). Created in 2003 through a merger of the investigative and interior enforcement elements of the U.S. Customs Service and the Immigration and Naturalization Service, ICE now has more than 20,000 employees in offices in all 50 states and 47 foreign countries.”

SEC and DOJ Resource Guide on the FCPA   — guidance document on the FCPA issued by DOJ and the SEC.

SEC — the federal Securities and Exchange Commission.

SEC’s Office of the Whistleblower   — the SEC’s Office of the Whistleblower, which administers the SEC’s whistleblowers’s program.

Eleventh Circuit Pattern Jury Instructions Builder  — an on-line program that allows you to easily and quickly generate federal court jury instructions.  Easy to use, and very handy.

Fifth Circuit Library’s Collection of Pattern Jury Instructions — pattern instructions for the Fifth Circuit and other federal circuits.  No online “builder” function, but some are downloadable in Word or pdf.

Federal Public Defender Northern District of Alabama  — the Office of the Federal Public Defender for the Northern District of Alabama, headed by Kevin Butler.

 

Ladies first.

Ladies first.

Cocktails

gazregan — the website of “gaz regan, the bartender formerly known as Gary Regan, works six shifts at The Dead Rabbit in New York City.  Every year.”  Cocktail recipes, newsletters and books.  Bartending news.

Daily Shot — The Garden & Gun Blog — from Garden & Gun magazine.  Southern food, but often drinks, too.

Gastronomista — Gastronomista is an art and design blog focused on the culture of food and drink, and was founded in October of 2009 as a way to keep track of delicious treasures, tipples, and trips around the world. It is run by Emily Arden Wells who pens under the name Miss Emma Emerson, who is an architect by day, writer and avid drinker by night.

Mouthing Off  — the cocktails-blog of Food & Wine magazine.

Cocktail Whisperer  —  “Cocktail and food musing from Rum judge Warren Bobrow.”  He is the cocktail writer for Foodista.

Epicurious Drinks  — cocktails from Epicurious.  Also, Epicurious cocktail Recipes

Esquire Drinks Database — a collection of cocktail recipes from Esquire magazine.

The Poisoned Martini  —  a blog and site that combines mystery fiction and cocktails.

Bourbon Blog — mostly bourbon.

Slainte — all Irish whiskey.

Beer Advocate — its motto is “Respect Beer.”

Liquor.com — from Huffington Post.  Name says it all.

 

Awkward.

Awkward.

Crime Fiction

The Rap Sheet — rich source of news, book reviews, new releases, trade show information and sources.

The Poisoned Pen  — blog of The Poisoned Pen, an excellent mystery bookstore in Scottsdale, Arizona.

The Mysterious Bookshop — blog from The Mysterious Bookshop, a longstanding store in New York.

Dead Good  — a Random House-run site from the United Kingdom.

Crime Fiction Lover  — news and reviews.

Killer Covers — outstanding vintage covers from crime novels.  Killer Covers is a companion project of The Rap Sheet, a news and features resource for crime-fiction fans, edited by J. Kingston Pierce.

Dead Guys In Suits —  all gangsters, all the time.  Written by Pat Downey, the author of Legs Diamond: GangsterGangster City: The History of the New York Underworld 1900-1935 and Bad Seeds in the Big Apple: Bandits, Killers & Chaos in New York 1920-1940.

Existential Ennui     —- a UK site.  “The chronicle of a chronic book collector.”

 

Archbishop Cranmer.

Archbishop Cranmer.

Theology

Cathedral Church of the Advent   —-   “a Gospel-centered church, with a ‘living, daring confidence in God’s grace”’(Martin Luther) evident in any of our programs and ministries.  Holding to what the Letter of Jude calls ‘the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints’, this Gospel focus finds the Cross and Resurrection of Jesus ever and only at the center.

Advent BIAY — the Advent’s Bible-In-A-Year blog.

Mockingbird —  “connecting the Christian faith with the realities of everyday life.”

Titus One Nine  — edited by Kendall Harmon.

Truth For Life — the blog of Alistair Begg’s ministry.

My Utmost For His Highest  — daily readings from Oswald Chambers (1874-1917).  Here’s his bio.

Christ Episcopal Church — in Charlottesville, Virginia.

 


Weekend: cocktails, World War I, Alexandr Solzhenitsyn and Marvin Gaye

For this weekend: cocktails, World War I, Alexandr Solzhenitsyn and Marvin Gaye.

From Saveur, warm-weather whiskey cocktails.  Some of the drinks sound good.  All of the photos are cool:

Bordeaux Sour (via Saveur)

Bordeaux Sour (via Saveur)

From the folks at Garden & Gun magazine, Ten New Southern Beers and a bourbon root beer float not far down the road from us:

Rob McDaniel met Will Abner for the first time in a field in southwestern Virginia. They were both at Lambstock, shepherd Craig Rogers’s bacchanalian annual gathering of farmers, chefs, bartenders, and other food-and-beverage types. “I was finding wood sorrel and wild shiso in the fields up there. Will just started making cocktails with it. I thought, ‘That’s pretty cool,'” says McDaniel, who runs the kitchen at SpringHouse in Alexander City, Alabama. “When I went back to the restaurant, I said to our front-of-house manager, ‘We’ve really got to talk to this guy.’ He was just slinging drinks then, you know, at some bar that closed at three a.m.”

From our friends at Gastronomista, an article on honey solera aged daiquiris, plus more cool photos:

The Honey Daiquiri (via Gastronomista)

The Honey Daiquiri (via Gastronomista)

From The Guardian in London, a piece on the science of mixing mind-blowing cocktails:

Likewise for Thomas Aske, one of the pair behind the Worship Street Whistling Shop in Shoreditch, east London, who regularly lectures on multi-sensory drinks, a cocktail always starts with a story. “It could be derived from anything but often it’s the brand of spirit you’re using,” he says. For instance, a barrel-aged cocktail based around Clynelish highland whisky was cooled with a frozen pebble from the coast of Scotland. “It could add a bit of minerality,” says Aske (unsure whether that effect would be physiological or purely psychological), “but it also can hold its temperature without offering the dilution that ice does, so you’ve still got the intensity of flavour.”

It was the frozen stone.

It was the frozen stone.

I prefer my cocktails without frozen stones, an impulse that may have inspired this rant about when the martini went off the rails:

Step into a trendy restaurant and look at the liquor menu. A whole section will be devoted to martinis of every hue and taste – strawberry, watermelon, jalapeno and (for all I know) bubblegum. These alleged martinis are the equivalent of the drinks you used to get in Jamaica or at Harry’s Glass Bar: crowned with paper umbrellas, stuffed with sliced of tropical fruit or celery or cucumber, they declared themselves sui generis, though no one could say of what genre they were “sui.” These are drinks for people who do not like the taste of drinks, martinis for martini haters.

 

Walker Percy is one of the great post-war 20th century American novelists.  He also drank bourbon until his doctor forbade it.  In an essay from Signposts In A Strange Land,Percy notes (in Bourbon):

Not only should connoisseurs of bourbon not read this article, neither should persons preoccupied with the perils of alcoholism, cirrhosis, esophageal hemorrhage, cancer of the palate, and so forth—all real enough dangers. I, too, deplore these afflictions. But, as between these evils and the aesthetic of bourbon drinking, that is, the use of bourbon to warm the heart, to reduce the anomie of the late twentieth century, to cure the cold phlegm of Wednesday afternoons, I choose the aesthetic. What, after all, is the use of not having cancer, cirrhosis, and such, if a man comes home from work every day at five-thirty to the exurbs of Montclair or Memphis and there is the grass growing and the little family looking not quite at him but just past the side of his head, and there’s Cronkite on the tube and the smell of pot roast in the living room, and inside the house and outside in the pretty exurb has settled the noxious particles and the sadness of the old dying Western world, and him thinking: “Jesus, is this it? Listening to Cronkite and the grass growing?”

A superb question, here in late middle-age.

British soldiers in a trench.

British soldiers in a trench.

We are a little late to the commemorative party, but World War I started one hundred years ago this month.

First, from your schooldays, John McCrae’s “In Flanders Fields”:

In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
    That mark our place; and in the sky
    The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.

 

We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
    Loved and were loved, and now we lie,
        In Flanders fields.

 

Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
    The torch; be yours to hold it high.
    If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
        In Flanders fields.
John McCrae  lived from 1872 to 1918.  He died from pneumonia and is buried in France.
Isaac Rosenberg  (1890-1918)

Isaac Rosenberg (1890-1918)

 

I was less familiar with Isaac Rosenberg‘s “August 1914”:

What in our lives is burnt
In the fire of this?
The heart’s dear granary?
The much we shall miss?
Three lives hath one life—
Iron, honey, gold.
The gold, the honey gone—
Left is the hard and cold.
Iron are our lives
Molten right through our youth.
A burnt space through ripe fields,
A fair mouth’s broken tooth.
Alexandr Solzhenitsyn and The Red Wheel

Alexandr Solzhenitsyn and The Red Wheel

 

As a young man, I was much taken with Russian dissident Alexandr Solzhenitsyn, not least his novel August 1914. Here is the New York Times book review  from 1972:

Barred by the government from doing research in archives and libraries, expelled from the Writers’ Union, deprived of all income from abroad, constantly harassed by the authorities, repeatedly vilified and slandered in the Soviet press and at party indoctrination meetings (which try to discredit him with his countrymen by spreading rumors that he is a nobleman, a Jew and a German agent), Solzhenitsyn continues writing under conditions that would drive most of us to madness or suicide. Very few living writers can match his artistic achievement; in human and moral stature he is in a class by himself on the literary landscape of our age.
That verdict remains unchanged.  We would do better to heed him more often, here in the 21st century.  His commencement address at Harvard on June 8, 1978, caused a sensation:

If (like me) you can’t understand Russian, here is a translation.  In part:

Western society has given itself the organization best suited to its purposes based, I would say, one the letter of the law. The limits of human rights and righteousness are determined by a system of laws; such limits are very broad. People in the West have acquired considerable skill in interpreting and manipulating law. Any conflict is solved according to the letter of the law and this is considered to be the supreme solution. If one is right from a legal point of view, nothing more is required. Nobody will mention that one could still not be entirely right, and urge self-restraint, a willingness to renounce such legal rights, sacrifice and selfless risk. It would sound simply absurd. One almost never sees voluntary self-restraint. Everybody operates at the extreme limit of those legal frames.

I have spent all my life under a Communist regime and I will tell you that a society without any objective legal scale is a terrible one indeed. But a society with no other scale than the legal one is not quite worthy of man either. A society which is based on the letter of the law and never reaches any higher is taking very scarce advantage of the high level of human possibilities. The letter of the law is too cold and formal to have a beneficial influence on society. Whenever the tissue of life is woven of legalistic relations, there is an atmosphere of moral mediocrity, paralyzing man’s noblest impulses. And it will be simply impossible to stand through the trials of this threatening century with only the support of a legalistic structure.

In today’s Western society the inequality has been revealed [in] freedom for good deeds and freedom for evil deeds. A statesman who wants to achieve something important and highly constructive for his country has to move cautiously and even timidly. There are thousands of hasty and irresponsible critics around him; parliament and the press keep rebuffing him. As he moves ahead, he has to prove that each single step of his is well-founded and absolutely flawless. Actually, an outstanding and particularly gifted person who has unusual and unexpected initiatives in mind hardly gets a chance to assert himself. From the very beginning, dozens of traps will be set out for him. Thus, mediocrity triumphs with the excuse of restrictions imposed by democracy.

Finally, just because we can, here’s Marvin Gaye and “Ain’t That Peculiar”:


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

Lauren Bacall

Lauren Bacall

The recent outpouring of remembrances of and praise for the late comedian and actor Robin Williams is understandable and commendable, but the deluge seems to have somewhat submerged most thoughtful notice of the passing of Lauren Bacall this week.  This is a shame.

To the extent that it reflected crime, 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, but also vulnerable and amusing.

Vivian Rutledge, the lead female character in the movie version of Chandler’s “The Big Sleep,” is stuck in a classic film noir world. Every situation is confusing, shadowed and ambiguous. Every person is dappled with virtue and vice. Society rewards the wrong things, so the ruthless often get rich while the innocent get it in the neck.

The lead character, played by Bacall, emerges from an ambiguous past, but rises aristocratically above it. She has her foibles; she’s manipulative and spoiled. But she’s strong. She seems physically towering, with broad shoulders and a rich, mature voice that is astounding, given that Bacall was all of 20 years old when she made the picture.

We’ve written about Chandler before: Browning (The Poet, Not The Automatic).  Speaking of Chandler’s dialogue in The Big Sleep (both the book and the film), Brooks notes:

The heiress greets Marlowe with a put-down: “So you’re a private detective. I didn’t know they existed, except in books, or else they were greasy little men snooping around hotel corridors.”

But he’s self-sufficient enough to stand up to her. He wins her over with a series of small rejections. And he can match her verbal pyrotechnics. When she says she doesn’t like his manners, he comes straight back at her: “I’m not crazy about yours. … I don’t mind if you don’t like my manners. I don’t like them myself. They’re pretty bad. I grieve over them long winter evenings.”


Here is a detailed Becall piece from The Rap Sheet, an excellent crime-fiction blog.  An excerpt:

A former theater usher and fashion model, Bacall first came to prominence in 1944, when, at age 19, she starred with 44-year-old Humphrey Bogart in To Have and Have Not, a film based loosely on Ernest Hemingway’s 1937 novel of the same name. Her famous double entendre-laced line, delivered to a smoking, reclining Bogie–“You know how to whistle, don’t you, Steve? You just put your lips together and … blow”–knocked out movie-going audiences everywhere, and had no less impact on Bogart himself. At the time he was already on his third marriage, to actress Mayo Methot, but he divorced her the next year to wed Bacall, or “Baby” as he called her. The pair were together only until his death in 1957, but if Bogie’s ghost is still anywhere around today, he’s whistling for her to join him today.

Ghosts.  Noir fiction and films worked on many levels, not least the theological (as we discussed in Red Harvest: Crime Fiction and Gospel Conviction).   And, at their best, they are art, as Chandler wrote in The Simple Art of Murder:

In everything that can be called art there is a quality of redemption. It may be pure tragedy, if it is high tragedy, and it may be pity and irony, and it may be the raucous laughter of the strong man. But down these mean streets a man must go who is not himself mean, who is neither tarnished nor afraid. The detective in this kind of story must be such a man. He is the hero, he is everything. He must be a complete man and a common man and yet an unusual man. He must be, to use a rather weathered phrase, a man of honor, by instinct, by inevitability, without thought of it, and certainly without saying it. He must be the best man in his world and a good enough man for any world. I do not care much about his private life; he is neither a eunuch nor a satyr; I think he might seduce a duchess and I am quite sure he would not spoil a virgin; if he is a man of honor in one thing, he is that in all things. He is a relatively poor man, or he would not be a detective at all. He is a common man or he could not go among common people. He has a sense of character, or he would not know his job. He will take no man’s money dishonestly and no man’s insolence without a due and dispassionate revenge. He is a lonely man and his pride is that you will treat him as a proud man or be very sorry you ever saw him. He talks as the man of his age talks, that is, with rude wit, a lively sense of the grotesque, a disgust for sham, and a contempt for pettiness. The story is his adventure in search of a hidden truth, and it would be no adventure if it did not happen to a man fit for adventure. He has a range of awareness that startles you, but it belongs to him by right, because it belongs to the world he lives in.

David Brooks gets the next-to-last word:

The feminine ideal in “The Big Sleep” is, of course, dated now. But what’s lasting is a way of being in a time of disillusion. At a cynical moment when many had come to distrust institutions, and when the world seemed incoherent, Bacall and Bogart created a non-self-righteous way to care about virtue. Their characters weren’t prissy or snobbish in the slightest. They were redeemed by their own honor code, which they kept up, cocktail after cocktail.

 

Speaking of cocktails.

Speaking of cocktails.

In the scene from The Big Sleep with the bookshop girl (played by Sonia Darrin), Bogart mentions that he has a bottle of rye in his pocket:

For some background on rye, an article from The AtlanticHow Rye Came Back.

In Bacall’s memory, here’s a recipe for a rye Manhattan.  Have one tonight.

Noir or white-collar, it's the rye Manhattan.

Noir or white-collar, it’s the rye Manhattan.


Okay, So It’s A Lurid Book Cover: Summer Weekend Cocktails, Dylan Thomas on YouTube, Good Writing and Great Music

Our notes for Friday, beginning with cocktails; moving through literature; ending with music.

The young bikini-and-martini set, thankfully.

The young bikini-and-martini set, thankfully.

Brown Whisky Is Not Just For Winter.  From the New York Times, some summer drinks using brown booze.

And Old-Fashioneds Aren’t Always Dark.  From Gastronomista, a tequila old-fashioned that actually sounds good.

Go Scandinavian.  As long as we’re discussing traditional cocktails with non-traditional spirits, I might try an aquavit Manhattan (if I can find some aquavit) (from Saveur.com).

Movie Booze.  For movie buffs, from Liquor.com, a list of The 6 Most Influential Drink Orders of All Time.

There’s Always Time For Good Writing.  Some superior prose passages from “After Deadline.”

Considering the aquavit Manhattan.

Considering the aquavit Manhattan.

Welsh Poetry Is Good For You.  From the poet Dylan Thomas (1914-1953), When All My Five and Country Senses See.  I couldn’t it on YouTube, so you will have to content yourself with Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night.  It is sometimes challenging to follow what Thomas means, but there is no doubt as to what he says.

St. Paul and The Broken Bones.  If you haven’t heard this Birmingham-based band’s classic-soul, horn-driven sound, you’ve been missing out.  Try “Call Me.”

St. Paul and The Broken Bones

St. Paul and The Broken Bones


Cocktails and Crime: Martini Quiz, Vermouth Ratios, Posner v. Holmes, New Gins and Crime Conventioneers

As is customary on Friday, a few White Collar Wire notes on cocktails and crime fiction.

National Martini Day (courtesy Bar Louie)

National Martini Day (courtesy Bar Louie)

June 19 was “World Martini Day.”  Seriously.  The London Telegraph posted a martini quiz.  How deep is your see-through knowledge?  Here is the first question:

Q.1
The martini, a mix of gin and vermouth with a lemon twist or olive, is one of our most famous cocktails, but its history is cloudy. Which one of these is not a legend about its origin?

 

Two by two.

Two by two.

 From the CBS ManCave, a detailed discussion of the gin/vermouth ratio:

You stir dry vermouth and gin with ice then poured into a chilled cocktail glass. The amount of vermouth has gone through two distinct stages of reduction. The first was the increasing quality of the ingredients, so you didn’t need to bury the bathtub aspects of the gin. The second is the decreasing quality of some drinkers, who think that forgetting one ingredient of a two ingredient cocktail is somehow sophisticated. There are people right now with “Left” and “Right” written on their shoes, and even when they get that wrong they’re still doing better than the people who call a glass of gin a martini because they’ve at least remembered both of the relevant items.

As it should be.

As it should be.

The very reliable Emily Arden Wells at Gastronomista  (@xxGastronomista) sets out the gins you should be drinking:

There’s a lot of really exciting stuff happening in the gin world right now, and I love that gins are becoming more expressive and flavorful.  Companies are playing with flavors such as peaches, lemongrass, sage, and douglas fir, and the results are amazing.  The new diverse range of flavors in these different gins welcome new flavor combinations and innovative cocktails!  All of these gins are so gorgeous, they don’t need much dressing up, a simple martini with a complimentary garnish will do the trick!

From our friends at crime-fiction blog The Rap Sheet, two posts.

Richard Posner

Judge Richard Posner

First, writing for the United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit, Judge Richard Posner finds that Sherlock Holmes no longer enjoys copyright protection.  In his trademark style, Judge Posner notes:

 The estate asks us to distinguish between “flat” and
“round” fictional characters, potentially a sharper distinction
than the other one it urges (as we noted at the beginning of
this opinion), which is between simple and complex. Repeatedly
at the oral argument the estate’s lawyer dramatized
the concept of a “round” character by describing large circles
with his arms. And the additional details about Holmes and
Watson in the ten late stories do indeed make for a more
“rounded,” in the sense of a fuller, portrayal of these characters.
In much the same way we learn things about Sir John
Falstaff in Henry IV, Part 2, in Henry V (though he doesn’t actually
appear in that play but is merely discussed in it), and
in The Merry Wives of Windsor, that were not remarked in his
first appearance, in Henry IV, Part 1. Notice also that Henry
V, in which Falstaff is reported as dying, precedes The Merry
Wives, in which he is very much alive. Likewise the ten last
Sherlock Holmes stories all are set before 1914, which was
the last year in which the other stories were set. One of the
ten, The Adventure of the Veiled Lodger (published in 1927), is
set in 1896. See 2 William S. Baring-Gould, The Annotated
Sherlock Holmes 453 (1967). Thus a more rounded Holmes or
Watson (or Falstaff) is found in a later work depicting a
younger person. We don’t see how that can justify extending
the expired copyright on the flatter character. A contemporary
example is the six Star Wars movies: Episodes IV, V, and
VI were produced before I, II, and III. The Doyle estate
would presumably argue that the copyrights on the characters as portrayed in IV, V, and VI will not expire until the
copyrights on I, II, and III expire.

The estate defines “flat” characters oddly, as ones completely
and finally described in the first works in which they
appear. Flat characters thus don’t evolve. Round characters
do; Holmes and Watson, the estate argues, were not fully
rounded off until the last story written by Doyle. What this
has to do with copyright law eludes us. There are the early
Holmes and Watson stories, and the late ones, and features
of Holmes and Watson are depicted in the late stories that
are not found in the early ones (though as we noted in the
preceding paragraph some of those features are retrofitted to
the earlier depictions). Only in the late stories for example
do we learn that Holmes’s attitude toward dogs has
changed—he has grown to like them—and that Watson has
been married twice. These additional features, being (we
may assume) “original” in the generous sense that the word
bears in copyright law, are protected by the unexpired copyrights
on the late stories. But Klinger wants just to copy the
Holmes and the Watson of the early stores, the stories no
longer under copyright. The Doyle estate tells us that “no
workable standard exists to protect the Ten Stories’ incremental
character development apart from protecting the
completed characters.” But that would be true only if the
early and the late Holmes, and the early and the late Watson,
were indistinguishable—and in that case there would be no
incremental originality to justify copyright protection of the
“rounded” characters (more precisely the features that
makes them “rounder,” as distinct from the features they
share with their earlier embodiments) in the later works.

Not Richard Posner.

Must re-read that opinion.

One doesn’t normally get Holmes, Watson, Star Wars and Falstaff in federal courts of appeals opinions (especially within five hundred words of one another).
 

Second, again from The Rap Sheet, here are insights about this year’s annual Bouchercon crime fiction convention, to be held in November in Long Beach.