Champagne Cocktails

Pynchon Champagne CocktailsWith all the drinking in Pynchon, you’d think there’d be a few more recognisable bars dotting his fictional landscapes. But the only one that really jumps out to me is The Scope, which we find out on the way to LA, near the Yoyodyne factory in The Crying of Lot 49. From chapter three:

The Scope proved to be a haunt for electronics assembly people from Yoyodyne. The green neon sign outside ingeniously depicted the face of an oscilloscope tube, over which flowed an ever-changing dance of Lissajous figures. Today seemed to be payday, and everyone inside to be drunk already. Glared at all the way, Oedipa and Metzger found a table in back. A wizened bartender wearing shades materialized and Metzger ordered bourbon. Oedipa, checking the bar, grew nervous. There was this je ne sais quoi about the Scope crowd: they all wore glasses and stared at you, silent. Except for a couple-three nearer the door, who were engaged in a nose-picking contest, seeing how far they could flick it across the room.

Which now that I think of it sounds about what I imagine a bar full of Pynchonites might end up like. The place also has an electronic music only policy, and the fact that Pynchon plays this for laughs has me yearning for 1965, now that the whole world seems to have adopted such a policy.

Pynchon Posthorn Cocktail Lot 49Oedipa first comes across the muted post-horn, that foremost symbol of Pynchonoia, on a wall of The Scope’s ladies room. And she returns to the place a couple more times. Lot 49’s last drink is drank there midway through the sixth and final chapter:

She did go back to The Scope, though, one night, restless, alone, leery of what she might find. She found Mike Fallopian, a couple weeks into raising a beard, wearing button-down olive shirt, creased fatigue pants minus cuffs and belt loops, two-button fatigue jacket, no hat. He was surrounded by broads, drinking champagne cocktails, and bellowing low songs. When he spotted Oedipa he gave her the wide grin and waved her over.

Pynchon Black Pearl French 75What a wonderful name is Mike Fallopian. It’s times like these I wish I had a copy of Pynchon Character Names: A Dictionary. But I’ll leave you to produce your own commentary on Mike’s reproductive capacity in the narrative and focus my energy on the champagne cocktails. I tried to knock this one off a couple of weeks ago at the excellent if kind of dated feeling Black Pearl, where I downed a delightful French 75. A French 75 is basically an upgraded Tom Collins, with champagne instead of soda water. That’s it there on the left. But so then I got busy and didn’t get around to writing the post–and plus, it does say cocktails plural. So let’s have a couple more.

I thought I’d try my hand at inventing my own. That’s the result pictured up top—and I don’t think it was half bad. Metzger’s bourbon in The Scope from chapter three wasn’t specific enough to make the list on its own, so I’ve incorporated it here. Here’s my recipe:

The Posthorn
Champagne (or actually I used Prosecco)
Bourbon (I used Blanton’s—great stuff)
Lime juice
Blackcurrant Cordial

With the quantities being mysteries lost to history. I found a point where it all seemed to balance nicely, and you could taste the bourbon and it was just sweet enough, but I sure couldn’t tell you what the ratios were. Was pretty proud of how it ended up though.

Two’s not plural enough, so I also whipped up some of these babies, which were very delicious. Passionfruit pulp, various other juices, and Prosecco. And then to top it all off I tried a black velvet—champagne and Guinness. Also good!

Pynchon Posthorn cocktailPynchon cocktail Lot 49Pynchon Black Velvet Lot 49

Oh and I almost forgot—If you’ve made it this far down, you’re probably already aware that this coming Friday is Pynchon in Public Day. If you’re in Melbourne and want to talk/read Pynchon in a bar, let me know @drunkpynchon on twitter.

Barcelona Beer (Estrella / Moritz)

Pynchon Estrella VIn the epilogue of V., Stencil’s headed off to lunch or something with Maijstral when he’s intercepted by someone who seems to be “a Greek Pope or parish priest.” They abandon Maijstral and proceed down an alley, and the priest pulls off his beard and skull cap, revealing himself as Demivolt, one of Stencil’s spy compadres from Whitehall. Page 469/470 (with a couple paragraphs skipped in the middle):

Demivolt removed the soutane and rolled his paraphernalia in it. Underneath he wore a suit of English tweed. After quickly recombing his hair and twirling his moustache, he looked no different from the Demivolt Stencil had last seen in ’99. Except for more gray in the hair, a few more lines in the face. They took seats at the Cafe Phoenicia, Stencil with his back to the street. Briefly, over Barcelona beer each filled the other in on the two decades between the Vheissu affair and here, voices monotone against the measured frenzy of the street.

V Barcelona Beer PynchonBarcelona beer most likely means Estrella, which has been brewed there since the establishment of the S. A. Damm brewing company in 1876. Estrella is Catalan for star, and is it grasping too desperately at straws if I point out that a star is made up of five little Vs? Yes okay bit over keen maybe. It’s brewed with pearl rice in the mix, a bit like Budweiser. Tastes like Budweiser too, if I’m remembering Bud right. Crisp, bright, sweet, clean. Not real interesting, but pretty good as far as cheap lagers go. If I were a spy sitting in the sun at a Maltese cafe catching up on spy gossip, I’d happily quaff a few Estrella’s.

Pynchon alcohol Moritz SpainUPDATE: Someone conscientiously pointed out to me on twitter that Moritz was another possible Barcelona beer, so I’ve returned to do the responsible thing and sample that too. Moritz is a bit more interesting than Estrella, with a hoppier pilsner flavour and a stronger sweet malt finish. But for a thirst-quenching pleasant cheapish lager, I’d probably prefer the Estrella. Oh and the typographical symbolism plot thickens! That Moritz M sure does resemble two Vs, doesn’t it?

Tequila Zombie

Tequila Zombie Inherent Vice PynchonI’m maybe 50% of my way through a tequila zombie as I begin this post, and I must confess to feeling a little woozy. These past months of drinking along with Tyrone and Maxine and Jeremiah and Katje and Benny should have warmed up my liver a bit, but this one does ratchet the alcohol up a good few notches. Which is the main point with zombies. The original one was supposedly concocted to help a businessman through a hangover—not so much hair of the dog as just swallowing the mutt whole. Doc and his (maritime) lawyer Sauncho order them in Inherent Vice, along with some disturbing sounding food (p. 91-92):

“I’m Chlorinda, what’ll it be,” A waitress in a combination Nehru jacket and Hawaiian-print shirt, just long enough to qualify as a minidress, and with a set of vibes that didn’t help sharpen anyone’s appetite.

“Ordinarily I’d go for the Admiral Luau,” Sauncho more diffident than Doc expected, “but today I guess I’ll just have the house anchovy loaf to start and, um, the devil-ray filet, can I get that deep-fried in beer batter?”

“Your stomach isn’t it. How about you l’il buddy?”

“Mmm!” Doc scanning the menu. “All this good eatin’!” while Sauncho kicked him under the table.

“If my husband dared to eat any of this shit, I’d throw him out on his ass and drop all his Iron Butterfly records out the window after him.”

“Trick question,” said Doc hastily. “The, uh, jellyfish teriyaki croquetters I guess? and the Eel Trovatore?”

“And to drink, gentlemen. You’ll want to be good and fucked up by the time this arrives. I’d recommend Tequila Zombies, they work pretty quick.” She walked away scowling.

Forgive any weird spelling errors—they do work pretty quick. Oh and is anyone game to take on Tom Pynchon’s Kitchen? I’m reviving the Quimporto, someone else’s gotta handle the Eel Travatore.

We should also note that Doc and Sauncho are drinking their zombies at lunchtime. Day drinking is delightful, but I’m feeling weird enough trying to get through this thing at 2AM, let along having it pre-5pm. It oughta be reserved for late nights in loud clubs in tropical party towns. But then again, Doc doesn’t have much binding him to a regular employment/daylight based timetable. Dude can drink what he wants.

The tequila zombie is not a common drink. A typical zombie is three or four different types of rum, apricot brandy, vodka, and juice of some tropical kind (although recipes seem to vary widely). If you google tequila zombie, you mostly get a game in which you blast shotguns at sombreroed zombies. But you can also find QuirkBooks getting in ahead of me in the Pynchonian alcohol game, providing not just a tequila zombie recipe but one based on their love of Inherent Vice. I basically followed their recipe here, except I swapped out orange juice for pineapple. That gave me:

  • 3 oz tequila
  • 1.5 oz apricot brandy
  • 1.5 oz spiced rum
  • 1.5 oz vodka
  • 3 oz grapefruit juice
  • 3 oz pineapple juice

And it makes a hefty drink. I gave Drunk Pychonette one, and despite my warnings her first sip still brought a sharp “Holy shit!” Maybe some kind of expert mixology could mask the alcohol better. I’m not sure how. It’s good though! Just tastes like very serious party.

Pynchon Tequila ZombieDoc and Sauncho’s scene with the zombies makes it into the movie, which I finally at last after interminable waiting saw and enjoyed last night. It felt nicely Pynchoney, good and weird and funny with the right mix of sadness and optimism at the base. (I copied my zombie garnish from the movie zombie, so thank you to whatever set dresser was responsible for that.) I look forward to seeing it again and I hope I’m not hungover tomorrow.

Singapore Sling

Inherent Vice Singapore Sling We Australian Pynchonites have been waiting patiently and less patiently for Inherent Vice to reach our shores. It did finally appear in Melbourne in a moonlight preview last week, but I was already seeing (the excellent) Gareth Liddiard that night. So I’m still waiting. BUT the movie comes out on Thursday and I have a ticket in hand! So not long now. 

In celebratory anticipation, I had a Singapore Sling last night at Cookie. Of course the waiter tried to give it to Drunk Pynchonette, but pretty quickly she got her beer and I got my fruity cocktail. And a tasty fruity cocktail it was. Not too sweet, smooth citrus and cherry and gin. Here’s Cookie’s description of it:

This once classic cocktail was (like many things) rick rolled by the 1980s, but never fear, we’re bringing it back to its original glory. Gin, Cherry Herring, with dashes of Curacao, Benedictine, Grenadine, and Bitters shaken together with pineapple and lime juice.

Those poor 1980s. Not only were they a decade without any new Pynchon books, but apparently the cocktails went bad too. Inherent Vice, luckily, is set in happier times. The Singapore Sling shows up when Doc’s with Lourdes and Motella and their dates Joachim and Cookie at Club Asiatique in San Pedro. It’s a dramatic place (p. 81):

Waitresses in black silk cheongsams printed with red tropical blossoms glided around on heels, bearing tall narrow drinks decorated with real orchids and mango slices and straws of vivid aqua plastic moulded to look like bamboo.

Singapore Sling Pynchon(My Singapore Sling was tall and narrow, but the resemblance ended there.) No one actually drinks a Singapore Sling in IV–rather, Motella advises Lourdes (I think? A little uncertain about who she’s talking to) that she’d “better not be negotiating no Singapore Slings over there. None of that shit,” (p. 83). Which seems a bit harsh.

Singapore Slings also show up in Vineland, although again undrunk. Someone called Minoru really wants one, but the bar he and Takeshi end up at has none of them (a menu that “made up in exorbitance for what it lacked in variety,” p.145) and they drink beer instead.

One week until the movie!

Quimporto

It’s been a while… so I’m back with a bit of a weird one. Weird enough even to be called weird in Gravity’s Rainbow, which let’s face it is itself pretty weird. Page 615:

Clive Mossmoon and Sir Marcus Scammony sit in their club, among discarded back copies of British Plastics, drinking the knight’s favorite, Quimporto—a weird pre-war mixture of quinine, beef-tea and port—with a dash of Coca-Cola and a peeled onion.

Deeeelicious. But no one said “Every drink in every Pynchon novel” was an easy gig. I’ve mixed myself up a quimporto, or an approximation of one. Quinine is not something you can just buy straight any more, but it’s the main flavour in tonic water, so I’ve used that. For the beef tea: Bovril. This may or may not be what Mossmoon and Scammony are using. Bovril was developed in the 1870s (for Napolean??), and it certainly is very English—fit for a Knight of the Empire like Scammony. My impression is that Bovril is (and would have been) referred to as beef tea; English readers could let me know if this is right.  But beef tea is also something you can make fresh by boiling beef bones, so there’s a chance they’re using that instead. My port was an Australian tawny. The Coca-Cola was Coca-Cola. The peeled onion was one of those creepy bright green ones.

Quimporto Pynchon

In the his Gravity’s Rainbow Companion, Weisenberger calls the quimporto “seemingly awful.” Weisenberger’s not wrong. It made challenging drinking. The thing was really pretty repulsive, especially on the first few sips. Even just the beef tea on its own was gross. After adding port and tonic water and coke and an onion, well, this concoction made the Disgusting English Candy Drill sound like a piece of cake. I’m still trying to drink it as I write this, and I’m a bit concerned that attempting to describe the taste might push it off the edge of bearability into spew-land.

Here’s a try anyway. It’s quinine bite up the front and sweet from the port and coke, then a swimming muddy beefed grapey strangeness, with more beefiness on the aftertaste. Despite that description, the flavours do come together surprisingly well in some ways—it’s disgusting, but it also tastes somehow coherent. Coherent enough to make me think that Pynchon didn’t just make this drink up, or if he did, that he spent some time testing it out. Couldn’t really tell you what proportions I used though. Slightly more beef tea than port, bit less tonic water, less coke than that. But yeah, nasty.

We should note however, that this stuff is actually Scammony’s favourite. And would you take my word over that of a British knight (if one with some odd proclivities)? Why not pull out your jar of Bovril and make up your own mind…

DSC_0916

Merry Christmas! (Fruitcake soaked in brandy)

Pynchon Christmas cake

Merry Christmas all! The day’s over here in Australia; probably just beginning for Tommy Pynchon himself. Among my celebrations, I’ve squeezed in a fruit cake soaked in brandy, as recommended by Mason in Mason & Dixon. A nice chunk of Christmas does appear in M&D, but the fruit cake doesn’t actually herald from any of the most Christmassy scenes. The troupe are snowed in, so it’s wintery at least. They’re talking about Dixon’s relationship with “someone in the kitchen” and the effect it’s had on the “size and curvature” of his stomach. Mason cheerily teases Dixon about the products of her kitchen:

“—the Pies,” Mason is joyous to enumerate, “the Tarts, the, the Jam-stuff’d Dough-nuts, the lengthy Menu of French Crèmes and Mousses, the Fruit-Cakes soak’d in Brandy be it Feast-day or no,—”

“Stop . . . ?” cries Dixon, “tha’re making me hungry.”

Fruitcake brandy PynchonPynchon Christmas brandy cake

It is sadly a rare opinion that fruit cake is a wonderful thing whether it’s a feast day or not. I love the stuff. This particular one was great too, a fancy supermarket Christmas cake that I topped up with extra brandy. And now eating has worn me out and I must sleep. Happy Christmas!

A gigantic pitcherful of margaritas

WIMG_9428hen I reread Inherent Vice a month or so ago, the first pages had me worried. It wasn’t the writing–I slipped into the Lebowski haze more happily and with even more laughter than on my first reading. But there weren’t any drinks. I started this project after reading Bleeding Edge, finding lots of alcohol, and vaguely remembering lots of it in Pynchon’s other books too. But now it looked like IV was going to let me down. Was there just to much dope to smoke and acid to trip for anyone to pause for a Mojito?

But pages 59/60 allayed my fears in style with a “gigantic pitcherful of margaritas.” Interestingly, Doc’s in “flatlander” (or non-hippy) disguise at the time (maybe that’s how the alcohol gets a foot in), visiting Sloane Wolfmann and her helpful maid, Luz. Sloane directs Luz to get them drinks:

“The midday refrescos, now if you wouldn’t mind, Luz. I do hope, Mr. Sportello, that margaritas will be satisfactory–though given your film preferences, perhaps some sort of beer and whiskey arrangement would be more appropriate?”

“Thank you, Mrs. Wolfmann, tequila’s just fine–and what a welcome relief not to be offered any ‘pot’! I’ll never understand what these hippies see in the stuff! Do you mind if I smoke a normal cigarette, by the way?

Doc does his bit of PI snooping, then Luz returns with the gigantic pitcherful “and some chilled glasses of an exotic shape whose only purpose was to make it impossible for the servants to wash them without the help of some high-ticket custom dishmop.” When Sloane’s “spiritual coach” Riggs Warbling walks in, he starts sipping from the jug “without going through the exercise of pouring anything into a glass.”

Once the drinking gets started, it keeps on steadily for the rest of the book. A bit later on, when Doc hooks up with Luz, she brings “a bottle of Cuervo,” (p.142). So I thought I’d combine the two here, and use the bottle of Cuervo to make the gigantic pitcherful of margaritas. You might not think that jug pictured above quite qualifies as gigantic, but I did refill it once, for a pretty gigantic total volume of margarita. And they were great margaritas! Definitely my most successful cocktail attempt (beating the Tequila Sunrise and the Tom Collins). The proportions were from this recipe, though I upgraded from Triple Sec to Cointreau. Some of my test subjects/drinking companions seemed to think it was too strong, but it tasted bloody good to me. And anyway, how am I supposed to cope with the Inherent Vice movie’s too-distant February 5th Australian release date without sufficiently potent margaritas?