Whisky Sours

DSC_5586.jpg8 May is universally recognised and celebrated as Pynchon in Public day. Parades fill the streets from Venice Beach to Vheissu; confetti pours from airships over all the world’s great capitals. In celebration of this grand holiday, I gathered some compadres to join Oedipa Maas and me for a whisky sour.

DSC_5582Boilermaker House whipped us up a batch of their somewhat unconventional whisky sours with passionfruit and beer (the recipe is here). The drinks came adorned with moustache patterns—I guess the bartenders couldn’t find their muted post-horn stencils.

Oedipa mixes a jug of (likely more straightforward) whisky sours while preparing for Mucho’s return from work on the afternoon she learns of Pierce’s will. On page 2 of the Vintage edition I just bought today when I realised my sister has and is probably dog-earing my old copy:

Oedipa had been named also to execute the will in a codicil dated a year ago. She tried to think back to whether anything unusual had happened around then. Through the rest of the afternoon, through her trip to the market in downtown Kinneret-Among-The-Pines to buy ricotta and listen to the Muzak (today she came through the bead-curtained entrance around bar 4 of the Fort Wayne Settecento Ensemble’s variorum recording of the Vivaldi Kazoo Concerto, Boyd Beaver, soloist); then through the sunned gathering of her marjoram and sweet basil from the herb garden, reading of book reviews in the latest Scientific American, into the layering of a lasagna, garlicking of a bread, tearing up of romaine leaves, eventually, oven on, into the mixing of the twilight’s whiskey sours against the arrival of her husband, Wendell (“Mucho”) Maas from work, she wondered, wondered …

Later (p. 6), home from work, Mucho “glid[es] like a large bird in an updraught towards the sweating shakerful of booze.” For them both perhaps, the drink is a last cool draught of pleasant routine before Oedipa is swept into the weird tangles of the Trystero.
DSC_5593.jpgHappy Pynchon in Public day all, and happy birthday Mr Pynchon! Try and squeeze out another book before the big eight zero hey?

Cock Ale

Don’t get too excited—Pynchon clearly has his saucier moments, but I haven’t gone all NSFW on you here. A cock’s a chicken, you dirty bastards. And what could be a more natural beer ingredient than a chicken.

Cock Ale PynchonThe Cock Ale appears in Mason & Dixon, brewed regularly at “The Moon,” a St Helena “punch house” on “Cock Hill” (p. 116). Mason, Dixon, and Maskelyne are hanging around celebrating (or more like commiserating) Maskelyne’s twenty-ninth birthday. Mason’s mysteriously sober, preoccupied with a misinstalled Plumb-line. Meanwhile “a Malay” runs into the the room screaming “Cock Ale Tomorrow! Cock Ale Tomorrow!” and “holding by the Feet a dead Fighting-Cock trailing its last blood in splashes like Characters Death would know how to read” (p. 119). But we apparently don’t have to wait until tomorrow—there’s a batch ready today. The proprietor, Mr Blackner, presents M, D & M with “three gigantic Pots of today’s Cock Ale” (p. 120):

“Rum Suck, Gents, and if Mr. Mas-son, can resist it, why then you Gents may divide this third Pot betwixt ye, Compliments of the House.” Mr Blackner’s Receipt for Cock Ale is esteem’d up and down the India Route, and when these Malays stop in Town with their travelling Cock-Fights, the Main Ingredient being suddenly plentiful, Cock Ale, as some might say, is in Season.

Cock Ale is not the invention of Mr Blackner, nor of Pynchon. It is in fact a venerable beverage, and probably a mostly forgotten curiosity by the 18th century of Mason & Dixon. Back in 1669, one Sir Kenelm Digby wrote that “these are tame days when we have forgotten how to make Cock-Ale.” He then helpfully provided a reminder, the first known printed recipe for cock ale:

Kenelm Digby,

Kenelm Digby, “The Closet of the Eminently Learned Sir Kenelme Digbie, Knight.” (London, 1669). 

I’ve pillaged that from a fascinating history of cock ale that you can and should read here. Mr Blackner’s recipe at The Moon differs slightly from Sir Digby’s (p. 120):

Mr. Blackner prefers to soak the necessary dried Fruit Bits in Mountain, or Málaga Wine, instead of Canary, and to squeeze the Carcass dry with a cunning Chinese Duck-Press, won at Euchre from a fugitive aristocrat of that Land, in which Force may be multiplied to unprecedented Values, extracting mystick Humors not obtain’d in other Receipts.

The cock ale I sampled apparently sticks pretty close to Digby’s recipe, with mace and a whole unpressed chicken. It was the Big Red Cock Ale from Brisbane’s Bacchus Brewing (which I found alongside a terrific mushroom burger at Brother Burger and the Marvellous Brew). The raisins were much more prominent than the cock, but I could more or less convince myself that there were some savoury chicken stock type notes in there too. Generally, it tasted like a subtler, weirder German dunkel.

I would of course like to sample Mr. Blackner’s version. If anyone has a spare cunning Chinese Duck-Press sitting around, send it over my way and I’ll have a go at brewing it up myself.

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.

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!

Papa Doble (and a giveaway!)

Bleeding Edge paperback PynchonThe paperback of Bleeding Edge comes out tomorrow in the US. That’s the updated cover passing on our right. The press release from Penguin Press reminds me (as I’m sure I don’t have to remind you) that the book is “dazzling and ludicrous,” “full or verbal sass and pizzazz … totally gonzo, totally wonderful,” “a necessary novel and one that literary history has been waiting for.” Which all sounds pretty dead on.

In celebration of the first appearance of this great novel in lighter floppier form, I have here (thanks to Penguin Press) five copies of the book to give you. Hopefully not all five of them to just one of you, but something more like maybe one each to five of you. If you want one, just leave a comment at the bottom here.

But first! The Papa Doble. In Chapter Six of BE, the appearance of political activist from way back March Kelleher gets Maxine reminiscing about their first meeting, “ten or fifteen years ago… when landlords were reverting to type and using Gestapo techniques to get sitting tenants to move.” They meet at a protest against their landlord, and head for a drink when it starts to get dark.

The nearest bar was the Old Sod, technically Irish, though an aging gay Brit or two may have wandered infrequently in. The drink March had in mind was a Papa Doble, which Hector the bartender, previously only seen drawing beers and pouring shots, assembled for March as if he’d been doing it all week. Maxine had one too, just to keep her company.

The Papa Doble is a drink with serious literary history, centred on that most famously boozed-up man of letters, Ernest Hemingway. In 1932, Hemingway was escaping prohibition living in Cuba, and frequenting a bar called La Floridita–the home of the Daiquiri. Hemingway, being Papa Doble Pynchon Bleeding EdgeHemingway, ordered his with double the rum and none of the sugar. Papa was Hemingway’s nickname in Cuba; doble is Spanish for double: the Papa Doble was born. Double white rum, lime juice, grapefruit juice, and maraschino liqueur. The WSJ has a great history here. As the BE Wiki points out, it’s an appropriate drink for civil activist March Kelleher, given Hemingway’s own fight against facism in the Spanish Civil War.

To get mine, I wandered last night into New Gold Mountain, a pretty well-hidden bar in Melbourne that I’d previously found by accident trying to go somewhere else. (This is a snazzy cocktail bar and not an unlikely Irish pub, but I figured March and Maxine’s experience was unrepeatable.) I resisted their beautiful drink menu, had a chat to the bartender about Papa Doble history, and whipped out Bleeding Edge for some sneaky photos. When he brought over our drinks he told me he “made it with sugar because if you drink it the way Hemingway had it it’s pretty unpalatable–he was a degenerate alcoholic after all.” Which, well, I’m not complaining. It was a mighty enjoyable drink. Sour and sweet and very nicely balanced. It’s not hard to see how old Hemo could have knocked back a dozen or so of the unsweetened version.

Oh but and I have books to give away! If you want to get your hands on the newly-portable paperback Bleeding Edge, comment below and include your email address so I can get in touch with you. Bonus points for photos with books and/or alcohol. Five people with US addresses will win. (If you can’t see a comments box, you might have to make sure you’re only viewing this post, and not my whole front page.) If you don’t need another copy, send your friends my way! Cheers!

Rolling Rock

Anheuser-Busch brew houseA week or so ago, I had the unexpectedly excellent experience of visiting the Anheuser-Busch brewery in St Louis. The brewery complex was opened in 1852, and it has some terrific architecture to show for its long history, even if the beer itself is perhaps less exceptional.

I was of course curious as to what Pynchonian alcoholic connections I could make DSC_9185at Annheuser-Busch. The “case of warm Bud Light” from Vineland would have been the obvious option, but you’ll forgive me for just not having been quite in the mood. I did discover, however, that Ann-Bu are also responsible for brewing Rolling Rock (despite Rolling Rock’s website claiming they’ve been “celebrating independent spirits since 1939.”), which makes an appearance in Bleeding Edge.

In the book, Maxine has popped back into her apartment around lunch-time after some back-to-school shopping when her friend Driscoll shows up with a Rachel haircut and an invitation to the Geeks’ Cotillion ball. Maxine’s run out of Zima, but she finds them beer: “Rolling Rock, two bottles Horst has somehow overlooked, way in the back of the fridge.”

According to Wikipedia, they don’t actually brew Rolling Rock in St Louis. But they do stock Rolling Rock merchandise.

Rolling rock shirt

So yes, I bought the glasses, I bought the T-shirt. And then today (thanks to a generous benefactor), got around to sampling the beer. It’s a very pleasant lager, reminiscent of a smoother Budweiser. Not much flavour (I can see how Horst could find them easily forgotten), but definitely a workable option for a summer’s afternoon.

Rolling rock bottle

Boilermaker

20140613_211934Whiskey and Alement hides its vast whisky stores and careful beer selection behind a curtained door in a dead pocket of the Melbourne CBD. It’s a Pynchonesque place, in its way. Hardly lit, full of insiders to its secret and outsiders to the surrounding world. Stocked with mysteriously titled–or just numbered–bottles (“Sing along with Julie Andrews”, “Glamping in a yurt”) from the Scotch Malt Whisky Society, an organisation that I just get an odd whiff of W.A.S.T.E. about. A perfect room for conspiracy hatching. The perfect place for me to emulate V.’s Roony drinking boilermakers.

Except I’m not actually emulating all that well–Roony’s sitting “at the bar of a neighborhood tavern on Second Avenue,” where “in the corner an Irishman and a Hungarian were yelling at each other over the bowling game.” Sounds like a perhaps less conspiratorial drinking establishment than Whisky and Alement. Anyway, he’s drinking boilermakers, to Rachel’s disapproval:

He ordered another boilermaker.

“Roony, you drink too much,” she said. “I worry about you.”

“Nag, nag, nag.” He smiled.

Despite a less naggy partner in bar crawling, I only had one boilermaker. But a great one it was.

20140613_202616 The menu actually had a selection of boilermakers, and the one I chose was titled “Peat & Pine Needles.” The whisky was the Bunnahabhain 8 year old peated. Google informs me that this is an independent bottling by Gordon & Macphail. The beer was Brooklyn Brewery’s East India Pale Ale.

Now, if you’ve read my Chivas Regal post, you know I don’t reallllly know anything about whisky. I can say I enjoyed this one, and thought it tasted plenty interesting, especially on the aftertaste. But did it have underripe bananas on the nose? Melon and apricot flavours? A milk chocolate edge? No idea. It did seem very nicely spicy to me. And then following a sip with a sip of the beer is just so good. My scribbled notes from the bar say something about how it’s like the whisky spiciness settles back into a cool embrace or a comfy couch or something. It’s a really delicious beer too. Unusually smooth for something so hoppy.

I’ll definitely be heading back to Whisky and Alement for more boilermakers. Next time I’ll follow Roony more closely and have a couple.

 

Update: Boilermakers also get a mention in Inherent Vice, where Doc’s maritime lawyer Sauncho sarcastically offers him one to go with his sob story.