Apricot Brandy

Apricot Brandy Pynchon

Around page 718 of Against the Day, Cyprian and Yashmeen meet up with Ratty McHugh to discuss Yashmeen’s fear that she’s being followed, including by a “Hungarian element.” (My recollection of this passage is close to nil, but the Chumps of Choice group-read blog has great memory-refreshing summaries of AtD chapters—it’s a great travelling companion if you’re reading the book now). They retreat to a safe-house of Ratty’s, where we get this little Slothrop’s-desk description of the kitchen’s contents (p. 718):

By the unwritten rules of these transitory dwellings, the cupboards yielded a sketchy culinary history of those who had passed through—bottles of Szekszárdi Vörös, Gewürtztraminer and apricot brandy, chocolates, coffee, biscuits, tinned sausages, wine, boxes of dried noodles of various shapes and sizes, a white cloth bag of tarhonya from the previous century.

I don’t mean to descend into petty quibbling, but doesn’t it seem a bit lazy to include “wine” in a list that’s already mentioned two specific wines? Whatever, it’s good for my list. Right now, I’m just going to handle the apricot brandy.

Apricot brandy these days is most often a liqueur flavoured with apricots, rather than a true brandy distilled from fermented apricot juice. But the real stuff can be found. I used a bit of this Fütyülős Barack in the Tequila Zombie. As you might be able to guess from all those accents, it’s Hungarian. This particular type of brandy is known as Pálinka, and Wikipedia tells me it’s a protected product that can only be made in Hungary or a few bits of Austria. It’s not the only morsel of Hungary in Ratty’s safe-house—the Szekszárdi Vörös (wine) and tarhonya (some kind of pasta) also hail from the Magyar lands. This “sketchy culinary history” does indeed seem a bit sketchy—what’s Ratty’s hideaway doing full of Hungarian food while Yashmeen fears pursuit by Hungarians?

I’ll say one thing—I can see how the apricot brandy got left in the back of a cupboard. Authentic or not, I’m finding it a bit rough. The apricots come through pleasantly enough, but the alcohol burn is too harsh for me to really enjoy this straight. I’ll find some more cocktails to put it in.

Montepulciano

Drunk Pynchonette and I ordered a couple of (enormous) glasses of this last night then only realised halfway through ’em that the name’s familiar ring owed itself not to my comprehensive knowledge of Italian viticulture but to Pynchon’s most alcoholic of opuses, Against the Day. So it was camera out, non-Instgramming restraint and decency away, and time for a spontaneous addition to the Pynchonian wine cellar.

Pynchon MontepulcianoThe Montepulciano makes its appearance late in Against the Day in the wistful hands of Prince Spongiatosta. He’s talking to Cyprian (p. 873):

“You will come out to the island next week for our annual ball?”

“I’ve nothing to wear.”

He smiled, allowing Cyprian to think it was nostalgia. “The Principessa will find something for you.”

“She has exquisite judgement.”

The Prince squinted at the sky through his glass of Montepulciano. “In some things, most likely.”

Montepulciano is a grape commonly planted across Italy, used in numerous different protected styles. Ours was a Montepulciano d’Abruzzo from Tenuta Ulisse. I had a couple of pints post-Montepulciano, and I’m struggling to remember now quite what the stuff tasted like. I know I did most enjoy it. A bit spicy, with some sweet liquorice flavours, Drunk Pynchonette is reminding me. Pretty dark for staring at the sky through, though perhaps that explains the squinting.