Couple of Ghost Dances, I begin to look up and take notice | A cocktail from Donald Barthelme

Mrs. Vandermaster.
Yes.
Please be seated.
Thank you.
The red chair.
You’re most kind.
Can I get you something, some iced tea or a little hit of Sanka?
A Ghost Dance is what I wouldn’t mind if you can do it.
What’s a Ghost Dance?
That’s one part vodka to one part tequila with half an onion.  Half a regular onion.
Wow wow wow wow wow.
Well when you’re eighty-one, you know, there’s not so much.  Couple of Ghost Dances, I begin to take an interest.
I believe I can accommodate you.
Couple of Ghost Dances, I begin to look up and take notice.
Mrs. Vandermaster, you are aware are you not that your vile son has, with the aid of various parties, abducted my emerald?  My own true emerald?
I mighta heard about it.
Well have you or haven’t you?
‘Course I don’t pay much attention to that boy myself.  He’s bent.
Bent?
Him and his dog.  He goes off in a corner and talks to the dog.  Looking over his shoulder to see if I’m listening.  As if I’d care.
The dog doesn’t–
Just listens.  Intently.
That’s Tarbut.
Now I don’t mind somebody who just addresses an occasional remark to the dog, like “Attaboy, dog”, or something like that, or “Get the ball, dog”, or something like that, but he confides in the dog.  Bent.
You know what Vandermaster’s profession is.
Yes, he’s a mage.  Think that’s a little bent.
Is there anything you can do, or would do, to help me get my child back?  My sweet emerald?
Well I don’t have that much say-so.
You don’t.
I don’t know too much about what-all he’s up to.  He comes and goes.
I see.
The thing is, he’s bent.
You told me.
Wants to live twice.
I know.
I think it’s a sin and shame.
You do.
And your poor little child.
Yes.
A damned scandal.
Yes.
I’d witch his eyes out if I were you.
The thought’s appealing.
His eyes like onions…

From Donald Barthelme’s story “The Emerald.”

If any one is inclined to try a Ghost Dance, let me know how it goes.

Blog about making a sherry cobbler, a cocktail I read about in a Nathaniel Hawthorne novel

In the final third of Nathaniel Hawthorne’s 1852 novel The Blithedale Romance, the narrator, having departed the titular would-be utopian farm, enjoys some city time in a hotel. He takes a voyeuristic pleasure in watching people from his window, and elects to deepen the pleasure by ordering a drink: “Just about this time a waiter entered my room. The truth was, I had rung the bell and ordered a sherry-cobbler.” The explanatory end note for my Penguin Classics copy of Blithedale gives the following recipe: “A drink made with sherry, lemon juice, sugar, and cracked ice.” I decided to make a few.

A brief internet search resulted in dozens and dozens of recipes, all more or less the same iteration: long glass, crushed ice, sherry, simple syrup, citrus (oranges cited most frequently), fresh berries if you have ’em, and a straw. The straw is the kicker here. Here is a passage from Charles Dickens’ 1844 novel Life and Adventures of Martin Chuzzlewit that shows the titular hero’s delight with his first sherry cobbler (note Chuzzlewit’s ecstasy when he gets “the reed” to his lips):

‘I wish you would pull off my boots for me,’ said Martin, dropping into one of the chairs ‘I am quite knocked up—dead beat, Mark.’

‘You won’t say that to-morrow morning, sir,’ returned Mr Tapley; ‘nor even to-night, sir, when you’ve made a trial of this.’ With which he produced a very large tumbler, piled up to the brim with little blocks of clear transparent ice, through which one or two thin slices of lemon, and a golden liquid of delicious appearance, appealed from the still depths below, to the loving eye of the spectator.

‘What do you call this?’ said Martin.

But Mr Tapley made no answer; merely plunging a reed into the mixture—which caused a pleasant commotion among the pieces of ice—and signifying by an expressive gesture that it was to be pumped up through that agency by the enraptured drinker.

Martin took the glass with an astonished look; applied his lips to the reed; and cast up his eyes once in ecstasy. He paused no more until the goblet was drained to the last drop.

‘There, sir!’ said Mark, taking it from him with a triumphant face; ‘if ever you should happen to be dead beat again, when I ain’t in the way, all you’ve got to do is to ask the nearest man to go and fetch a cobbler.’

‘To go and fetch a cobbler?’ repeated Martin.

‘This wonderful invention, sir,’ said Mark, tenderly patting the empty glass, ‘is called a cobbler. Sherry cobbler when you name it long; cobbler, when you name it short. Now you’re equal to having your boots took off, and are, in every particular worth mentioning, another man.’

Anyway. Where was I? Oh, yeah—so I looked around for recipes. David Wondrich’s 2007 cocktail history Imbibe! gives a helpful baseline recipe by citing Jerry Thomas’s 1862 classic, How to Mix Drinks. From Thomas’s book:

cobbler-1

Thomas doesn’t mention muddling the oranges, although pretty much every online recipe I read called for muddling.

So reader, I muddled.

Here is my variation on the sherry cobbler (or Sherry Cobbler, or sherry-cobbler). In the loose spirit of the cocktail, I made ours entirely of ingredients I already had at the house. These were for each cocktail:

–4 oz of sherry

–1/2 oz of simple syrup

–1/2 oz of maraschino syrup

–1 oz of sparkling water

–1 clementine (muddled)

–sprigs of mint

–blueberries

–crushed ice

img_9558

The maraschino syrup was an afterthought after I’d mixed the cocktail and was about to pour it over ice—I wanted to get a pop of color at the bottom of the glass. The mint and blueberries were from our garden. The pic above is lousy; sorry—not sure why I didn’t move the dishcloth and maybe photograph the cocktails like, uh, not in front of my wife’s kombucha hotels.

So how was it? Pretty refreshing. My wife enjoyed it more than I did, although I’m not a huge cocktail guy. (I think it’s pretty hard, for example, to improve upon neat scotch , although I do like bourbon straight up in the hotter months).

I’ve always been fascinated by literary recipes, so I’m a bit surprised the sherry cobbler has evaded my attention until now, despite its having shown up in various novels I’ve read (including Nicholson Baker’s House of Holesas Troy Patterson pointed out in a remarkably thorough literary history of the cocktail at Slate years ago). I’m not sure I’d go out of my way to make a sherry cobbler again (not that I went out of my way to make these ones), but the basic cobbler recipe’s spirit is very close to my approach to making cocktails at home anyway—use what you have. In fact, the major difference between the sherry cobblers I made yesterday and the kind of cocktail I’d normally cobble together for my wife on a Saturday afternoon is the sherry—I’d usually use rum or maybe vodka. Anyway, the whole thing was fun, which is like, the point of cocktails.

Cocktail Recipe: The Crocodile, a Traditional Anarchist Favorite (Thomas Pynchon’s Against the Day)

“I’ll be in the bar,” said Reef. Yzles-Bains was in fact one of the few places on the continent of Europe where a sober Anarchist could find a decent Crocodile—equal amounts of rum, absinthe, and the grape spirits known as trois-six—a traditional Anarchist favorite, which Loïc the bartender, a veteran of the Paris Commune, claimed to have been present at the invention of.

A cocktail recipe from Thomas Pynchon’s novel Against the Day. (More on trois-six here; good luck finding real absinthe).

Bonus recipe: Kit Traverse’s drink invention:

“‘Love in the Shadows of Pera,’ ” Kit said. “It’s just Creme de Menthe and beer.”