Thursday, February 11, 2010
"And Don't Be Stingy, Baby!"
"Your writing beverage of choice?"
Kelli here, blogging from the road, where her one and only beverage is coffee, black as sin and twice as strong.
On the way down to LA, I drank an entire carafe at breakfast, to the amazement of the waitress in a Salinas cafe (the Steinbeck Center is in Salinas, and I always eat nearby in camaraderie with one of my favorite writers). Alas, at this point the bean may barely get me through this blog ... or not. If I start to sound more incoherent than usual, please--blame the roast.
So the title above is the ending line of one of my favorite movie quotes. It's from Anna Christie (1930), a film adaptation of O'Neil's rather turgid melodrama, and it starred Greta Garbo in her first talkie.
She wanders into a bar, lugging a suitcase, looking the joint over. Plops down and orders in a thick and husky Swedish accent:
"Gimme a whiskey, ginger ale on the side. And don't be stingy, baby!"
Words to live by, if you're a crime writer. And no, I don't mean the ginger ale.
My whiskey of choice is bourbon. It's one of the beverages we served at my launch party--Sophie and Julie Goodson-Lawes were the awesome babes behind the bar. Like Miranda, the protagonist of City of Dragons, I prefer my bourbon straight or at times mixed with some really good spring water.
Eagle Rare bourbon (official whiskey of Noir City and what I served at the party) is a favorite ( aged ten years and single barrel), but I've been known to nip Old Crow on occasion. There is, in fact, a bottle on my desk--unopened--purchased at the venerable Marquard's Liquors on Powell Street before they closed. Hammett probably shopped there, so I bought a bottle of O.C. as a sort of "open in case of emergency" should writer's block ever seriously ensue.
As much as I love bourbon, however, I'm also a sucker for the classic cocktail--the old stuff. Manhattan, Singapore Sling, the classic Rose's Lime Gimlet as immortalized by Chandler in The Long Goodbye, Rob Roy, Lemon Drop, Mint Julep--that kind of drink. There's a San Francisco gin-based cocktail I'm particularly fond of called The Blue Fog. One of my favorite discoveries was The Blue Train, a mixture of champagne, pineapple juice and cognac.
My debut book launch party was held in a speakeasy (Bourbon and Branch), where we offered one-of-a-kind custom-made cocktails ... the Nox Dormienda and the Roman Noir, both of which were very good (though my personal favorite was the Roman Noir). So yeah, I'm into cocktail culture in big way.
Part of my research for City of Dragons involved alcohol (I know it's tough, but someone's gotta do it) ... and at this point, I've got a nifty collection of period cocktail recipe books and barware. Cocktails and drinks in general are such a rich and sensual part of that period, so I do my best to reassemble what something would have tasted like. On the non-alcoholic side, I've had Postum and have brewed coffee in a vintage percolator from the late '30s, to see if there's a taste difference.
And really--when I'm writing, that's usually what I drink: coffee, nothing fancy, regular drip grind Maxwell House. I love good, cheap American brew. I've got theories about how alcohol allows us to tap into our subconscious when our conscious has too much pressure on it--one reason, I believe, why so many great writers were alcoholics. So I do, in fact, have a rule: never drink alone, and never drink unless I'm celebrating something.
So far I'm keeping to it ... but the Old Crow remains perched on my desk, Poe-like ... just in case! ;)