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! ;)


Sophie Littlefield said...

I just don't get why anyone would put water in a beautiful glass of whiskey :)

Last week I saw this site that listed famous writers who were addicts. It was very moving. So many, so talented...and so much was lost to their addictions. As much as I adore my evening drink I don't intend to ever go that route...

Bobby Mangahas said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Bobby Mangahas said...

Hmm. Writer's and drinking. Now there's a stereotype if ever there was one. Oh very well. My poison of choice would be a whiskey sour. HOWEVER, while in the process of writing, I prefer a good hot cup of tea in my Edgar Allan Poe mug (or the mug with Shakespearean insults).

Rebecca Cantrell said...

Nice post, Kelli! And Kelli is such a sly drinker that she's one of a handful of folks to actually get ME drunk. She must be watched.

Soph: I'm not sure anybody plans that whole addiction thing, except may Nicolas Cage's character in Leaving Las Vegas (is that what it was called?). It sneaks up on you, one drink at a time. Not to make you nervous or anything... :)

Terry Stonecrop said...

Ha ha, this was good. I'm a big fan of Chandler, he rather liked his booze. I may start drinking those gimlets, in moderation, of course:)

Liked your Old Crow. You should put a little tag sign on it: "In case of emergency, break glass."

Joshua Corin said...

Coffee that's twice as strong as sin? Now that's an advertisement!

Jen Forbus said...

Kel, hope you're having a wonderful time with your tour. Please say hi to the folks at The Mystery Bookstore tonight. Looking so forward to seeing them in April.

Keep the coffee flowing and the good times rolling!

Shane Gericke said...

I loooove percolator coffee, Kel. It gives the brew body and pizzaz, and smells so damn good while doing so. Beats the hell out of the modern drip systems, which I use for convenience but oh, do I miss percolated. The standard metal with the glass perk-thing in the lid is classic, though I also like the all-glass percolators that sat on a stove.

I wish you'd move to Chicago so I can attend your speakeasy book launches. They sound SO great. My dearly departed grandmother worked at a speakeasy in the Roaring 20s (also in Chicago) and told some great stories about them. I've always had romantic visions of the cocktail culture, and am glad you're re-creating them.

Shane Gericke said...

Sophie, I can see how easily I could slip into the whisky habit. It's a glorious taste and brings so many interesting people into the conversation! So I make a point of not indulging much at home, only when I go out. At ten or twelve bucks a glass for the good stuff at a bar, it's guaranteed I won't drink TOO much of it at one time. Except at ThrillerFest, when gracious people like you and Laura and Kel are buying me drinks and then wheeeeee life gets interesting :-)

Kelli Stanley said...

I hear ya, Soph--I think the "magic" of loosening up can be addictive, so I only drink on convivial or happy occasions ... or for medicinal purposes.

A bottle of Krupnik (a Polish Vodka honey and spices brew) once saw me through a super bad case of bronchitis when nothing else would ... ;)

We passed around the flask last night, btw--Eagle Rare will return to LA at LCC! :)


Kelli Stanley said...

So, RJ--tell us some of the insults on your Shakespearean mug! :) Nobody could level a miscreant like Will ...

And I'm right there with you on whiskey sours, provided the sour mix is really truly good--otherwise it spoils the taste of the glorious bourbon! ;)

Thanks for commenting, sweetie!

Kelli Stanley said...

Becks, in my dim and hazy memory, I believe you said you were imbibing absinthe for (ahem) *research purposes* ... can I help it if you needed something gin-based to take the taste out of your mouth?? ;)

Besides, Nan and Curry tastes a whole lot better when you're drunk. ;)


Kelli Stanley said...

Terry, I love it! I think I'll type that up when I get home! :)

I've got an Old Crow decanter from the 50s up there, too ... and a wooden stork table piece from The Stork Club and a lot of other cool stuff that's inspirational.

I'm thinking the O.C. might be more inspirational to look at rather than drink! ;)

And hope you try a gimlet--they're really good!


Kelli Stanley said...

Well, after so little sleep, it's got to be, Josh! ;)

I don't know what they put in that carafe in Salinas ... maybe the Grinds of Wrath? ;)


Kelli Stanley said...

Thanks, Jen!! :) We had a great time last night at the store last night and can't wait to come back to LA for LCC and more fun!! Eric Stone has a great idea for a taco truck party!!! :)

Hope you're holding up OK with all the snow--I'm gonna try to send you some sunshine from San Diego!!


Kelli Stanley said...

Shane, sweetheart, we've got to get you out here for Bouchercon this year, and then we can take you to Bourbon and Branch! It's the closest we'll get to a real speakeasy (passwords and everything) and the drinks are just incredible--*everything* is small batch, and the mixes are all handmade. A wonderful experience!
And it even got Becky tipsy!! ;)