Recently, taking a break from rain-delayed yard work, I took respite from the sweltering temperatures in my blessedly air-conditioned sunroom. Decidedly too muggy for my usual hangout on the shady porch, I cranked both the a/c and ceiling fan on high – and was grateful for an indoor room with an outdoor feel. Sinking down into a recliner with my Kindle I faced a decision – what to read next? I had just finished the latest Stuart Woods book and the new Karin Slaughter isn’t out until next month. Scanning my selections I ran across a book I’d downloaded (for free) quite a while back – “The Mysterious Affair at Styles” by Agatha Christie.
Now, I’ve read all the Christie mysteries before, most a couple of times. I learned quite a bit by reading the Queen of Crime – for instance: arsenic smells like bitter almonds, the beautiful flowering foxglove produces the deadly poison digitalis, and crème de cassis (the favorite drink of her Detective Poirot) is used to make a Kir Royale cocktail. By starting to re-read this book was to take a trip down memory lane.
I first heard of the pastime mahjong in Dame Agatha’s books; when her characters weren’t killing each other they often played this venerable Chinese tile game. During the ‘20s and ‘30s this 300-year-old game was a craze in England, which was the same time period Christie was crafting many of her almost 90 novels. Not too long ago, a friend mentioned going to play mahjong here on St. Simons Island, so I knew the game endured still. That memory triggered an additional recollection that I’d once read of a cocktail named for the game.
1-½ oz. gin (of course, it’s a British cocktail)
1/3 oz. light rum
1/3 oz. Cointreau
Put all ingredients in a shaker with ice, shake until chilled, strain into a vintage cocktail glass. Float a thin lemon peel curl on top.
I used a coupe glass because I just bought a set, probably from the 1920s-era, at a flea market. But I digress …
Presumably this libation was consumed by mahjong-playing ladies, along with cucumber and watercress tea sandwiches. So even if the game was boring, the mood was no doubt improved.
This got me thinking (isn’t the mind a wondrous thing?) if other games might have namesake cocktails? Turns out they do. For instance, the classic card game of poker.
1-½ oz. white rum
1-½ oz. sweet vermouth
Put both ingredients in a cocktail shaker with ice, shake well, strain into a chilled martini glass. No garnish as you don’t want to take your eyes off the cards for too long. Probably the same reason it calls for just two ingredients.
Along the same lines, there’s a Blackjack cocktail named for a specific poker game.
2/3 oz. brandy
2/3 oz. cherry brandy
Strong coffee, cold
Mix the ingredients directly in the serving glass, the size depending on how much coffee you add. I imagine the idea of this drink is to provide a mind-jolting shot of caffeine without the inherent danger of gambling while drinking too heavily. I can picture Kenny Rogers, as The Gambler, sipping one of these while narrowing his eyes in concentration on whether to hold ‘em or fold ‘em.
Finally, one that is named for my favorite cruise ship gambling habit – roulette. They say the odds in roulette are the poorest of any casino game, in other words you are very (VERY) likely to lose. Still, there’s something about that spinning wheel, the blur of whirling numbers, the subtle wave of the croupier’s hand over the betting table when all chips must be in place. I bet a single number once and it won (the number was 14 by the way) garnering me a payout of 35 to 1. My $5 bet put $175 in my pocket – and I’m proud to say I promptly cashed out and went to my cabin without looking back. (I won’t mention, as it detracts from the story, how much I lost prior to this one-time bonanza payout.)
½ oz. Kahlua
½ oz. vodka
1 oz. Sambuca
Fill a few shot glasses with the Kahlua and vodka. One shot per person. Place a small wedge of orange on top of each glass.
Pour Sambuca into a wine glass and carefully ignite. Pour a small amount of flaming Sambuca over each orange slice and allow to burn briefly.
Extinguish the flames (use a spoon), shoot the drink, and then enjoy a bite of the Sambuca-soaked orange slice.
Did you read this carefully? Any doubt as to why it’s called Roulette? Any notion of how hot that orange slice is going to be? I’m not igniting anything until it cools off. Well, maybe the Weber – if I can roust myself out of the recliner and check the fridge for hotdogs. In the meantime, enjoy your drink of choice!