The Proper Cocktail for Summer Murder Mysteries

It’s been hot where I live. Unbearably hot and humid with long summer days and temperatures continually in the high nineties. These are the type of days when heat waves rise slowly from the hot black road tar. It was during one of these days I thought about a long tall drink and then began to recall some of the drinks served up in mysteries. What is the right drink for a mystery?

Of course the first drink that comes to mind is a Bloody Mary, but that’s such an obvious choice. Plus I have to admit that Bloody Marys aren’t one of my favorite drinks and I rarely see them mentioned in mysteries.

Most of the hard boiled detectives want that shot of bourbon when they face off against the murderer. How many of us have a mental picture of the desk drawer in the detective’s office that contains a bottle of bourbon for fortification during a tough case?

And what about wine? Don’t forget the numerous murders that occur from some poison being slipped into a glass of fine wine.

But what do the rest of our detectives drink while solving a murder? Miss Marple and many of the other English detectives rely on a proper cup of tea with an occasional taste of
sherry to steady them during a case. Poirot is a little different, of course, because he prefers a tisane instead of tea. Jim Qwilleran drinks his Squunk water. Goldy Schulz needs her coffee fix at the start of her day and the start of a murder case. Kinsey Millhone suffers with a selection of wines at the local tavern owned by her Hungarian friend Rosie. Nero Wolf drinks his nightly bottles of beer while Archie relies on milk for a boost.

For me I tend to favor the cocktails of the past enjoyed by the likes of Nick and Nora Charles. My favorite drink for a mystery is a highball called a Gin Rickey. It’s made with just three ingredients: lime juice, gin and seltzer.

The Gin Rickey is actually a variation of a Joe Rickey which was first served in the 1880’s during one of Washington DC’s hot summers. Joe Rickey was a lobbyist from Missouri (yes they had lobbyists even in the 1800’s) who would drink bourbon and sparkling water. The bartender at a famous watering hole, Shoomaker’s which was located on E. Street near the National Theatre, added the juice of half a lime to brighten the drink in the summer heat. Since the drink was first made for Colonel Rickey, patrons continued to ask for a Joe Rickey each time they wanted this refreshing concoction. There is some question whether the original drink was made with Bourbon since that was the favorite liquor of Colonel Rickey or if gin was used. But in the 1890’s gin permanently replaced the bourbon and it became known as a Gin Rickey.

So now you know my favorite mystery drink. What does your favorite detective like and what do you enjoy drinking when reading a mystery? As Nick Charles said in the first Thin Man movie while serving a tray of highball drinks like Gin Rickeys and Tom Collins and lowball drinks like Manhattans and scotch and soda at his New Year’s Eve party –“that’s the long and short of it.”

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