Find out how to imbibe* like an old-school shamus: A guide to fictional gumshoes’ favorite cocktails and the best noirish gin joints on earth
(*Drink well and responsibly! Take a taxi home.)
It’s not unusual for groups of private investigators to convene with colleagues and talk shop over cocktails. At Ross Investigators, the firm I write and manage social media for, monthly team meetings are part of the job. It’s a great way to learn what my colleagues who do the PI work are actually up to. It’s also a great way to uncover Denver’s rich restaurant, cocktail, and bootleg history.
Cocktail lovers of all kinds, especially those in the detective industry, will enjoy Scott M. Deitche’s book, Cocktail Noir from Gantsters and Gin Joints to Gumshoes and Gimlets (from Reservoir Square Books, 2015, $24.00).
In Deitche’s liveliest chapter, “Crime Novelists and their Characters,” readers learn about the drinking habits of Raymond Chandler’s Philip Marlowe (The Long Goodbye), Dashiell Hammett’s Sam Spade (Maltese Falcon), Nick and Nora Charles in his Thin Man series, Ross MacDonald’s Lew Archer (The Drowning Pool), and Mickey Spillane’s Mike Hammer (I the Jury).
Here’s a rundown of the preferred beverages of this famous group of fictional private investigators:
Philip Marlowe “imbibes and uses booze to his advantage.” He has an “office bottle of Old Forester bourbon” and also mentions Bacardi, Four Roses, double Gibsons, Grand-dad whiskey, and Brooklyn Scotch. In The Long Goodbye, “Marlow eyes a gimlet and says ‘With the lime juice it has a sort of pale greenish yellowish misty look. I tasted it. It was both sweet and sharp at the same time. The woman in black watched. Then she lifted her own glass towards me. We both drank and then I knew hers was the same drink.’”
Sam Spade drinks “a premixed Manhattan from a paper cup in keeping with his blue collar, tough guy persona.” Nick and Nora Charles in the Thin Man series were both “exuberant drinkers,” prone to boozy dialogues such as:
Nora: All I want is a hot bath.
Nick: I will take a hot bath and a cold drink.
Lew Archer is “a little rougher than Marlow or Spade, but he possesses the same world weariness.” Archer mentions gin and tonics, Gibsons and bourbon. In fact, in a 1954 novel, The Drowning Pool, Archer “discovers murder amidst a $70,000 hijacked shipment of bourbon.”
In the 50s, Mike Hammer appears in 20 books. “He is rougher and more violent than Sam Spade or Phillip Marlow, and he smoked, drank and slept with a lot of women.” In keeping with his grittier character, Mike Hammer prefers beer; Mickey Spillane explains that his character “drinks beer instead of cognac because ‘I can’t spell cognac.’”
“Crime Novelists and their Characters” hinges on the thesis that the drinking habits of fictional detectives may closely reflect the drinking habits of their creators — and some of those creators, like Raymond Chandler, certainly suffered from alcoholism.
Deitche has clearly done his research, not only on cocktails featured in “Crime Fiction” (among other things) but on restaurants all over the country with a gangster history and a noir atmosphere.
So if you’re looking for an evocative place to hold your team meetings or professional networking nights, check out the “Gangster Bars” and “Bar Noir” chapters, with recommendations from places ranging from Milan to Key West. And if you’re on a tight travel budget, no problem — recommendations also include watering holes in Washington, D.C., Milwaukee, and Dallas.
You may also enjoy:
About the Author:
Susanna Speier is a blogger for Ross Investigators of Denver, Colorado, which provides investigation services for attorneys and citizens, conducts workplace investigations for businesses, deploys undercover operatives for competitive business intelligence investigations, and uses sexy decoys for fidelity investigations. Follow them on Twitter and Facebook.
Speier is also a freelancer for hire and can be reached through Linkedin.