Cocktails with Mr Butler
'This is very kind of you, Mr Butler,' said the young man, and bowing.
'Not at all, Mr Rohan,' Mr Butler replied. He approved of respectful young men, especially those who had gone to the trouble of dressing in proper evening dress for their interview and advice. Besides, Mr Rohan's family had been rich, before a taste for three-legged horses and ladies of rapacious appetite had ruined his father. Now Rohan, instead of repining, was intending to open a cocktail bar with the remains of his army pension. Mr Butler approved of enterprise. And courage. A personable young man, he thought, likely to do well. Miss Phryne Fisher approved of him, but so did Dot Williams, who was much harder to impress.
"I have taken the trouble to write out all the most important recipes,' said Mr Butler. 'It but remains to decide which cocktail to serve, and to whom.'
'That sounds like the hard part,' said the young man with becoming deference.
'Therein lies the skill,' agreed Mr Butler. 'Cocktail selection requires all that you know of human nature. Let us take the example of Miss Fisher, who has just come in. How does she look to you?'
Ian Rohan peeped around the kitchen door. The house was still shuddering faintly from the slam of the front door. Phryne in her fur coat stood on one foot, rubbing her other, shoeless foot, surrounded with boxes and packages.
'She looks cold, tired and cross. And her new shoes have hurt her feet.'
'You have insight,' said Mr Butler. 'Directly she will go upstairs, shed her outer garments, wash her face and hands and then call down for a refreshing drink. What shall we serve her?'
Rohan consulted the list. 'Not a martini,' he said slowly. 'Too dry. Or a whisky sour. We need something sweet.'
'And strong,' said Mr Butler. 'The lady has inherited her father's hard head and the Fisher liver.'
'Rum, maybe? No, I've got it. A sweetened Old Fashioned – how about that?'
'With...' prompted Mr Butler.
'Whisky,' said Rohan nervously.
'A good choice. We shall make one. No need for the shaker. This is a stirred cocktail.'
Into a tumbler pour two teaspoons of sugar syrup. Add a dash of angostura bitters. Stir. Add some more ice and then more whisky to almost fill the glass. Serve with a cherry and a spoon to stir it further.
'And, I venture to add, since Madam's mood is so dark, a nip of this,' said Mr Butler.
Rohan took the bottle and smelt a bewitchingly warm scent.
'What is it?'
'Whisky and honey liqueur from Scotland. There's the bell. I shall return soon. In the meantime, perhaps you will concoct me a Sidecar for the next caller.'
Mystified, Ian Rohan did as he was bid.
Into a shaker pour 3 nips of brandy, one of lemon juice and 3 dashes of cointreau.
He was shaking it industriously when Mrs Butler came in, slammed the kettle onto the gas stove and sat down at the kitchen table, sighing deeply.
'Not a good day, Mrs Butler?' he ventured.
'The hens aren't laying, the meat was late, the sausages were off and had to be sent back, the milk's no more than blue water and the cream is sour. Who'd be a cook? I wish I was on a cannibal island.'
'Oh, dear,' said Ian Rohan.
'Never mind,' said Mrs Butler. 'Did my Mr B ask you to make whatever you are shaking there?'
'Yes,' said Rohan.
'Pour it out then, there's a good boy,' she said. 'It's for me. He always knows, my Mr B does.'
Rohan obliged. Mrs Butler sipped. The kitchen was silent until the kettle began to sing.
Mr Butler returned to a scene of domestic peace and almost smiled.
'Very good,' he approved. 'Now, suppose you have patrons who are in an effervescent mood, not used to much alcohol and wanting to celebrate?'
'Champagne,' said Rohan. 'Can't go past champagne for a celebration.'
'And a champagne punch will mean that they don't get too elevated,' said Mr Butler. 'You want your customers happy, not maudlin.'
In a punch bowl or large bucket, lay down a fruit salad of any seasonable chopped fruit and a handful of clean mint sprigs. Add a three cups of cheap brandy or rum and leave it covered for some hours. You can keep a mash of it under the counter if it's chilled. To each pint of fruit add a bottle of inexpensive champagne, two tablespoons of sugar syrup and more mint. Taste for sweetness. If it's too sickly, add a couple of lemons or limes. It will froth beautifully when the wine hits the fruit. Very decorative.
'What about a single drink for the inexperienced drinker?' asked Ian Rohan.
'Can't go past a sherry cobbler,' said Mr Butler. 'Especially on a hot day.'
Put some chopped pineapple in a punch bowl. Add crushed ice, slices of lemon and orange and mix well. Then pour in a cup of sugar syrup and a cup of sherry. Fill up with lemonade or soda water. Most refreshing.
"And the man who just wants to get drunk fast?'
'Try to encourage him into a taxi, or at least the street,' said Mr Butler. 'But the strongest cocktail ought to make him feel temporarily better. I suggest a martini for him.'
Take a martini glass and swill a drop or two of vermouth around the inside. Pour four nips of gin into your shaker, shake, strain and add. Decorate with an onion or olive. Be prepared for him to gulp it down and request another. If he wants his stirred – an affectation, I assure you – then have a bottle of gin always on ice to provide the requisite chill. A cold hearted drink, I have always thought. You can vary it with a pink gin – which is just pure gin with three drops of angostura bitters - if he has maritime leanings.
'For the empty headed amongst blondes?' asked Mr Rohan.
'Oh, there's a plethora – but you'll find they are impressed with such as a Fallen Angel or a Maiden's Prayer.'
Shake three nips of gin, one of lemon juice, three dashes of creme de menthe and a dash of bitters. Serve it with a sugared mint leaf.
Shake three nips of gin, three nips of cointreau and one nip of orange juice. Serve that with a candied orange slice.
'Wonderful. But I like the more complex ones myself,' confessed Mr Rohan.
'Compound one,' ordered Mr Butler. 'And you shall have it as a reward for your skill.'
In a tumbler one nip of gin, one nip of sweet vermouth and one nip of campari. Add ice and soda water. Stir gently. Serve with orange peel.
'Very nicely done. Now remember the butler's code. Never repeat anything you have heard in your bar. Never gossip about one customer to another. And the most important thing...' said Mr Butler, sitting down in his pantry and finding himself a bottle and glass. Mr Rohan brought his negroni to the table, Mrs Butler brought in a plate of cheese straws and the news that the new sausages were prime, so dinner would be ready on time after all.
'The most important thing, Mr Butler?' asked Ian Rohan, loosening his tie and and taking a sip of his cocktail.
'Always get the money in advance,' said Mr Butler, and smiled on his young acolyte.
'What's your favourite cocktail, Mr Butler?' asked Rohan, greatly daring.
'I don't drink the things,' said Mr Butler, pouring from a cobwebby bottle a rich, ruby fluid. 'I have never found anything to equal a superlative port to comfort the heart of man.'