Cocktail Noir: From Gangsters and Gin Joints to Gumshoes and Gimlets by Scott M. Deitche

“People act differently sometimes when they’re drunk. They bother me.” (Lucky Luciano)

Scott M. Deitche’s book, Cocktail Noir: From Gangsters and Gin Joints to Gumshoes and Gimlets pays homage to the “intertwining of alcohol and the underworld.” Watch any classic noir or crime film, and you can’t help but be impressed at the way the characters knock back booze regardless of the time of day or the company they keep, and Deitche’s book effectively taps into that by-gone era. This book’s first chapter: The Dark Corner with Cocktail in Hand talks about “the rise of cocktail culture,” the revival of certain classic cocktails and includes recipes of such cocktails as the Negroni, the Stork Club Cooler and the Sloe Gin Fizz.

After this introduction, the author moves to the subject of Prohibition and discusses the various types of alcohol prevalent during this period: Rum, the entrepreneurial upswing in Moonshine, and Whiskey. While I knew about the Volstead Act’s “ban on consumption of alcohol up to twelve miles offshore,” I was unaware that this law paved the way to the birth of the “booze cruise.” Make a law and people find ways to get around it….

cocktail noirOther chapters (all with an emphasis on alcohol) include: Crime Novelists and their Characters, Mob Authors, Cocktail Noir on Screen, Bar Noir (“A tour through the best of these watering holes,”) and Gangster Bars (includes a page on the Stork Club and another on The Cotton Club). Each chapter includes photos and, of course, cocktail recipes, so we read about authors’ favourite drinks, crime bosses’ chosen drinks and the various places they hung out.

This is not an in-depth non fiction exploration of prohibition, but short, fact-filled, theme-based chapters, accompanied by some great quotes, and with the content leaning towards trivia, linking alcohol and organized crime. Some of the trivia is regarding figures from the 70s and 80s, so this book is not about prohibition–although that’s where it starts. I could almost call this a coffee-table book, but that would not be accurate. While the book has 237 pages, it’s undersized; you can hold it in one hand and have a cocktail in the other. This book is targeted for noir/crime lovers, those who wish to try some of the classic recipes mentioned in noir fiction and film, and would make a great gift for the noir aficionado in your life. And honestly, you have to be curious about a drink called The Corpse Reviver, don’t you?

Review copy

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16 Comments

Filed under Non Fiction

16 responses to “Cocktail Noir: From Gangsters and Gin Joints to Gumshoes and Gimlets by Scott M. Deitche

  1. Oh, this sounds perfect for the Christmas holidays! Your review reminds me of the scenes in Chandler’s The Long Good-bye where Marlow meets Terry Lennox for gimlets at Victor’s bar.

  2. He does talk about certain film scenes, Jacqui, and who drinks what

  3. “you can’t help but be impressed at the way the characters knock back booze regardless of the time of day or the company they keep”
    True. That’s come to my mind often while reading.

    It seems like a book to sip, not read.

  4. It would be impossible for me to read this and not want to immediately get a cocktail. And thats from someone who doesn’t drink much….

  5. Sounds like an irresistable combination…

  6. I think Jeeves mixed a fine corpse reviver, if I recall correctly.

    Sam Spade of course kept a bottle of Manhattan in his desk drawer. I always wondered if that meant he’d bought it pre-mixed…

  7. I think I would enjoy this. It sounds like fun.

  8. Doesn’t appear to be available in the UK, or at least not yet.

  9. I immediately thought of this post when I saw a reference in a rv in the paper to Luc Sante’s “Low life: The Lures and Snares of Old New York”, which sounds just your sort of thing. The books rvd might also interest you: Peter Doyle’s “The Big Whatever”, which has a pulp novel nested within a “part caper-novel, part road trip through the 60s”, and Dave Warner’s “Before It Breaks”, described as a “Nordic-noir Australian crime novel”.

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