Late on recent rainy evening in Portland I found myself tucked into the bar at Pépé le Moko, being tended to by the gracious Talia Gordon. I've loved the dimly lit underground catacomb since I first wandered in during Portland Week on a rainy afternoon (imagine that) and was served a invigorating Irish Coffee by Jeffrey Morgenthaler. And it's worthy of it's name; the 1937 cops and gangsters film set in the Casbah, where the byzantine network of alleys, cafes and bars is the perfect refuge from les flic for bad guy her Jean Gabin. It's also delivers decidedly grown-up, French sexiness as in the scene below.
I'd asked Talia for a highball as I was searching the world for some great variations for this story for T. I asked for something in the classic gangster style--whiskey, lots of soda. As she mused on that Nat King Cole's "(I Love You) For Sentimental Reasons" played on the sound system. Great track, fit the mood just right, and it always reminds me of the surprising scene in "As Good As It Gets" where Helen Hunt is pissed off at Jack Nicholson. He pulls out a box of cassette tapes, all labelled with designations of different occasions. He pulls the one that reads: "For emergency use only" and puts the tape in the stereo. It plays the song for a moment and you think some thawing magic is going to happen, but Hunt actually demands he take it off--it's too emotional. And possibly manipulative. Standout scene in a film I found overrated. But it also reintroduced the song to another generation.
The slightly on-its-ear riff on a classic whisky and soda highball she handed across the bar was just what I knew I was craving but didn't know quire what form it would take--empathic bartending at work. The addition of a touch of Creme de Cassis brought just the right level of sweetness and and herby quality. Talia's recipe below (and handwritten above); the version that wound up in the Times omitted the lime wedge as I'd already shot and filed a photo without--A production snafu that I hereby apologize for. Below, the drink in its perfect form. No rainy night or cave-like bar required, although those things can't hurt.
2 oz Woodford Reserve