Thinking about Raymond Chandler reminded me of another vintage American comfort read - Damon Runyon’s funny, charming, occasionally shocking, New York Stories centred around the gangsters, hustlers, and dancers of Broadway and the Bowery in the prohibition era.
Treading similar boards, but each with their own distinctive atmosphere I can also recommend Gypsy Rose Lee’s 2 murder mysteries which are currently in print, and Mae West’s books which sadly are not, but the Virago paperback editions still seem to be available second hand at a reasonable price.
‘Guys and Dolls’ also seems currently to be the most easily available Runyon, the film of the same name is based on it, but any collection of his short stories is worth grabbing. It’s wet, dark, and cold outside, there is no better weather to find yourself in the company of Runyon’s wise guys, dudes, and dolls.
The Fireside Rum Tea is exactly the sort of drink you want in this weather too. This one is inspired by a recipe from Miss Hope’s Teatime Treats. The Hope and Greenwood books are also out of print, which is kind of a shame because it’s where I found the best fudge recipe I’ve ever eaten, and other good things.
I wanted something warm, not to alcoholic, and didn’t want to pound cardamom pods, and couldn’t find any cinnamon sticks (I know I have some somewhere) so the original recipe went by the wayside. What I do have is some Assamica chocolate spice tea from The Tea Maker’s of London (it was an impulse add on when I was ordering some Tarry Souchong for D, which I’ve become particularly fond of. The mail order service is excellent) which has ginger, cardamom, pepper, and cocoa nibs in it. Brewing a cup of this (or any chai or Christmas type tea) saves a lot of messing around.
Cup or glass of tea at the ready add rum to taste - not a white rum, or anything that costs more than £30, I’ve used a golden rum, but I’d happily use spiced rum, or a dark rum like Captain Morgan’s. If you prefer a sweeter drink, flavour it with a bit of maple syrup - add sparingly testing as you go along because it’s easy to go over the top with this. Give it a good stir and garnish with a slice of clementine or a cinnamon stick.
Rum and tea is an excellent combination and using a spiced tea makes this particularly low effort. I like just enough rum to be able to taste it, the same with the maple syrup, and I can happily report that neither my hands or feet are any longer numb with cold.