It’s time for a little detective work. In my case, puzzle box detective work, and particularly one called the “Spade Case”. With the Spade Case satisfactorily cracked, we should give thanks to the “ace” detective responsible – I’m referring of course to Mr. Spade himself. One of the truly quintessential private eyes from the “hard-boiled” detective genre, Sam Spade was Dashiell Hammett’s most famous creation. He made his debut in 1930, appearing for the first time in the Maltese Falcon. Spade’s famous role was immortalized in the 1940’s film version by Humphrey Bogart. I imagine Spade, a rough and tumble thinking man who would just as easily fight his way out of a situation as negotiate, might not have much patience with a puzzle box. More likely than not he would take the expedient route and smash the thing to find what’s inside. Of course that would be missing the whole point.


Sam Spade was known to enjoy his rum, although a neat shot of whiskey wasn’t misplaced beside him either. Hal Humphreys, a real life private eye, wrote about this cocktail tribute to Spade, one of his fictional heroes. Dashiell Hammett described his character as a “hard and shifty fellow”, and Humphreys cites a favorite line of Spade’s from the Maltese Falcon: “Oh … I don’t mind a reasonable amount of trouble.” James Hensley, the manager at one of Humphreys’ favorite speakeasy establishments, The Patterson House, created the drink based on that line. It starts with rum, but a spiced rum, since detective work can be so exciting. There are plenty of interesting spiced rums available, but you can also make your own by adding in common spice flavors such as allspice and orange. Lyle’s Golden Syrup provides the sweetness. It’s a golden buttery sugar syrup found in England but not very common in the States, so I used some rich simple syrup instead. The last touch, the mezcal rinse, adds just the right amount of smoky noir to the drink as well. Next time you’re facing a particularly challenging puzzle, and feeling bold, mix up one of these. It ought to help you get into, and out of, a reasonable amount of trouble. Cheers.


A Reasonable Amount of Trouble adapted from James Hensley

2 oz spiced rum (homemade using a rich demerera rum plus some allspice and orange liqueurs)

¼ oz rich demerera syrup (originally Lyle’s Golden Syrup)

7 drops lime bitters

1 dash orange bitters (or Peychaud’s)

Mezcal rinse

Orange zest

Rinse a favorite glass with mezcal. (Swirl a small amount to coat the inside of the glass and discard the liquid.) Stir the main ingredients together with ice and strain into the prepared glass. Garnish with something "suitable".

For more about the sneaky Spade Case see:

Boxes and Booze: Calling a Spade