For the anniversary of the September 21, 1957 premier of the original Perry Mason TV series we’re mixing the Attorney Privilege cocktail. Perry Mason was the protagonist of 82 novels and 4 short stories, but it was the eponymous TV series starring Raymond Burr that belted out more than 270 episodes and led to the phrase “Perry Mason moment” entering the vernacular.
A Los Angeles criminal defense lawyer, Perry Mason was the television star of courtroom drama decades before Law and Order. He was one of the first weekly one-hour series filmed for TV and remains one of the longest running and most successful legal-themed series. The Attorney Privilege is our choice for a Perry Mason cocktail.
In the first novel, The Case of the Velvet Claws, Mason says, “You’ll find that I’m a lawyer who has specialized in trial work. I’m a specialist on getting people out of trouble.” And that he did. Aided by his secretary Della Street and investigator Paul Drake, Mason repeatedly went up against his arch foe, district attorney Hamilton Burger.
Burger was perhaps the least successful district attorney in history as his cases inevitably prosecuted the wrong person. Perry Mason would always reveal the true criminal through tactics that Burger considered tricks.
The tension between Burger and Mason was a recurring theme. In one episode Mason flushes out the true culprit in a murder by lighting the trash can outside his home on fire. Then Mason receives a telegram while celebrating in a restaurant. It’s a citation from Hamilton Burger for burning trash without a permit.
Perry Mason, of course, always had the last laugh. Burger came to him for help when a friend that once saved Burger’s life is on trial for a murder he’s innocent of. Burger asks Mason to defend the man. Mason simply replies, “I’ll defend the man, Hamilton, despite the fact he saved your life.”
In most episodes a client is introduced along with the prospective murder victim and other important figures. When the client finds himself or herself wrongly accused of murder Hamilton Burger and crew work to gather evidence. Mason, Drake and Street engage in their own investigation.
Mason and Burger eventually clash in the courtroom. As new witnesses or other evidence appears Mason’s case often seems hopeless. But through some new insight Mason embarks on a new line of questioning that reveals the surprise perpetrator – the proverbial Perry Mason moment.
The Attorney Privilege Cocktail
The Attorney Privilege cocktail is drink of the day not because we believe his clients told him dark secrets protected under attorney-client privilege but because Mr. Mason took certain privileges in performing his work.
Prior to Perry Mason lawyers simply stood by their seats to question witnesses or address the jury. But not Perry Mason, who is in fact credited with the start of lawyers moving around the courtroom, approaching the witness stand and jury box. He took that privilege and, effectively, extended it to other attorneys.
Interestingly, though, the whole idea of moving around came from the show producers because it was easier to frame, shoot and edit courtroom scenes that way than having to switch between characters located far apart.
Erick Castro created the Attorney Privilege cocktail in 2012 at his bar Polite Provisions. We’ve made a few of his drinks before, like the Kentucky Buck and Piña Verde, but this one strikes us as a bourbon version of the Japanese cocktail.
- Nick and Nora or coupe glass
- Add all ingredients to your trusty mixing glass.
- Add ice and stir to chill.
- Strain into pre-chilled cocktail glass.
- Express lemon twist over drink and drop in.