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original French

"At the Quai des Orfèvres they'd teased him about this habit. If, for example, he began an investigation with calvados, he'd continue with calvados, so that there'd been cases on beer, cases on red wine, and even a few on whisky." (Maigret se trompe [TRO])

Introduction

In this article, we'll examine once more what Maigret drinks, in an analysis both statistical and across the corpus. That is, we'll look at the type and frequency of the drinks consumed by Maigret, and the circumstances. We'll try to do a study complementary and parallel to those already done on the subject, including the books Bon appétit, commissaire Maigret by Jacques Sacré, and La botte secrète de Maigret: le verre de cognac by Paul Mercier, and the article Maigret's Beers.

We've often referred to the book by Jacques Sacré, whose statistical analysis is very thorough. However, we'd like to take up this analysis again, with a different plan. In his book, Sacré counted all the citations of drinks found in the corpus, while in this case, we'll concentrate on the drinks consumed by Maigret during the course of an investigation. That is, we'll ignore those examples where a drink is merely mentioned in the text, and only count those the Chief Inspector actually drank.

Furthermore, our statistical analysis, unlike that of Jacques Sacré, who counted all the occurrences of a drink in the corpus, will concentrate on the number of novels which contain at least once the drink considered, independent of the number of times that drink is consumed in the novel in question. We will mention, however, this frequency of consumption when it has some significance in the novel.

This method of analysis will obviously lead to some different results from those in Sacré's study.

Method of Analysis

We've divided the drinks into 15 categories, according to the semantic context... beer / fruit brandy in general, such as sloe gin / armagnac / cognac and fine / marc / calvados / whisky / wine / champagne / various aperitifs, such as vermouth or pastis / grog and rum / coffee / mineral water / herb tea / other.

Remarks on the categorization:

  • The "spirits" – armagnac, cognac, marc and calvados – are separated into four categories, for these drinks don't have the same semantic range when consumed by Maigret (see in particular Paul Mercier's book); in contrast, we've included cognac and fine in the same category, indicating the same drink in the corpus, as has been clearly shown by Paul Mercier.

  • Fruit brandies (les eaux-de-vie) in general (especially prunelle and framboise) also form another category, for they are consumed in a particular context, différent from that of the hard drinks mentioned above

  • Grog and glass of rum, are merged, since the former contains the latter.

Thus the drinks are analyzed in the following manner. For each novel, we've counted the presence or at least mention of the category, regardless of the number of times mentioned or consumed in the novel. The only criterion for selection is the fact that the drink in question actually be consumed by Maigret during the course of his investigation.

74 novels are considered, leaving aside Les mémoires de Maigret [MEM], which does not, properly speaking, relate a complete investigation.

Results

a) In general, the drink most frequently consumed by Maigret in his episodes is, not surprisingly, beer. Maigret drinks it in 68 novels of the 74 considered. Of course we must recognize that if the author doesn't indicate the consumption of a drink by the Chief Inspector, this doesn't necessarily mean that he doesn't drink any during his case. However, the non-mention of a particular drink in the course of the text, while other drinks are cited, is none the less significant. The six novels in which there is no mention of Maigret drinking beer are Maigret se fâche [FAC] (with this absence of the Chief Inpsector's favorite drink, it's not surprising that he was irritated...), Les vacances de Maigret [VAC] (an opportunity for Maigret to take a vacation from hops as well...), Maigret à l'école [ECO], Maigret et le voleur paresseux [PAR], Maigret et le client du samedi [CLI] and, somewhat obviously, Maigret à Vichy [VIC]. We note that the absence of beer doesn't imply abstinence, for in these novels, except for the last, the Chief Inspector turns happily to other alcohol, as we will see below.

b) The consumption of the different categories of drinks is very eclectic in the corpus. On average, for the 74 novels, we find five different categories per novel. And it's interesting to note that this average is just about the same for the three publication periods (Fayard, Gallimard and Presses de la Cité). The Fayard period being a little lower (closer to 4½ categories per novel). The novel which shows the greatest number of different categories is Maigret [MAI], with 11 different kinds of drinks! Maigret having retired, he can probably "let go" a little... We find next four novels in which 8 categories of drinks are consumed (Maigret à New York [NEW], Maigret et son mort [MOR], La première enquête de Maigret [PRE] (which goes to show that the taste for alcohol doesn't wait on the number of years of service..), Maigret, Lognon et les gangsters) [LOG], nine novels with 7 categories, 15 novels with 6, 16 with 5, 16 with 4, seven with 3, four with 2 categories (Le charretier de la Providence [PRO], Maigret et les vieillards [VIE], Maigret à Vichy [VIC], Maigret et l'homme tout seul [SEU]), and two novels with consumption of a unique category, (La danseuse du Gai-Moulin [GAI] and Maigret aux Assises [ASS]).

We note that the consumption of a reduced number of categories doesn't necessarily imply the Chief Inspector's sobriety. Thus for Maigret et l'homme tout seul [SEU], If the Chief Inspector "only" drinks wine and beer, it's nevertheless in great quantity, since it's in this novel that we find the greatest numbers for Maigret's consumption (see the study mentioned above)!

When the Chief Inspector only drinks from a limited number of categories, in general at least one of them is beer, and another rather often, coffee. The third may be chosen from hard liquor, a fruit brandy, or an aperitif.

We note also that for 14 of the 19 novels of the Fayard period, and 4 of the 6 novels of the Gallimard period, Maigret consumes between 1 and 5 categories of different drinks. This speaks of eclecticism, and the discovery of new drinks, increasing with the chronology of the corpus...

c) Let's turn now to the categories of beverages consumed. We won't dwell on beer, for which we refer you to the above-mentioned article.

  • Fruit brandies (eaux-de-vie) are consumed in 24 novels of the corpus. Note that the Chief Inspector's choice is rather eclectic at the beginning of the corpus. From the Fayard period until the beginning of the Presses de la Cité period, he drinks "fil-en-six", mirabelle, genièvre, gentiane and kummel. Then, from L'amie de Mme Maigret [MME], the Chief Inspector generally drinks prunelle, the sloe brandy his wife gets from her family in Alsace, and that consumption will usually be "domestic"... it's at home, in his apartment on Boulevard Richard-Lenoir, that Maigret drinks it. As if the drinking of these brandies were under the authrity of his wife, and the prunelle, furthermore, a family product, was necessarily of high quality...

  • Armagnac is consumed in 12 novels. As Jacques Sacré has written, it "appears as a noble alcohol, taken only on certain occasions or in certain locales", and so its consumption is somewhat lower for the Chief Inspector than the other "strong drinks", like cognac (consumed in 35 novels), calvados (23), and marc (17). Taken as a whole, these four strong alcohols are consumed by Maigret in 58 novels of the corpus. Missing in 7 novels of the Fayard period, they are then regularly imbibed in the Gallimard and Presses de la Cité periods, slowing down towards the end of the corpus, the state of his health and the age of the Chief Inspector being probable causes, not to mention the benevolent recommendations of his friend Pardon...

    Armagnac appears in M. Gallet, décédé [GAL]... offered to Maigret by the hotelkeeper from Sancerre, M. Tardivon, whose name was inspired by that of the steward of the Château de Paray-le-Frésil where Simenon worked as secretary to the Marquis de Tracy. This immediately places the alcohol in a certain social sphere... We find armagnac again in Le pendu de Saint-Pholien [PHO], where Maigret drinks it at Reims with Van Damme, who had ordered "an 1867 armagnac and demanded tasting glasses", all that to coax the Chief Inspector, a total waste... Maigret had his next armagnac in the company of Amadieu in Maigret [MAI], and this drink provoked "a gentle feeling of well-being, giving the sensation that all his accumulated fatigue was gradually dissolving"... alcohol as therapy, in a way...

    Another "deluxe" armagnac is the one Maigret has in the company of Forlacroix in La maison du juge [JUG]... Armagnac, a noble alcohol, is symbolic for this distinguished-looking judge, who lives in a harmonious house: "From a Renaissance chest, he removed a silver platter, a decanter, and some crystal glasses, and these objects, under the well-calculated lighting, gave off sumptuous reflections, providing an atmosphere of refined peace and comfort." We note however that, during his second visit with Forlacroix, when Forlacroix admits to having murdered his wife's lover, the judge no longer offers the sumptuous armagnac, but a simple porto, less refined. The mood has changed... Another old armagnac in Cécile est morte [CEC], providing a grand finale to the dinner at Mélanie's, a fine armagnac, since the patron who proposes it to the is a native of Gers and is provided by the vintners of his district. The alcohol plunges the Chief Inspector – and his guest, the American criminologist - into a state of well-being, permitting them to savor relaxedly Juliette Boinet's letters... "They were blissfully hot. The armagnac perfumed the air and their palates."

    The armagnacs which follow are less cheerful. In L'inspecteur cadavre [CAD], Maigret has it on three occasions. Once at Groult-Cotelle's, and twice at Naud's, in the final scene of the confessions. There the armagnac is almost insignificant - we have the impression that Maigret drinks it rather than nothing, and further, Naud,in his collapse, finishes off half the bottle. Degraded to the rank of "cooking alcohol", this armagnac retains no aristocratic value...

    In Maigret se fâche [FAC], it's the Chief Inspector who himself serves an armagnac to Georges-Henry and Mimile at his home on the Boulevard Richard-Lenoir. There too, we have the impression that this armagnac is an alcohol like any other, ordinary, and that Maigret could just as easily have served them prunelle or something else...

    It takes a trip to America for armagnac to find once more, in a way, its acclaim. In Maigret à New York [NEW], the Chief Inspector drinks a first armagnac at the end of a good meal in the company of Captain O'Brien, somewhat reminiscent of the meal at Mélanie's in Cécile est morte [CEC] (in both cases, Maigret eats coq au vin), and a second still with O'Brien, again at the end of a "French" meal. In Les vacances de Maigret [VAC], the armagnac served to Maigret by Bellamy is again of the same ilk, which is to say, served in "decanters and glasses of cut crystal".

    The next armagnac is served at Dr Pardon's in Une confidence de Maigret [CON]. However, caught up in his story, Maigret doesn't take the time to savor his alcohol. The armagnac furthermore seems to have lost its attraction for Maigret in this period, for, in the next novel in which he drinks it, Le voleur de Maigret [VOL], it's without pleasure. He drinks it on two occasions, during his two meals as the Vieux-Pressoir, and the quotations speak volumes. "You'll accept, at least, an old armagnac? He had to accept." "Had he perhaps drunk too much, him too? In any case, he couldn't finish his enormous glass of armagnac." And if he accepts a last – according to the corpus - glass of armagnac at the Parendon's [HES], it's with a certain restriction: "What can I offer you? My cognac isn't famous but I have a 40-year old armagnac..." "Very little, please..." Decidedly, armagnac has fallen out of favor... But was it ever really in? As noted above, this, by far, of the four strong alcohols consumed by Maigret, is the one least favored, Maigret preferring calvados, and above all, cognac. So it's not so surprising that he gives this response to Parendon, who has remarked on the poor quality of his cognac... Lacking cognac, he drinks – but not too much – armagnac...

  • Let's talk about cognac... a little. This is the strong alcohol most often consumed by Maigret, either as cognac or fine, one and the same, as we've seen above. Besides being Maigret's preferred strong alcohol, it has a special function, which Paul Mercier has so well demonstrated in his book (op.cit.), that of an auxiliary in the interrogation of a suspect. "The secret weapon" is contained in a bottle with a famous label in Maigret's office at the PJ. We'll say no more about the subject, but refer you to the book by Paul Mercier.

  • Another alcohol Maigret likes is calvados, with its touch of earthy tang. However, the meeting of Maigret and calvados got off to a rather bad start... The first calva that the Chief Inspector imbibed was in La nuit du carrefour [NUI], at the inn in Avrainville. The pitiful meal served by the patron was crowned with a "synthetic calvados" with nothing to recommend it... Maigret didn't touch it again until the end of the Fayard period, and, in Maigret [MAI], the calvados at the Tabac Fontaine was just one second-rate among others. For variety, Maigret "had drunk all kinds of drinks, beer, coffee, calvados, and Vittel water." A calva washed down with Vittel water... doesn't suggest too much quality of the alcohol... This is no doubt the reason this alcohol will never have the prestige of armagnac, nor the essentiality of cognac, but it will long remain much more functional, serving as a simple after-dinner drink (in La maison du juge [JUG], after the dinner at the inn; in Signé Picpus [SIG], to accompany Janvier, whom he has rejoined at a little drivers' restaurant), or a glass taken on the go (a large glass of calva ordered in "the bistro where the masons come to eat" in Cécile est morte [CEC]), or as a way to pass the time during a case (a "little calvados" Maigret ordered from Mme Roy while waiting for telephone information to come in from his inspectors in Signé Picpus [SIG]; two calvas taken in a bistro while musing over the results of the case at the end of the same novel; the calvados drunk daily after his solitary lunches in Les vacances de Maigret [VAC]), or forming a part of the collection of liqueurs in the buffet at the Boulevard Richard-Lenoir... awaiting the prunelle (three occurrences in Maigret et son mort [MOR]).

    It's from La première enquête de Maigret [PRE] that calvados will take on another function, serving as a tool for the Chief Inspector to imbibe during a case... it's in this novel that he experiments for the first time with the "trick", that he'll develop, a technique that he'll use again later, being assisted by other alcohols as well... Installed on the Rue Chaptal, at the well-named Vieux Calvados, the young Maigret begins his first stakeout by drinking cider. If this drink is lighter than a strong alcohol, it has nonetheless a certain effect... "He'd never drunk cider for breakfast. This was his first experience and, contrary to his expectations, his chest was pervaded with warmth." Convinced by the result, he lets himself get carried away by other temptations, and accepts – rather easily – moving to something more serious. He doesn't protest when Paumelle pours him a calvados, no more than he refuses to renew the experience every half hour of the morning. After the third glass, the calvados begins to take effect... "He began to feel comfortable, and even rather perky." For that matter, he continues, "Calvados! There was nothing else to do. He'd stay with it to the end." At the end of the day, after having a cider again, "Maigret felt hazy, after all those calvados of the day", he discovered for the first time the magical effect this imbibing brought about... "However, after a moment of low spirits in the afternoon... perhaps caused by the difficulty of absorbing all those little drinks since the morning, Maigret felt more composed. Something was happening in him that he didn't yet recognize, and he never suspected that the "trigger" which had been produced would become so familiar that it would one day be legendary at the Quai des Orfèvres. It was hardly more than a comfortable warmth throughout his body, a slightly more intent way of walking, of looking at people, the light and shadow, the carriages and streetcars around him."

    After the case with calvados in its own territory (Maigret et la vieille dame [DAM]), the Chief Inspector consumes it in a more anecdotal way, simply taking a drink at different locations... In a tobacco shop at the corner of the Rue de Douai (Maigret au Picratt's [PIC]), in a bar after leaving a movie alone (Maigret en meublé [MEU]), with coffee after a meal at the Brasserie Dauphine (ibid.), after lunch in a bistro on the Rue de la Ferme (Maigret et la Grande Perche [GRA]), where "they eaten well, for sure, and they'd drunk calvados offered by the patron, who was from Falaise." Ah, the taste of an authentic product of the area... That should have reminded him of the effects when he first started, for we see him, awaiting the phone calls from Amsterdam, drinking several glasses on the terrace of the Brasserie Dauphine, and "it was rare that he was in this playful mood. How many calvados had he drunk? Four? Five?" We have to believe he was happy about it, for in the next novel (Maigret, Lognon et les gangsters [LOG]), he enters a bistro, orders a calvados, and draining that, gives himself a pretext for another, "He drank a second calvados, with a feeling that he was coming down with a cold". Curious, this approach. Usually, in such situations, it's rather a grog that he takes to ward it off... But there's no shortage of excuses. "Because the concierge had mentioned calvados, and also because it was really cold, that's what he'd drunk " (Maigret et l'homme du banc [BAN]).

    Otherwise, calvados goes well with coffee at the end of a meal, as after the lunch at Bresselles', "Which would you prefer with your coffee, fine or calvados?" "Calvados." (Maigret à l'école [ECO]), or at the end of the meal at Father Jules's, with the Pardons, "They were there, on the terrace of a bistro in the suburbs, watching the lights reflecting on the Marne, enjoying an old calvados." (Maigret s'amuse [AMU]), or after a lunch at the Brasserie Dauphine: "Then he hung around to take his coffee accompanied by a little glass of calvados that the patron invariably offered him." (L'amie d'enfance de Maigret [ENF]), or with an onion soup in a brasserie with Janvier (Maigret et la jeune morte [JEU]). Unless used as a "friendly drink", like the little jug of old calvados at Catroux's (Maigret chez le ministre [MIN]), or as an "aid to rumination", like the calvados which Maigret serves himself in the Calas's bistro (Maigret et le corps sans tête [COR]), or even for moral support and a means of starting a conversation... the function of the calvados offered to Martine Chapuis in Maigret s'amuse [AMU]; or finally the "little pleasure" taken in passing... "At the intermission, he has a glass of calvados, and for his wife, a verbena." (Maigret et le tueur [TUE]).

    Calvados's origins, tied to the soil, makes it an alcohol with a specific social stamp, plebian, as opposed to other more "aristocratic" spirits, "Maigret had taken a calvados after his dinner, intentionally, perversely, for he was going to be plunged into a world where calvados is hardly drunk, let alone marc. Whisky, champagne, fine Napoléon." (Maigret voyage [VOY]). From marc to whisky, a social scale which is symbolically represented by the alcohols consumed at each level...

  • Let's move on to marc (brandy). It is consumed by Maigret slightly more often than armagnac, but less than calvados. It's the little glass you take to fortify yourself, like the glass of brandy Maigret offers his son nephew come to seek his assistance in Maigret [MAI]), "First off, you'll have something to drink. His uncle took the bottle of brandy and two glasses from the cupboard..." "To your health! Above all, try to calm down a little."

    Marc, like calvados, and perhaps even more so, is socially marked. It's the alcohol of the people, of the rural world. Maigret often drinks it when he's on a case in the provinces. For example, in Le chien jaune [JAU]: "In the café, Maigret ordered a local marc, which he drank with visible pleasure". And the consumption is often more than one glass, so that the smell of the place permeates, the unique odor of a little provincial café. "It was hot. The little glasses had been refilled three or four times, and an odor of marc mixed with the smell of the pipes." (La maison du juge [JUG]), "The room at the Anneau-d'Or was blue with smoke. Maigret had eaten too much, and was on his third or fourth little glass of local marc." (Félicie est là [FEL])

    A striking example is found in L'affaire Saint-Fiacre [FIA]. Maigret, during his first visit to the steward Gautier, is offered a glass from "a bottle of marc whose label proclaimed its venerable age." This venerability, which authenticates the taste of the alcohol, contrasts nonetheless with the whisky the Chief Inspector had just drink at the château with Maurice de Saint-Fiacre. And this contrast is doubly symbolic. At the château, they drank whisky, at the steward's, marc. But even more interesting, the whisky at the château was "imported" by Jean Métayer, for "In my time, there was no whisky at the château." says Maurice de Saint-Fiacre, while the marc, although lower on the social scale, "dates from the former count", the steward tells Maigret. This inversion of the origins of the two alcohols marks symbolically the sociological upheaval which has occurred at the château, that the true master, Maurice de Saint-Fiacre, has deserted, ceding his place to the young secretary / gigolo. And, underlying everything is also the idea that the steward has appropriated the "patron's reserves" (since it's a bottle of venerable marc of the former count), as he has covertly bought the farms of the domain, building himself a fortune on the ruins of Saint-Fiacre.

    Marc is also the alcohol offered to someone to gain their confidence... "Mimile was at the tobacco shop, and Maigret began by offering him an old marc." (Maigret se fâche [FAC]).

    The taste of the alcohol echos that of his social status, which is not one of refinement... "To maintain his bad mood... he ordered two glasses of marc, one for the driver, the other for himself. The bitter taste of the alcohol gripped the back of his throat, and he reflected that this case was handled "under the sign" of marc. Why? By chance. It was certainly the drink he liked least." It's interesting to note how, over the corpus, Maigret's tastes are refined as his character matures. While he had drunk with pleasure the local marc at Concarneau (Le chien jaune [JAU], see above), now he has come to liking it least!

    This is the era where calvados take over a little the place of marc, which he continues all the same to meet throughout the course of his investigations, in a more episodic and anecdotal way... a bottle of marc slipped by Mme Maigret in to the baggage which will accompany her husband across the Atlantic (Maigret à New York [NEW]) – a sort of charm?; a little marc offered by the patron of the Arche-de-Noé after the garlic mayonnaise in Porquerolles (Mon ami Maigret [AMI]); marc shared with the shoemaker of the Rue de Turenne, in a confiding mood (L'amie de Mme Maigret [MME]), marc drunk at Grelot before talking to Louis, Pierrot's friend (Maigret se trompe [TRO]), marc drunk to build up his courage before the conversation with Professor Gouin (Maigret se trompe [TRO]): "he'd ordered an old Bourgogne marc, so that when he got into the car, he was warm inside."; a little marc to aid in digesting Paumelle's rabbit (Maigret à l'école [ECO]); marc as a chaser for some disagreeable taste: "he'd hurried to find a drink, not wine now, but some really strong alcohol, to clear away the bad taste he had in his mouth, which seemed to him like the taste of a corpse. ... They entered a bistro and drank a glass of marc." (Maigret et le corps sans tête [COR]); three glasses of marc drunk while mulling over the end of a difficult case (Un échec de Maigret [ECH]); marc drunk on the terrace of a little bistro on the Saint-Martin Canal (Maigret s'amuse [AMU]); marc drunk in the company of judge Ancelin (La patience de Maigret [PAT]): "They finished their meal with a marc without a label which had to be at least 65 proof and which set their cheeks on fire". It seems, however, that in this investigation Maigret, at the same time as he is somewhat reconciled to the world of the judges, he has also found a great taste for marc: "He'd had a good lunch. He savored the taste of marc in his mouth. The heat, while it made you sleepy, was pleasant, the sun filled with gaiety." (ibid.). We find two more examples of marc: a Bourgogne marc drunk at Dr. Pardon's at the end of an investigation (Maigret et l'affaire Nahour [NAH]), and a little glass of at Chabut's father's (Maigret et le marchand de vin [VIN]).

  • Whisky, as said above, is the "brand" at the top of the social scale. So for the plebian Maigret it is not his favorite drink. He only consumes it under certain circumstances, with certain people, in certain situations. Whisky is also the cosmopolitan label, travel, foreign things... Maigret drinks it in 13 novels. The first time is at a bar – American, as it should be – La Coupole, with the Crosby couple (La tête d'un homme [TET]). Next, he has it at the mayor of Concarneau's (Le chien jaune [JAU]), at the Château de Saint-Fiacre (L'affaire Saint-Fiacre [FIA], see above), at Brown's and at Jaja's (Liberty-Bar [LIB]), with O'Brien in New York, of course (Maigret à New York [NEW]), with Pyke on the Blue Train (Mon ami Maigret [AMI]), with Harry Cole in America, equally expected (Maigret chez le coroner [COR]), and then a whole series of glasses in Maigret, Lognon et les gangsters [NEW] (Lady, when you fight against the American underworld, you use the same weapons!). He has another at the bar in the Savoy in London (Le revolver de Maigret [REV]), at the bar at the George-V (Maigret voyage [VOY]), at Norris Jonker's (Maigret et le fantôme [FAN]), the bar of the Hôtel du Louvre (Maigret et l'affaire Nahour [NAH]), and finally at the Batille's (Maigret et le tueur [TUE]).

  • Wine is, after beer, the drink most frequently consumed by Maigret (54 novels). These range from the little white swallowed at the corner of a bistro counter, to the great wines tasted with Dr. Pardon at their memorable dinners. For the details, I refer you to the book by Jacques Sacré, who has created a "menu of Maigret's wines".

  • Champagne is little appreciated by Maigret, who only drinks it in 8 novels. It's often a drink which is imposed on him, and he only drinks it when he can't avoid it. Thus, in Pietr-le-Letton [LET], at Pickwick's-Bar, "They set before him, authoritatively, a bottle of champagne. [...] Maigret, who hated champagne, drank in little sips, to quench his thirst." In M. Gallet, décédé [GAL], it's Tiburce de Saint-Hilaire who offers him some "sparkling". In L'écluse n° 1 [ECL], he is forced by Ducrau to drink some. In Maigret [MAI], it's offered to him by Cageot in the Floria, where he returns to order it with his sister-in-law (funny idea... but after all, when you're retired, you're allowed to...). In La première enquête de Maigret [PRE], it's Dédé who forces him to drink "flute after flute of champagne", which doesn't stop Maigret from celebrating with "sparkling wine" his nomination to Chief Inspector Barodet's squad. In Mon ami Maigret [AMI], it's Major Bellam who offers him champagne. In Maigret au Picratt's, [PIC] Maigret seems to have overdone it a little, drinking it along with fine. Finally, in Le voleur de Maigret [VOL], it's Carus who makes the offer, at the Vieux-Pressoir.

  • Aperitifs are consumed by Maigret fairly frequently (34 novels). They are essentially of two types. Aperitifs based on wine, like vermouth, martini or porto, and alcohol-based aperitifs, like pernod or absinthe. The one Maigret likes best is the "anise seed drink", in the form of pernod or pastis, followed by various martinis or vermouths, and, much more rarely, absinthe, some rare cocktails, and mandarin-curaçao, which celebrated Maigret's nomination to Chief Inspector Guillaume's squad (Les mémoires de Maigret [MEM]), and which Maigret drinks, as a sort of commemoration, after the Director of the PJ had placed him on "temporary leave" (Maigret se défend [DEF]). We note that pernod is often consumed during the fine season, spring or summer, as a sort of pre-vacation celebration, because of its Mediterranean evocation.

  • Another alcohol that Maigret consumes often enough (20 novels), is rum, usually in the form of grog, a drink which serves to warm body and soul, and a good excuse to fight off an oncoming cold or flu. Grog is drunk during rainy investigations alongside a canal or river (Le charretier de la Providence [PRO], Chez les Flamands [FLA]), or in the fog at the edge of the sea (Le port des brumes [POR]); or in the autumn rain (Maigret et l'homme du banc [BAN], Maigret se trompe [TRO], Maigret et les témoins récalcitrants [TEM], Maigret et le fantôme [FAN]), or winter frosts (Les scrupules de Maigret [SCR], Maigret et le voleur paresseux [PAR], Maigret et le client du samedi [CLI]); while rum, unheated, is only a second-choice drink, consumed almost automatically, "And Maigret, who seemed to be thinking about something else, said, looking vaguely toward the counter... 'Some rum'..." (La tête d'un homme [TET]). We note that the last grogs that Maigret consumes are made for him by his wife (Maigret et le tueur [TUE], Maigret et le marchand de vin [VIN]), while Maigret is coming down with a cold, the "medicinal" function seemingly recognized by Mme Maigret herself...

  • Coffee is a drink often consumed by Maigret (49 novels). Drunk more episodically in the Fayard and Gallimard periods, especially when accompanied by croissants in the guise of breakfast in a bar, or in the "watered" form (mixed with alcohol), coffee becomes much more regularly taken in the Presses de la Cité period; on the one hand because we more often see Maigret getting out of bad, awakened by the odor of the cup of coffee prepared for him by his wife, and on the other because coffee, along with an after-dinner drink, often crowns the end of a good meal, whether at a restaurant, at home, or at the Pardons'. However, these meals are mainly confined to the second half of the corpus, where they are much more often detailed.

  • Mineral water is an exception – but who'd be surprised at that? – in the drinking habits of the Chief Inspector. He only drinks it in three novels... In Liberty-Bar [LIB], he orders a bottle of Vittel, from which we understand that he needed to cleanse his stomach, which he had filled, in a single day, with numerous glasses of vermouth, as well as wine, coffee, whisky and gentian!

    Once more in Maigret [MAI], the Chief Inspector orders a Vittel water, after his coffee, pernod, beer and calvados. The third time, obviously, is in Maigret à Vichy [VIC], where it's the only drink he's authorized outside of coffee, after having confessed his little sins to the doctor who examined him...

    "And wine? a half-liter, a liter a day?

    Yes... No... More... With meals, usually, I only drink two or three glasses... At the office, sometimes a glass of beer that I have brought up from the Brasserie Dauphine...

    Apéritif?

    Often enough, with one or another of my colleagues... In the evening, I don't mind a glass or two of prunelle that my sister-in-law sends us from Alsace... My cases require spending a certain amount of time in cafés or bars... If I start one of these cases with a Vouvray, for example... I have a tendency to continue with Vouvray..."

  • In almost the same register as the water we find tisanes, herb tea, a drink reserved for 'sick days'. Maigret submits to tisanes prepared by his wife, in exchange for a few puffs on his pipe. Happily, he's not often really ill, and he usually succeeds at fighting off the flu with grog. Sometimes, he must still endure tisanes, but luckily not very often — only in two novels, Le fou de Bergerac [FOU] and Maigret et son mort [MOR].

  • Finally, we find in four novels some unusual drinks for the Chief Inspector. First, the voyage to America requires Coca-Cola in Maigret à New York [FOU] and Maigret chez le coroner [COR], then, for more local color, cider at the Trochu's in Maigret et la vieille dame, [DAM] and in Paumelle's bistro in La première enquête de Maigret [PRE]. And lastly, a unique "Vichy-fraise, strawberry Vichy water, but it made him feel sick" (La première enquête de Maigret) [PRE], and he never tried it again...

And thus ends our overview of Maigret's relationship with drinks. We realize that this consumption, the choice of drinks is never trivial, but reflects the Chief Inspector's state of mind, the progress of the investigation, or the milieu into which he is plunged.

And if Maigret drinks so much, particularly alcohol, we mustn't forget that he has a metaphorical need to "drink in" the world around him...

"What can I get you, Boss?

A calvados, if you insist."

It was with calvados that he'd started. Might as well end the same way." (Maigret et son mort [MOR])


translation: S. Trussel
Honolulu, July 2012

original French

image: O. Reynaud, Ph. Wurm. Maigret et Son Mort, LeFrancq · Le Rocher 1992

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