Yann Martel’s splendid The High Mountains of Portugal begins and ends there, so I started with a very Portuguese libation - Madeira. The cocktail’s then packed with flavors like the novel’s 1904 Renault was packed for its journey into the High Mountains - although the drink runs much more smoothly than the car. The garnish is your own wee ladder to help continue your climb in case you run out of gas before the journey ends.
A High Mountainin
2 oz. Rye Whiskey
1 oz. Madeira
1 dash orange bitters
1 dash chocolate bitters
Cinnamon stick and orange twist for garnish
Stir all drink ingredients with ice. Strain into an ice-filled glass. Twist orange peel around cinnamon stick for garnish.
Ring in the New Year with this shimmery cocktail made for American Housewife, a raucous collection of short stories by Helen Ellis. The stories are funny, often caustic, and present a portrait of the American wife decades removed from Mrs. Cleaver. One of the women you'll meet weeps because she has a drawer just for glitter, so for her I made this.
All That Glitters is Not Gold
1.5 oz Campari
1 oz Hangar 1 Mandarin Blossom vodka
.5 oz Cointreau
2 dashes Angostura Orange Bitters
Stir all - except the soda water - with ice until chilled. Strain into a tall glass filled with crushed ice. Top with soda water.
Lynn Cullen’s masterful novel, Twain’s End, retells the last years of the great writer’s life and addresses the questions surrounding the relationship he had with his secretary at the time, Isabel Lyon. For them, I tinkered with a Whiskey Cocktail and put a great head on its shoulders.
The foam? Why yes, it is supposed to remind you of someone.
2 oz Bourbon
.25 oz simple syrup
1 dash Abbott’s Original Bitters
1 dash Bad Dog Sarsaparilla Dry Bitters
Shake all vigorously with ice. Strain into a chilled cocktail glass. Top with Twain’s Foam.
1 egg white
.5 oz lemon juice
2-3 teaspoons sugar
Beat the egg white on low speed until the air bubbles decrease and turn white.
Add lemon juice. Increase speed to medium and slowly add the sugar.
Continue whipping until everything is fluffy, glossy, and firm.
Add the bitters and whip just a bit more.
In John Irving's Avenue of Mysteries, we get to revisit an American master of the novel and travel with his guide, Juan Diego, from Oaxaca to Iowa to the Philippines. Because Mr. Diego, a former dump kid turned popular novelist, successfully merged both of his backgrounds - Mexican and American - I wanted to do the same with his cocktail. So this is an update of one of the oldest American drinks, the flip, with a Oaxacan twist.
6 oz American Ale
.5 oz high-proof Oaxacan Mezcal
1 tbsp. Demerara sugar
Heat the ale in a pot. Pour boiling water into a tempered glass mug. Toss out the water and add the sugar so that it coats the sides. Add the mezcal. Tilt the mug so the mezcal coats the glass and sugar. Being careful, ignite the mezcal and allow the sugar to caramelize. Finally, extinguish the flame by pouring in the heated ale. Let cool slightly before sipping.
In achingly beautiful prose, Claire Vaye Watkins describes a future California ravaged by drought in her first novel, Gold Fame Citrus. Though rationing exists for every commodity, rationed colas can be had by anyone, so that’s what we’ll be drinking. And because the story begins in Southern California where the memory of orange groves blooms strong, we have to add citrus.
8 oz. Cola
2 oz. St. George California Citrus Vodka
3 dashes Angostura Orange Bitters
Pour cola and vodka into an ice-filled glass. Add bitters and stir. Garnish with fresh orange.
I learned more about the conflict in Bosnia from one of the stories in Jesse Eisenberg’s deliriously funny collection, Bream Gives Me Hiccups, than from twenty years of news reports. I’ll ascribe this more to Eisenberg’s talents as a writer than to my own lack of erudition (I hope), and to toast those talents, I’m releasing The Bosnian Drop. Please be more careful than I was when you drop your shot.
The Bosnian Drop
1 glass Karlovaċko Croatian Beer
1 shot Baileys Irish Cream
Float a small amount of Slivovitz on a shot of Baileys. Drop into a pint glass of beer. Drink immediately.
When you first meet Eva in J. Ryan Stradal’s Kitchens of the Great Midwest, you’ll be introduced to her love for all things peppery.
Eva’s cousin, Braque, has gotten used to using the lavender in her campus’ Shakespeare Garden to overpower the pungent smells that waft through college life.
Combining both produces one swell drink, you betcha.
Sweet Pepper Gin
2 oz. Dry Gin
.25 oz Yellow Sweet-Pepper Jelly
1-2 Droppers Bitter Tears
Stir all with ice. Strain into an ice-filled glass. Garnish with sweet pepper and lavender.
Let Me Explain You is not only how Stavros Stavros Steve Mavrakis begins the last missive to the women in his life, it is also the title of Annie Liontas’ debut novel. Like its protagonist, the book is funny, headstrong – and very Greek. Please follow the words that welcome patrons to the diner of Stavros Stavros Steve Mavrakis – Eat a little and have some wine. Yiasou!
3 oz. dry white wine (like Lazaridi Amethystos Blanc)
.5 oz Ouzo
.5 oz Metaxa
.25 oz simple syrup
Stir all with ice. Strain into chilled glass. Garnish with a lemon peel.
In Owen Sheers’ chilling novel, I Saw a Man, Michael Turner tries to cope with one tragedy only to cause a second that eclipses the first. He turns to the art of fencing - something he’d done as a student - for the distraction it provides. In a fencing competition, a Black Card indicates a penalty so severe that the offender is immediately expelled. En garde. Drinks with Nick
1.5 oz Espresso
1 oz Teacher’s Scotch Whisky
.5 oz Pimm’s No. 1
.25 oz Simple Syrup
1 Strong Dash Angostura Bitters
Shake all with ice and strain into a chilled glass. Garnish with a lemon peel.
In Sara Novic’s harrowing and beautiful Girl at War, we witness the rupture of Yugoslavia through the eyes of 10-year-old Ana. To acknowledge the rich Croatian history she leaves behind when she flees, I updated a classic cocktail, the Flip, by introducing Rakija to its mix. Rakija (Slivovitz) is a plum brandy her friends will use to toast her return - you can use it to salute this wonderful debut.
Ana’s Silver Flip
2 oz. Slivovitz
1 oz. simple syrup
White of one egg
3 dashes plum bitters
Shake the first four ingredients without ice. Add ice and shake again to ensure the egg is emulsified. Strain into a chilled flip glass. Dust with nutmeg.