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.
In Marian Palaia’s debut, The Given World, we glimpse a somber but beautiful roadmap through one woman’s heartbreak. After Riley’s brother goes MIA in Vietnam, she tries to numb herself with sex, drugs and drinking.
I can’t use mescaline (one of Riley’s drugs of choice) because the authorities frown on it, so I used mescal instead – that and a little black vodka to mimic the night sky, some mint-infused simple syrup to smooth any rough edges, and a cocktail onion in place of the moon.
2 oz. Blavod Black Vodka
1 oz. Mescal
.25 oz. Mint-infused Simple Syrup
Cocktail onion for garnish
Stir all with ice.
Strain into chilled glass.
Garnish with the moon.
Christian Kiefer's The Animals is a brawling and beautiful book. You'll travel from hardscrabble Battle Mountain, Nevada, to the non-neon side of the Biggest Little City in the World, and end up in a wildlife sanctuary in remote Idaho, where the King of Beasts is Majer, a bear blinded by age. This drink is for him and his Idaho forests.
1.5 oz. Plymouth Gin
.75 oz. absinthe
Aftelier Perfumes Fir Needle Chef's Essence® Spray
Stir gin and absinthe with ice. Strain into a chilled cocktail glass.
Top with cold soda water. Spritz once with the Fir.
M. O. Walsh’s knockout novel, My Sunshine Away, reads like a haunting bedtime story for adults. The mystery surrounding a long ago crime that rocked suburban Baton Rouge unspools as the pages turn. Whiskey and Peychaud’s bitters evoke the South in this cocktail that’s made for sipping.
2 oz. Rye Whiskey
3 dashes Peychaud’s bitters
1 tsp. honey syrup
Splash of Jägermeister
Combine whiskey, bitters, and honey syrup - stir with ice. In a chilled glass, swirl the Jägermeister to coat the inside - discard the excess. Add whiskey mixture. Twist lemon peel over the drink. Garnish with Peychaud’s-dashed honeycomb.