If wreckage can be beautiful, you’ll find just that in Chris Cleave’s devastating novel, Everyone Brave is Forgiven. Surveying the aftermath of the first bombs dropped on London during WWII, Mary North observes that, in too many neighborhoods, every window had been blown out and shards of glass bejeweled the streets. For Mary, then, something English, something lovely.
1.5 oz. Plymouth Gin
.5 tsp. Blackberry jam
Add gin and jam to an ice-filled shaker. Shake. Strain into a chilled champagne flute. Top with the bubbly. Garnish with a dollop of jam. Silver spoon optional.
Molly Prentiss’ debut, Tuesday Nights in 1980, arrives with all the swaggering decadence that Manhattan displayed at the beginning of that gritty, art-fueled decade. Within the pages of Tuesday Nights, we read that purple was the color of big money, so for one of the patrons in the book, I put it in a glass.
Violets for Winona
3 oz Cachaça
Small handful of pineapple chunks
1.5 oz cream of coconut
1.5 oz crème de violette
1.5 cups crushed ice
Violet for garnish
Combine all in a blender. Purée. Pour into a chilled piña colada glass. Garnish with the violet.
There’s plenty of drinking in Ethan Canin’s wonderfully magisterial novel, A Doubter’s Almanac. In Part One, sherry and bourbon flow freely, so that provided an easy pairing. Then there’s the brilliant mathematician, Milo Andret, who looms over the novel’s pages. Since he was as good at souring relationships as he was at solving theorems, I rounded out the whole with the startlingly tart kumquat.
A Fraction of Sherry
1.5 oz bourbon
.75 oz dry sherry
.25 oz simple syrup
Muddle the kumquat with everything. Shake with ice. Finely strain into a chilled glass.
Garnish with sliced kumquat.
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.