Megan Abbott is back with a fascinating study of a teen friendship that breaks under the strain of revealed secrets, then delves back into that wickedly twisted relationship later when the ex-friends are pitted against each other. Usually I’m looking for the elements of my cocktails between the covers of a book - for the first time, I took my inspiration from the cover. I’m combing floral scents with rich smokiness, leading to a slow burn that’s actually very smooth.
2 oz. Ardbeg 10 Year Old Scotch
1 oz. rose liqueur
1 oz. simple syrup
.75 oz. lemon juice
Rose petals for garnish Combine all and shake with ice. Strain into a chilled glass and pour over ice. Garnish with rose petals - lit or unlit.
In The Great Believers, Rebecca Makkai gives us a devastating account of Chicago in 1985 as the city feels an epidemic’s effects - “slow-motion tsunamis from both coasts” closing in. As the story jumps back and forth 30 years, Makkai reminds us that art and love are often most appreciated when juxtaposed with longing, with loss. This cherry martini is named in The Great Believers - but not its ingredients, so this is what I believe was served up.
Door County Special
2.5 oz. Plymouth Gin
.5 oz Maraschino Liqueur
2 dashes cherry bitters
Cherry for garnish
Stir all with ice. Strain into chilled glass. Garnish with cherry.
Tommy Orange’s There There begins with a blistering prologue & doesn’t let up. In its pages, 12 individuals show life from the perspective of urban Native Americans in Orange’s Oakland, CA, hometown. Some of his characters eschew alcohol for powerful reasons, so for them I’m offering a summer quencher served in a glass from a long-shuttered Oakland watering hole.
Red Feather’s Lemonade
1.5 cups zesty simple syrup*
1 cup lemon juice
3 cups sparkling water
12 large strawberries
Lemon peel for garnish
Purée strawberries. Add to simple syrup & lemon juice. Stir well. Add sparkling water.
Garnish individual glasses with peel.
*Zesty Simple Syrup
1 cup sugar
1 cup water
Zest from 1 lemon
Mix all over low heat until sugar has dissolved. Let sit 1 hour. Strain out lemon zest. Keeps for 5 days, refrigerated.
Rachel Kushner’s devastating novel, The Mars Room, introduces the reader to Romy Hall as she leaves jail to enter a lifetime of incarceration in a California Correctional Facility. But then her voice is joined by a chorus of others and their stories become deeper, darker. The drink here needed to be simple, with the Lancers making up its body but serving as an echo of past trauma.
Mars Room Spritz
1 bottle Lancers Rosé
1 cup Honey Simple Syrup
1 cup Sliced Strawberries
1 Sliced Lemon
Muddle a few strawberries and half the lemon. Mix the Lancers, syrup, and remaining fruit in a pitcher. Chill in refrigerator. Add ice. Pour into ice-filled glasses and top with Seltzer.
After the stunning success of The Imperfectionists, Tom Rachman returns with an equally exquisite novel, The Italian Teacher. There’s plenty of drinking in these pages, so I had many directions open, but decided on starting with calvados since it’s crucial to an important scene near the novel’s end. I’m jealous that you get to read this work for the first time.
Is Silence Safer
1.5 oz. Calvados
.5 oz. Coarse Red Wine
.75 oz. Lemon Juice
.75 oz. Simple Syrup
Apple Slices for Garnish
Shake all with ice. Strain into chilled glass. Garnish with apple.
Uzodinma Iweala’s Speak No Evil, though slim, carries enormous emotional weight. Told in two parts - by best friends, Niru and Meredith, graduating seniors with their lives stretching before them - the novel begins innocently as they share hot chocolate spiked by Meredith. Neither foresees the consequences of the cold night. Mix yourself a warm cup and prepare to finish this gorgeous & raw novel in one sitting.
6 oz Hot Chocolate*
2 oz. Johnnie Walker Black Label Scotch
Mint-infused whipped cream*
Mint sprig for garnish
Combine hot chocolate and scotch in a warmed vessel.
Add whipped cream and garnish with mint.
Forugh Farrokzhad is the best poet you’ve never heard of.
Her story is beautifully told by Jasmin Darznik in Song of a Captive Bird.
Food and drink were an important part of Farrokzad’s (difficult) upbringing in Iran,
so I wanted to meld the two in tribute to her short, brilliant life.
1 oz. arak
.5 oz lemon juice
.5 oz. water
1 sugar cube
3-5 basil leaves
2 pear slices
Sour cherries for garnish
Muddle sugar, basil & pear with the water.
Strain. Add remaining ingredients and shake with ice.
Strain into chilled glass and garnish with cherries.
The Largesse of the Sea Maiden, is a wonderful, bittersweet farewell. Inspiration for this drink comes from the piece titled Memorial, where our narrator wonders how he can be considered Tony’s best friend because he hardly knew him. Tony, recently deceased, possibly Greek, defintiely a painter, is answering no more questions. Mr. Johnson, with few words, again leaves much for us to consider.
Tony's Best Friend
2 oz Metaxa
1 Barspoon Ouzo
1 Sugar Cube
Lemon Peel for Garnish
Saturate sugar cube with Ouzo at the bottom of a glass.
Muddle until sugar dissolves. Add Metaxa. Stir. Add ice, stir until chilled.
Twist lemon over the drink and drop peel into the glass.
Ivy Pochoda uses the stories of a disparate band of Southern California characters like they’re the frayed strands from a once elegantly violent tapestry - and reweaves them magnificently. Some of these lives are as squalid as the King Eddy Saloon that you’ll visit here, but in Pochoda’s hands, squalid can also be beautiful.
1.5 oz gin
.75 oz Cointreau
.75 oz sage simple-syrup
.5 oz lemon juice
.5 oz red wine
Combine all in a cocktail shaker - except wine and sage leaves - and dry-shake. Add ice. Shake thoroughly. Strain into glass. Then muddle sage with wine. Gently strain into drink. Use sage leaves to garnish.
Rarely do artists create beauty out of devastation as exquisitely as C. Morgan Babst has done. Her debut, The Floating World, takes Hurricane Katrina and shows the ravages of that storm - both on a city and a family - with eloquence and precision. I took a drink that is a part of New Orleans like no other, the Hurricane, and present it anew, a complement to the feast Babst has prepared.
1 oz. light rum
1 oz. dark rum
1 oz. whiskey
2 oz. passion fruit juice
1 oz. orange juice
1 oz. lemon juice
2 dashes Peychaud’s Bitters
Shake all with ice - excluding the bitters. Strain into a Hurricane glass filled with crushed ice. Dash the bitters on top. Garnish with fruit or flower.