Amor Towles delivers one of the most perfect novels of the year with A Gentleman in Moscow. The gentleman in question -- Count Alexander Rostov -- finds himself sentenced after the Revolution to a life of house arrest in his beloved hotel, the Metropol. Forced to give up his lavish rooms for a garret, he fondly remembers a grander time when there used to always be flowers in the Metropol.
Flowers in the Metropol
1.5 oz Metaxa
.5 oz rose water
.25 oz simple syrup
.25 oz lemon juice
1 drop Aftelier Perfumes Rose Chef’s Essence
Rose-petal ice sphere
Combine all in an ice-filled shaker. Shake well. Strain over ice.
Leave it to Jay McInerney’s Bright, Precious Days, to breathe wonderful life back into the grand, New York novel. One scene takes place in a secret restaurant where shirako is on the menu (go on, Google it). They drink a Rudyard Kipling; an East meets West combination of ingredients (mischievously named for the writer who wrote that East and West would never meet). I modified the recipe, replacing the bourbon with gin, and renamed it for the author’s wife.
2 oz. gin
.5 oz Umeshu
2 dashes blood orange bitters
Ume (Asian Plum) peel for garnish
Stir the gin and Umeshu with ice. Strain into a cocktail glass. Dash with the bitters.
Garnish with the ume peel.
Ace Atkins takes you into the hot heart of Mississippi with The Innocents, his latest novel featuring Quinn Colson. There are few reads more perfect for the middle of summer. Here you'll find rough riders known as the Born Losers living in the Golden Cherry Motel - and that's the perfect name for a cocktail. Mr. Atkins has been known to enjoy a beer now and again, so I didn't get too fancy.
1.5 oz bourbon
5 oz Maraschino Liqueur
1 heavy barspoon lime juice
4 oz of a good, Mississippi beer, like Lazy Magnolia's Southern Hops'pitality
3 dashes cherry bitters
4 Golden Cherries
Muddle 3 of the cherries with everything except the beer. Shake with ice. Strain into a glass filled with crushed ice. Add the beer. Drizzle with the lime juice. Garnish with your last cherry. The vintage Peek-A-Boo glass is optional.
June arrives with a bounty of books. Emma Cline’s The Girls is a heady and scary debut where a young Evie Boyd succumbs to the charisma of a Charles Manson-like figure in Northern California. June also sees the release of Cannabis Cocktails, Mocktails & Tonics by the cocktail whisperer himself, Warren Bobrow. Mr. Bobrow was kind enough to lend us his Mezzrole Cocktail that we tinkered with just enough to make it Evie’s own.
The Mezzrole Cocktail (aka Evie's Joint)
4-6 Greenish Cocktail Cherries (please see page 45 of Cannabis Cocktails)
.5 oz Cherry Pie cannabis infused vermouth, such as Uncouth Vermouth’s Seasonal Wildflower Blend (also see Cannabis Cocktails on how to infuse your vermouth)
Handful of crushed ice
1 oz scotch. Something a little bit smoky like Oban's 14 Year Old
Muddle the Cocktail Cherries, then top with the vermouth. Continue to muddle for 30 seconds. Cover with the crushed ice. Top with the scotch, then dot with the bitters. Enjoy! (But - never make this cocktail if marijuana is illegal where you live.)
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.