Did you hear about the English major who walks into a bar? His name is Tim Federle and his book, Tequila Mockingbird: Cocktails with a Literary Twist (Running Press, 2013, $17.50), marries classic literature to alcoholic beverages. If you like reading and drinking equally, this book adds some fun to home bartending antics. Starting as an instructional guide with bartending tips about tools and techniques, it also caters to those looking for book smarts for cocktail party small talk, with glimpses into the works of authors from Shakespeare to Roald Dahl, and fictional characters from Frankenstein to Alice in Wonderland.
Along with a mastery of the classics, Federle appears to have a doctorate in making puns by naming 65 cocktails that may or may not seem familiar. We learn about the love triangle in Edith Wharton’s Ethan Frome while sipping a grenadine and Champagne slushy called Ethan Pom. Paying homage to Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s Love in the Time of Cholera, a combination of rum, coffee liqueur, cream, and nutmeg called Love in the Time of Kahluais is “as sweet as love and as spicy as lust.” The Last of the Mojitos and A Farewell to Amaretto are nods to James Fenimore Cooper and Ernest Hemingway.
Some of the drinks are classics with a twist, like The Bloody Carrie (taking its cue from the horror masterpiece by Stephen King), with wasabi paste added to the traditional ingredients of a Bloody Mary to reach Satanic spiciness. Other drinks are pure creations of the imagination not identifiable by the name alone, but with fitting connections to a book title. Paradise Sauced is a pun on John Milton’s Paradise Lost – the book and the drink each with “a sinful apple at its core.” Milton retells the story of the forbidden fruit in the Garden of Eden and Federle’s drink uses sour apple schnapps with vodka.
Sipping on a cocktail is a perfect accompaniment for the solitary act of reading, but Federle recognizes that novels have also spawned book clubs. These clubs require recipes with more volume to serve groups, so he has included “Bevvies for Book Clubs” with such crowd-pleasers as Gone with the Wine – a sangria as “red as the earth of Tara and packed with proper Georgia peaches” to match the southern charm of Margaret Mitchell’s Gone with the Wind.
Two years after Tequila Mockingbird, Federle tackled the silver screen with the same premise of cleverly combining movie titles to cocktails in Gone with the Gin: Cocktails with a Hollywood Twist (Running Press, 2015, $18.99). Equally entertaining, Federle moves from book worm to movie buff with drink recipes for dramas, comedies, thrillers, musicals, and sci-fi movies. Fight Club Soda with a mix of gin, wine, bitters, liqueur, grapefruit juice and club soda is a “soap-scented soda [that] may smell sweet – but it pulls no punches” just like the Brad Pitt and Edward Norton fisticuffs movie. Straying from the obvious James Bond signature martini, Federle continues his play-on-words with another leading male protagonist for a Dirty Harry Martini. He writes, “If Eastwood can do all his own stunts, you can make your own martini”, and it’s easy with the simple step of adding pickle juice to a traditional gin and vermouth martini to make it extra dirty.
Maybe more active than sedentary readers, movie viewers may be inspired by Whiskey Business to dance in their underwear like Tom Cruise in Risky Business, or be emboldened by Bourbon Cowboy to ride a mechanical bull like John Travolta in Urban Cowboy. If musicals are your style, choose from The Rocky Horror Pisco Show for an exotic Chilean brandy drink or Little Schnapps of Horrors with melon schnapps among other plant-based ingredients.
But the fun does not stop with mixology. Any book about movies would be remiss for not including movie trivia and Federle sprinkles tidbits throughout, like Robert De Niro’s dedication to Taxi Driver by getting his cab licence for practice in his spare time. There is also a section in each book that has drinking games related to books (taking a chug of ale for each new character Charles Dickens introduces in Great Expectations) or movies (taking a shot every time Robin Williams says “Good Morning, Vietnam!”).
Be warned that you may be torn between methods of selection: pick a book or movie that you like, or pick a drink that sounds delicious? I went with both by mixing The Empire Likes Jack, the Star Wars drink straight out of a galaxy far, far away that combines root beer, Jack Daniels, and vanilla ice cream. An odd combination, but very enjoyable. The Remembrance of Things Past, Marcel Proust’s long-winded novel, is commemorated with The Remembrance of Things Pabst, a blend of Pabst Blue Ribbon beer and Earl Grey iced tea that was titillating enough to try with very agreeable results. These are just a few highlights of Federle’s entertaining books that are equally at home behind your bar for an inspired drink concoction or on your bookshelf for what to read or watch next (and how to get appropriately tipsy while doing it).
Recipe courtesy of Running Press, from Gone with the Gin: Cocktails with a Hollywood Twist © Tim Federle, 2015.
Risky Business (1983) Directed by Paul Brickman
Gentlemen, oil your floors. Easy to dismiss as a “craziest weekend ever” teen comedy, Risky Business actually had seriously satirical things to say about the ultra-excess of eighties capitalism, from Porsches to Princeton. (It also had a young Tom Cruise boogying around in his underwear, so there’s that.) Take note, suburban readers: This film skewers the culture of upper-middle-class parents whose crushing expectations can turn any kid from a baby-faced suburbanite to a brothel-dwelling entrepreneur. Break into you dad’s best whiskey for an up-all-night beverage that’ll be worth the risk.
1 ounce good whiskey (like Glenmorangie)
¾ ounce sherry
½ ounce Bénédictine
Combine all the ingredients over ice in a mixing glass and stir well. Strain into a rocks glass, pop your collar, and get drinking — and dancing.
Darin Cook is a freelance writer based out of Chatham. He keeps himself well-read and well-fed by visiting the bookstores and restaurants of London.