I have a Bachelor’s degree in English Lit, and a Master’s in Library Science so it’s really no exaggeration to say that I love books – all books. I love books because, as much as I’ve come to accept and appreciate the wacky wonderfulness that is me, books let me be, well, not me, for a while. If you take a look at my bookshelves and my Kindle you’ll see a wide range of authors and classifications and believe me when I say I can throw myself into any of the genres represented there.
You know what goes well with books? Drinking. I’m sure Ernest Hemingway said that at some point in his life, and if he didn’t he probably wishes he had. If you read and re-read books you come to feel as though the characters are friends, the kind of friends you drink with. I’ve gotten wine and beer recommendations from those friends, as well as cocktail recipes, and at the end of the week (or sometimes half-way through) sitting in my comfy chair with a cocktail or a glass of wine and a book, new or old, is what saves me.
It’s getting warm here in central California so a Gruner-Veltliner is perfect – dry-ish, crisp and the ideal wine for a late afternoon watching the bees circle the lemon trees. And to think…I once thought Gruner-Veltliner was a made-up wine courtesy of Zoe Archer. Seriously. The wine is mentioned in Skies of Fire: The Ether Chronicles, a steampunk romance (yes, there’s a shirtless guy on the front…). Louisa – one of my favorite literary heroines ever because she’s a freakin’ spy! – has appropriated a bottle from the Austrians. I remembered the scene but didn’t think to much of it until one day I saw it in the store. So this is a real thing? Zoe Archer didn’t just make this up? It was right up my alley – not sweet, crisp, clean. I arrived home with a bottle, laughing the whole time and thinking about how sometimes the story is in the details.
When it gets a bit hotter, and oh yes, it will, I’ll take a page out of Elizabeth Peter’s creation Amelia Peabody and have a whiskey. Amelia takes hers with soda, but I’ll just have it on the rocks. I’ll sit outside in the sweltering heat, here:
sip my whiskey on the rocks and (if I can sneak and hide it from Husband J and son j) have a cigarette, in honor of Ramses. It’s not Egypt, but it will do.
Sometimes I’m inspired to try something a little out of my comfort zone. I’m not really a beer drinker, but today I noticed the Goose Island IPA.
I’d seen it mentioned before so I messaged Julie Ann Walker’s Facebook page and asked if Goose Island was, in fact, what the BKI boys drank. (Don’t you love the internet?) Sure enough, I got a response: Honkers and 312! I just had the IPA available, but hey, it was new, and it’s a nice day, so I went with it. Husband J was pleasantly surprised when he got home and looked in the fridge. Need a beer that goes great with barbecue and a fire pit and friends? This is it.
The next dark and stormy night that comes this way you’ll find me upstairs in the red leather club chair I inherited from my grandfather, reading one of Tasha Alexander’s Lady Emily mysteries and drinking, appropriately enough, a port. My favorite is the Dow’s Late Bottled Vintage. This
is a bottle I lucked upon, i.e. my sister gave it to me when she moved out of the country. I wasn’t unhappy as my sister has excellent taste.
Absinthe is one of those things you’d think would be a “dark and stormy night” only kind of drink, but not the way I like it. I have been known to say, when Husband J walks into the house to find me mixing up a Sazerac, “Medicinal.”
You know, just like Nicholas Brisbane in Deanna Raybourn’s Julia Grey novels. Although, mine isn’t for migraines, and I’m not a half-gypsy man of many talents who’s also a tad precognitive. But still, when isn’t a Sazerac called for!? Here’s the link for the “official” Sazerac recipe, but…. here’s how I do it:
1 sugar cube doused with Peychaud’s Bitters
1/3 jigger Absinthe
2 jiggers rye (I’m liking Bulleit Rye right now)
Stirred together and then poured over a highball filled with ice. Add a slice of orange.
In the winter pretend you’re hanging out with Nicholas and Julia, rolling your eyes and resisting the urge to shout, “Oh for the love of God, just kiss her you idiot!” In the summer you can….realize that Absinthe is truly multi-generational and channel your inner Tennessee Williams.
If there was ever a fictional character you’d want to drink with, it’s Phryne Fisher. Mostly because a. her butler can mix drinks like no one’s business, b. Phryne can hold her liquor, and c. once the liquor started flowing you’d hope she would offer up a story, or offer to lend you part of her fabulous wardrobe. I’d take either. The creation of Kerry Greenwood, and now an Australian tv series (available on Netflix), Phryne Fisher is one of those characters you either love because she’s so unbelievable or hate for the same reason. But she’s fun and brave and bold and is where I discovered the “White Lady” cocktail (From Murder in the Dark, I believe). I don’t use the egg white. Apparently the original recipe called for creme de menthe instead of gin, but, euwww. Please be warned: this goes down alarmingly fast.
My favorite bromance in written form comes courtesy of J.R. Ward and involves lots, and lots, and lots of drinking. There’s also a lot of talking, but that’s always brushed off as “We still ain’t dating”. The fact that my favorite scotch and my favorite baseball team is mentioned has NOTHING to do with why I love these boys. Nothing, I tell you!
Lagavulin is a Islay single malt scotch that is the closest thing to heaven you will ever find. It’s like Laphroaig’s (another fave) older, more sophisticated brother. Husband J says that drinking Laphroaig is like licking an ashtray – Lagavulin is a kiss from a guy smoking really fine tobacco. So, seriously, at $90+ a bottle, you’re not going to be slamming this down in the hopes of getting shit-faced. But if you’re celebrating, or heartbroken, or need to hang with your best friend for a while, this is for you.
From the same series of books and thanks to yet another character I discovered…tequila. Yes, that’s right, I didn’t have my first tequila until I was 45. Oh, I’d had a margarita from time to time, but let’s be honest, that’s not actually drinking tequila. Husband J and I were at The Porch and the bartender asked what I’d like. I told her I wanted to try something new and mentioned that I’d never had tequila before. (Apparently I was the worst college girl ever…). She suggested I start with a blanco and began listing a few brands. When she hit Herradura I exclaimed, ‘That’s it!” Sure Qhuinn drinks the Seleccion Suprema, but as a beginner I’m not sure I want an Anejo. I like my silver and since I’m not a connoisseur it works for me.
And finally, what would a list of literary characters and their intoxicant of choice be without Mr Shaken-Not-Stirred himself, James Bond.
I think I read Thunderball for the first time in junior high. Other girls were reading horse books and I was reading ian Fleming. Yeah, I was a weird kid. Also, that’s some questionable parenting on mom and dad’s part. That’s not to say I was dreaming about martinis in 7th grade, but as an adult, it’s really the perfect thing to order when out. It’s not so easy to put down that you drink a lot of them. It’s straightforward so the bartender doesn’t hate you or think you’re a high-maintenance jackass. I used to like them very dirty with three olives, but now I just ask for very dry with a twist. A good martini is the cocktail equivalent of meditation – you have to slow down, take everything a little easier and let everything you don’t need go. A good book does that too.
Up soon, the drinks my favorite books and their characters inspire.