A couple of weeks ago I was driving to Dulles airport to pick up our Slovene exchange student and heard a piece on NPR’s Studio 360 about literary cocktails. A contest had been proposed in which listeners would send in cocktail recipes based on the titles of literary masterpieces. With summer winding down, I share them here to give you something to savor. You can read about the contest and see a complete list of the submissions here.
In introducing the contest, host Kurt Andersen noted that “just about every book by F. Scott Fitzgerald book could be a cocktail,” which he then proves:
The Great Gatsby — something with gin and bitters.
This Side of Paradise — pink, with an umbrella.
The Beautiful and Damned — straight, with Tabasco on the rim.
Tender is the Night — something sweet and creamy you’ll regret later.
Speaking of Fitzgerald and The Great Gatsby, one listener tastelessly (but imaginatively) suggested a drink called “The Myrtle”:
Take one blood orange. Crush it under the wheel of your car. Place in glass, add crushed ice (to look like a smashed windshield), drizzle with simple syrup (cause she was), cover wreckage carelessly with whiskey!!!!!
Kurt Vonnegut had several named after his novels, including “The Cat’s Cradle”:
Put the bananas, coconut cream, pineapple juice, rum, and lime juice in a blender. Blend until very smooth. Rim a hurricane glass with grenadine and coconut shavings. Put nine ice cubes (it must be nine) in the glass. Share the drink with your granfallon, but make sure to never, under any circumstance, touch your lips to the ice.
I especially appreciated “The Grapes of Wrath,” in which the listener alludes to the famous scene of farmers burning their oranges to keep prices high as starving multitudes look on:
Make an ordinary Vodka Screwdriver (orange juice and vodka on the rocks).
Float 151 proof rum on top and set it afire.
The same listener also suggests a cocktail named for Tom Wolfe’s Bonfire of the Vanities:
Take a bottle of Dom Perignon and serve it to swine.
There’s one called “The Talented Mr. Ripley”:
Ingredients: Whatever Dickie Greenleaf is drinking.
There are a couple of horrendous puns:
One Flute Over the Cuckoo’s Nest
As you can see, not all the submissions are actually meant to be made. Another such submission is “The Pan Galactic Gargle-Blaster” (from Douglas Adams’ The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy):
slice of lemon
My favorite (the parody, not the drink) is called “The Wasteland.” The submitter first lists the ingredients (there’s only one) and then borrows from the poem to tell us how to drink it and the effects it will have. The Italian passage that ends the instructions is taken directly from section V of Eliot’s poem (“What the Thunder Said”) and alludes partly to a passage from Dante’s Purgatorio, partly to an anonymous Roman poem, and partly to Tennyson’s poem “Oh, Swallow, Swallow.” Replete with cocktail double entendres, it means “Then he hid himself in the refining fire/ When shall I become like a swallow.”
12 oz. Vodka
1 garbage can
I said, Marie,
Marie, line up 12 shot glasses. And down we went.
Under the brown fog of a winter noon
Pour thy vodka evenly into these twelve glasses,
one for every hour.
Now drink them. One after the other.
The river sweats
Oil and tar
The barges drift
With the turning tide.
Poi s’ascose nel foco che gli affina
Quando fiam ceu chelidon—O swallow swallow!
The two winners turn to two turn-of-the-century contemporaries, Edith Wharton and Willa Cather. The winner is the first one, followed by the runner-up:
The Age of Innocence
Submitted by Brett Elms of Brooklyn
2 oz Navy Strength Gin
1/2 oz Creme de Violette
1/2 oz Lillet Blanc
Few drops of Green Chartreuse
Add Chartreuse to a cocktail saucer, swirl and dump. Combine other ingredients over ice in a cocktail strainer. Shake vigorously and strain into glass. Garnish with an edible flower.
Like the social atmosphere in New York during the period in which this novel is set, this cocktail seems delicate and refined on the outside but is pure booze under the surface.
Submitted by Susan Steinway of Cambridge, Massachusetts
1 1/2 oz rye whiskey (representing Nebraska)
1 oz slivovitz (representing Bohemia), homemade if possible to represent the pioneering spirit
Dash of bitters
Splash of honey
Mix together with ice and shake vigorously. Pour into one of those glasses (coupe?) that are wide, like the prairie.
I’ve just shared here the tip of the ice cube. Go to Studio 360’s website to check out some of the other recipes.
A note on the artist: Patti Mollica has several paintings of cocktails at newyorkpainter.blogspot.com/2011_08_01_archive.html.