The Ultimate Books and Drinks Pairing Guide
Setting the mood is important, guys. That’s why I can’t, in good conscience, let any opportunity to pair the perfect books and drinks go to waste. I’ve put my considerable expertise to good use to create this: The Ultimate Books And Drinks Pairing Guide, exclusive to Keeping Up With The Penguins. (Make sure you subscribe to get the whole thing in PDF!)
In Cold Blood (Truman Capote)
Goes with: A Screwdriver
Pair this true-crime classic with a classic drink. The vodka-orange combo was a favourite of In Cold Blood author, Truman Capote. He even called it “my orange drink”, in tones of great affection.
90mL orange juice
Combine and serve. Garnish with a slice of fresh orange, if you want to feel fancy!
Little Women (Louisa May Alcott)
Goes with: Mulled Wine
Louisa May Alcott was an advocate for the temperance movement, and her March family characters in Little Women would drink wine “only medicinally”… but personally, I think you’re better off sticking with the advice of the romantic lead, Professor Bhaer, who suggested you should “pretend you have a cold”. You’ll need something rich and warm to keep you cozy while you’re reading about those frigid New England winters. Plus, you can make it on the cheap, which totally suits the March personal brand of genteel poverty!
2 cinnamon sticks
1 orange (sliced into rounds)
2-4 tablespoons honey, sugar, or other preferred sweetener
1 bottle (750mL) dry red wine
Combine all ingredients in a saucepan, and bring to a simmer (just barely – you don’t want to boil off the alcohol!). Reduce heat, cover, and allow to simmer for at least 15 minutes (up to 3 hours). Strain and serve warm. Bonus points if you want to add other spices: nutmeg and/or star anise work well!
The Great Gatsby (F. Scott Fitzgerald)
Goes with: A Mint Julep
Most experts would recommend pairing The Great Gatsby with a gin rickey, given that it was Fitzgerald’s special favourite and Carraway and his pals drink them often… but I say they’re wrong! I prefer the suggestion of Gatsby’s girl-crush, Daisy Buchanan (“Open the whiskey and I’ll make you a mint julep. Then you won’t seem so stupid to yourself.”). The more complex and interesting flavours will definitely get you feeling jazzy.
10 mint leaves
1 1/2 teaspoons sugar
60mL bourbon whiskey
Place the leaves in the bottom of an old-fashioned glass, and sprinkle the sugar on top. Muddle them together until the leaves begin to break down. Add a generous splash of soda water, and fill the glass 3/4 full with the ice. Add the bourbon, top up with soda water as required, and stir.
(Or you can just pop a bottle of champagne if you’re feeling lazy, it works just as well!)
Ulysses (James Joyce)
Goes with: An Irish Coffee
Look, you’ll need the caffeine to stay alert and focused as you trawl through Joyce’s notoriously unreadable magnum opus, and you’ll need the whiskey to give you the will to go on. Plus, they’re both Irish, so it’s a perfect match!
1 cup hot black coffee
1 teaspoon brown sugar (adjust to taste)
45mL Irish whiskey
Optional: whipped cream to serve
Stir brown sugar into a mug of hot coffee to dissolve. Add the Irish whiskey and stir to combine. Top with cream (whipped or otherwise) if desired.
A Game of Thrones (George R.R. Martin)
Goes with: Red Wine
There’s a whole lot of wine-drinking going on in Westeros (and a whole lot of other nefarious activity, too). Get on Queen Cersei’s level by picking up a bottle of something rich and full-bodied, and drinking it all yourself. (Actually, A Game of Thrones is seven hundred pages long… make it two bottles.)
Pour wine into glass, or directly into mouth if you prefer.
The Catcher in the Rye (J.D. Salinger)
Goes with: A Tom Collins
If you think Holden Caulfield is a snotty little prick, you can get one up on him by treating yourself to a Tom Collins. Salinger’s protagonist is horrified when, in The Catcher in the Rye, the boring blonde he has befriended orders the summer drink out of season (“in the middle of December, for God’s sake!”). If you ask me, there’s no “wrong” time to enjoy this quenching classic cocktail.
30mL lemon juice
1 tsp caster sugar
Combine gin, lemon juice, sugar, and ice in a cocktail shaker, and shake until combined and chilled. Strain into a tall ice-filled glass, and top with soda water as required.
I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings (Maya Angelou)
Goes with: Sherry
A bottle of sherry was as essential to Maya Angelou’s writing process as a pen and a yellow legal pad. She would take a bottle with her to her hotel room (read: writing sanctuary) every day, and confessed to cracking it open as early as 6:15AM at times, to get those creative juices flowing. It only seems right that you share in her tipple as you read her incredible story!
Purchase one bottle of sherry. Drink it. Bonus points if you’ve got the proper sherry glasses (borrow some from your grandmother, if need be).
The Sun Also Rises (Ernest Hemingway)
Goes with: A Whiskey & Soda
Hemingway famously loved anything wet that came in a glass. It’s said that mojitos were his special favourite, but to my mind that’s too light and cheery a drink to enjoy with a heavy and introspective story like The Sun Also Rises. Try a whiskey and soda instead, the mainstay of masculine drinks, and make sure you have a bunch of ’em if you want to get into Hemingway’s state of mind (or that of his characters, come to think of it).
Combine in a glass, and serve. If you’re drinking the good stuff, you could even hold the soda and ice, and produce the same effect.
A Clockwork Orange (Anthony Burgess)
Goes with: A Moloko Plus
The chosen drink of Burgess’s horrible narrator, Alex, in A Clockwork Orange was the Moloko Plus – a fictional concoction of hallucinogenic drugs and stimulants with a milky texture. Now, the fact that it’s not “real” shouldn’t stop you giving it a go! Indeed, plenty of people have and there’s dozens of different recipe suggestions floating around online. I’ve included my personal favourite here, but be warned: it’s a clusterfuck of flavours and textures (just like the book, to be honest), and it’s probably not one you’ll “enjoy” per se (again, much like the book).
25mL Anisette liqueur
50mL Irish Cream liqueur
125mL full-cream milk
1 tbsp sugar
Combine all ingredients in a cocktail shaker, and shake vigorously. Strain into a chilled glass. Add psychotropic drugs at your own risk 😉
On The Road (Jack Kerouac)
Goes with: A Margarita
Much like his protagonist in On The Road (unsurprisingly), Kerouac loved a drink. He especially loved a margarita, a concoction he discovered on one of his many harebrained road-trips to Mexico. They’re salty, tart, and more-ish, making them the perfect accompaniment to this tortured genius’s roman à clef.
1 lime wedge
45mL lime juice
30mL Cointreau (or triple sec)
Run the wedge of lime around the edge of the glass, to wet it, and then dip it in the salt to create a rim. Fill a cocktail shaker with the ice, Cointreau, tequila, and lime juice; shake until combined and chilled. Strain into the rimmed glass, and serve. You could make a frozen margarita by whizzing the ingredients in a blender… but they’re a pain in the arse to clean.
Wuthering Heights (Emily Brontë)
Goes with: A Dark & Stormy
A dark and stormy drink for a dark and stormy love story! Nothing will get you into the mindset of a brooding bad boy, looking out over foggy moors and haunted by his ex-lover’s ghost, more than this rich combo. The ginger gives it a spicy kick, and you can double down (if you like, as I do) by using a rich spiced rum. Let it take you to new (wuthering) heights, ha!
30mL dark rum
90mL ginger ale
Optional: splash of bitters (any variety you like)
Combine the liquids in a glass with ice, and squeeze the lime wedge over the top. Drop it in, and drink!
Dracula (Bram Stoker)
Goes with: A Bloody Mary
… surely this one doesn’t need any explanation.
120mL tomato juice
15mL lemon juice
Worcestershire sauce, to taste
Tabasco sauce, to taste
Salt and pepper, to taste
1 stalk celery
Combine all ingredients in a tall glass with ice, and stir well. Garnish with stalk of celery.