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!)

The Ultimate Books And Drinks Pairing Guide - Cover Page - White Text and Green Graphics of Book and Drink on Dark Grey Background - Keeping Up With The Penguins

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.

Recipe:

30mL vodka

90mL orange juice

Ice

Combine and serve. Garnish with a slice of fresh orange, if you want to feel fancy!

In Cold Blood - Truman Capote - Penguin Books cover

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!

Recipe:

8-10 cloves

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!

Little Women - Louisa May Alcott

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.

Recipe:

10 mint leaves

1 1/2 teaspoons sugar

Soda water

Crushed ice

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!)

The Great Gatsby - F Scott Fitzgerald - Simon and Schuster

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!

Recipe:

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.

Ulysses - James Joyce - Penguin Books

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.)

Recipe:

Pour wine into glass, or directly into mouth if you prefer.

A Game of Thrones - George R R Martin - Penguin Random House

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.

Recipe:

60mL gin

30mL lemon juice

1 tsp caster sugar

Soda water

Ice

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.

The Catcher In The Rye - JD Salinger

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!

Recipe:

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).

I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings - Maya Angelou - Penguin Random House

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).

Recipe:

30mL whiskey

90mL soda

Ice

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.

The Sun Also Rises - Ernest Hemingway

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).

Recipe:

25mL Absinthe

25mL Anisette liqueur

50mL Irish Cream liqueur

125mL full-cream milk

1 tbsp sugar

Ice

Combine all ingredients in a cocktail shaker, and shake vigorously. Strain into a chilled glass. Add psychotropic drugs at your own risk 😉

A Clockwork Orange - Anthony Burgess - Penguin Books Australia

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.

Recipe:

1 lime wedge

45mL lime juice

30mL Cointreau (or triple sec)

45mL tequila

Salt

Ice

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.

On The Road - Jack Kerouac - Penguin Books Australia

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!

Recipe:

30mL dark rum

90mL ginger ale

Optional: splash of bitters (any variety you like)

Lime wedge

Combine the liquids in a glass with ice, and squeeze the lime wedge over the top. Drop it in, and drink!

Wuthering Heights - Emily Bronte

Dracula (Bram Stoker)

Goes with: A Bloody Mary

… surely this one doesn’t need any explanation.

Recipe:

60mL vodka

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.

Dracula - Bram Stoker - Penguin Books Australia