Books are remembered for their characters, plots, language, humor, and heartbreak. They're not typically remembered for their cocktails, and yet many of literature's most famous stories are so full of booze their pages practically reek of it. In fact, alcohol plays a role in many important literary scenes, from the moment Ebenezer Scrooge endeavors to assist Bob Cratchit's struggling family in Charles Dickens' A Christmas Carol, to the sweltering hot afternoon at the Plaza Hotel in F. Scott Fitzgerald's The Great Gatsby.
While we may not recall that it's a bowl of smoking bishop Scrooge offers Cratchit, or that Daisy insists Tom and Gatsby cool down with a mint julep, there are some cocktails a reader cannot forget, like James Bond's iconic martini, or the moloko plus in A Clockwork Orange. From the iconic to the hardly-noticed, we've compiled a list of literary cocktails fit for a bibliophile. Cheers!
Champagne Cocktail, The Big Sleep (1939)
While there's no shortage of drinking in Chandler's 1939 crime classic, General Sternwood's take on the champagne cocktail is a favorite. In response to Philip Marlow taking his brandy "any way at all," Sternwood says "I used to like mine with champagne. The champagne as cold as Valley Forge and about a third of a glass of brandy beneath it."
Where there's Hemingway, there's booze. In The Sun Also Rises, narrator (and heavy drinker) Jake Barnes enjoys a Jack Rose at the Hotel Crillon in Paris: At five o'clock I was in the Hotel Crillon, waiting for Brett. She was not there, so I sat down and wrote some letters. They were not very good letters but I hoped their being on Crillon stationery would help them. Brett did not turn up, so about quarter to six I went down to the bar and had a Jack Rose with George the barman.
A popular cocktail in the 1920s and 1930s, the Jack Rose is made from applejack, lime juice, and grenadine.
For some, it's morning coffee. For accidental secret agent James Wormold, it's a morning daiquiri at the Wonder Bar with pal Dr. Hasselbacher in the opening scene of Greene's 1958 satire. Wormold enjoyed his rum cocktails frozen, with lime.
A milk-based cocktail with a sprinkling of opiates and hallucinogens, the Moloko Plus is a fictional cocktail invented by Burgess in his 1962 dystopian classic, A Clockwork Orange. Alex and his "droogs" drink the cocktail in preparation for a night of "ultra-violence".
"A merrier Christmas, Bob, my good fellow, than I have given you for many a year! I'll raise your salary, and endeavour to assist your struggling family, and we will discuss your affairs this very afternoon, over a Christmas bowl of smoking bishop, Bob."
A changed and happy man, Scrooge is referring to the popular Victorian punch made from port, red wine, orange juice, and sugar.
"Open the whiskey, Tom, and I'll make you a mint julep. Then you won't seem so stupid to yourself....Look at the mint!"
Tragic characters, The Plaza Hotel, and mint juleps make up one of the most pivotal scenes in Fitzgerald's 1925 classic. Tom's caught on to his wife's love affair, and in a sweltering suite at the Plaza, Daisy tries desperately to distract him by offering up refreshing mint juleps - made from whiskey, sugar, and mint.
"The Webster F. Street Lay-Away Plan - a martini made with chartreuse instead of vermouth. Very good."
Doc's line in Sweet Thursday is an inside joke. The Webster F. Street Lay-Away Plan was apparently named for Steinbeck's former Stanford classmate and Monterey friend, attorney Webster 'Toby' Street.
"Three measures of Gordon's, one of vodka, half a measure of Kina Lillet. Shake it very well until it's ice-cold, then add a large thin slice of lemon-peel. Got it?"
Bond's iconic gin-vodka martini is his own invention. He names it after the alluring Vesper Lynd - Vesper meaning 'evening' in Latin.
"You heard from Holly?"
"I can't say exactly heard from her. I mean, I don't know. That's why I want your opinion. Let me build you a drink. Something new. They call it a White Angel," he said, mixing one-half vodka, one-half gin, no vermouth.
And so begins the tale of Holly Golightly.
"I expect you would prefer sherry, but, my dear Charles, you are not going to have sherry. Isn't this a delicious concoction?"
The eccentric Anthony Blanche has just ordered four 'Alexandra Cocktails', also known as an Alexander Cocktail, and is about to drink them all. The "delicious concoction" consists of gin, crème de cacao and cream. A Brandy Alexander replaces gin with brandy.
It's Big Daddy's birthday, and a melancholic Brick Pollitt indulges in this winter-time drink, made of whiskey, hot water, and honey.
The title of Vonnegut's 1973 comedy does not refer to Wheaties. In fact, it refers to martinis, as Bonnie, a down-on-her-luck cocktail waitress says, "Breakfast of Champions" every time she serves the drink. Character Dwayne Hoover's martini of choice is the House of Lords martini with a twist of lemon peel - House of Lords being a brand of gin.
The Crying of Lot 49 opens to the suffering of Mrs. Oedipa Maas, the bored housewife to Wendell "Mucho" Maas. In the opening scene, Oedipa goes through the motions of the gathering of her marjoram and sweet basil from the herb garden, the reading of book reviews in the latest Scientific American, into the layering of a lasagna, garlicking of a bread, tearing up of romaine leaves, eventually, oven on, into the mixing of the twilight's whiskey sours against the arrival of her husband.
Later, Oedipa observes Mucho gliding like a large bird in an updraft toward the sweating shakerful of booze, smiling out of his fat vortex ring's center.
The whiskey sour contains lemon juice, simple syrup, and bourbon.
We had actually been sitting there in the Polo Lounge - for many hours - drinking Singapore Slings with mescal on the side and beer chasers.
Many, many drinks appear in Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, not to mention barrels of narcotics, but the Singapore Sling is said to be Thompson's drink of choice. The cocktail is made with gin, triple sec, cherry brandy, and pineapple juice.
It's only fitting that Fitzgerald's jazz age story should appear twice.
Tom came back, preceding four gin rickeys that clicked full of ice. Gatsby took up his drink. "They certainly look cool," he said, with visible tension. We drank in long, greedy swallows.
Sal and Dean sit at a San Francisco bar with a colored guy called Walter who ordered drinks at the bar and had them lined up and said, "Wine-spodiodi!" which was a shot of port wine, a shot of whisky, and a shot of port wine.
The effect of drinking a Pan Galactic Gargle Blaster is like having your brains smashed out by a slice of lemon wrapped round a large gold brick.
One shouldn't expect less from a drink that contains juice from one bottle of the Ol' janx Spirit, water from the seas of Santraginus V, Arcturan Mega-gin, Falian marsh gas, Qualactin Hypermintextract, the tooth of an Algolian Suntiger, Zamphuor, and an olive.
We sat in a corner of the bar at Victor's and drank gimlets. "They don't know how to make them here," he said. "What they call a gimlet is just some lime or lemon juice and gin with a dash of sugar and bitters. A real gimlet is half gin and half Rose's Lime Juice and nothing else. It beats martinis hollow."
If anyone knows a real gimlet, it's Philip Marlowe.
"Do we by any chance know of a beverage called May Queen? Its full name is 'To-morrow'll be all the year the maddest, merriest day for I'm to be Queen of the May, mother, I'm to be Queen of the May.' A clumsy title, generally shortened for purposed of ordinary conversation. Its foundation is any good, dry champagne, to which is added liquer brandy, armagnac, kummel, yellow chartreuse and old stout, to taste."