Vulpes Libris

A collective of bibliophiles talking about books. Book Fox (vulpes libris): small bibliovorous mammal of overactive imagination and uncommonly large bookshop expenses. Habitat: anywhere the rustle of pages can be heard.

Tequila Mockingbird. Cocktails With a Literary Twist, by Tim Federle

9780762448654I’m now feeling rather sorry for mockingbirds – the name seems to invite jokes at their expense. Here’s the second mockingbird in as many weeks lending its name to chucklesome humour, poor creature. Mind you, Tequila Mockingbird as the name of a particularly challenging cocktail is the best of many, many excellent puns in this week’s offering.

This very entertaining book is the perfect choice to end a week of drinking to excess on Vulpes Libris, existing as it does purely to combine the subjects of booze and books. Tim Federle, according to the brief CV on the back cover, is a ‘Broadway actor, word nerd, cocktail enthusiast’, who ‘lives (and drinks) in New York’. Not only does he know his liquor, but he knows his literature too. The book consists of recipes for mixed drinks with a literary theme, each one accompanied by his hilarious, mostly outrageous but never less than well-informed take on the author and work that inspired it. I should also mention the elegant, sly illustrations by Lauren Mortimer. There are 65 drinks and their commentaries to argue with, divided into Drinks for Dames, Gulps for Guys, pitchers for bookclubs, a small handful of recipes for avid readers who have taken the pledge, some food to chase it all down with, and some literary drinking games. I wish my own literature studies had been this much fun.

I wondered what I felt about the gendered recipes at first, until I twigged that the Dames are the heroines, and the Guys the heroes who had inspired the drinks. So the author is just about forgiven. Certainly there’s nothing consistently sweet and sticky about the Drinks for Dames (just look at the title drink, a mixture of tequila and hot sauce, chased with a bite of dill pickle), nor manly and malty about the Gulps for Guys (I give you Crime and Punish-mint: vodka, coffee liqueur, creme de menthe, finished with single cream). Some are variants on tried and trusted cocktails and therefore undoubtedly delicious and moreish, some look as though they may be new to mixological science, others are, well, just mixed drinks – gussy it up with artisan lemonade and a dash of Angostura, but One Hundred Beers of Solitude is really just shandy over ice. But just as much fun to read as all the rest.

Initially, the best thing about this book is the puns. I don’t think it’s spoiling to give you some more, most of which appear of the cover of the book, so designed to make you wander out of the bookshop wondering why you think you need a book to which your drinks cabinet will never do justice (my copy was a very welcome gift, so I didn’t have to go through that ordeal). Of course the world is a better place for knowing that Bridget Jones’s Daiquiri exists, as well as The Last of the Mojitos, Love in the Time of Kahlua, A Rum of One’s Own, and Are You There God? It’s Me, Margarita. Looking at this week’s contributions so far on Vulpes Libris, it should come as no surprise to find out that Ernest Hemingway is the single most represented author, with A Farewell to Amaretto, Vermouth the Bell Tolls and The Old Man and the Seagram’s.

The enduring pleasure though is to disagree or agree violently with the author’s pithy, irreverent take on the book of the drink, such as from Rye and Prejudice: “Elizabeth – famously played onscreen by Keira Knightley’s cheekbones – has a judgy streak that practically overshadows the love she has for Mr Darcy, a stuck-up (but rich!) gentleman.”

Discuss, using all possible sides of the paper. In one of my favourites, we get two recipes for the price of one, for reasons that become obvious:

from The Turn of the Screwdriver:
A true classic holds up to different interpretations, and we offer two ways into the Screwdriver – giving you twice the opportunity to check for ghosts in the bar.
Theory 1: She’s perfectly level-headed.
4 ounces orange juice
2 ounces vodka
Theory 2: She’s batshit nuts.
4 ounces sparkling orange soda (like Orangina)
2 ounces vanilla vodka

Now, version 2 does seem totally crazy to me….

So, the whole book really is the most tremendous literary joke from start to finish (I promised you drinking games, didn’t I? Well, here’s one specially designed to outrage Bookfox Moira: Slam a Red Bull every time you turn the page in Wuthering Heights. (Just to stay awake, actually.) This one is in relatively good taste…). But it has the added advantage that, with a not exactly modest outlay on a new drinks cupboard, the bottles of jewel-like liqueurs to fill it, the shaker, blender, muddler and all the different glasses, it is in fact a perfectly practical manual for the discerning drinker. In fact, as I’m on holiday right now, I’m wondering if I dare approach the hotel barman with this book in my hand and ask for a Silas Marnier. Goldschlager, Grand Marnier, ginger and bitters – sounds utterly sublime.

Tim Federle: Tequila Mockingbird. Cocktails with a Literary Twist. Philadelphia: Running Press, 2013. 148pp
ISBN13: 9780762448654

2 comments on “Tequila Mockingbird. Cocktails With a Literary Twist, by Tim Federle

  1. Kate
    June 12, 2015

    so did you have the Silas Marnier? What a great book concept, and such a pleasure to read that it seems to have worked on the page as well as in the bar after hours, pitching ideas idly to friends over something long and snappy.

  2. Hilary
    June 14, 2015

    Nah, after negotiation around lack of Goldschlager, I settled for one of the Last of the Mojitos. And very refreshing it was too.

    Yes, Tim Federle really has nailed this, has made it work on the page, though I’d put money on the origins of the idea being just as you describe! His strap-line is ‘An English major walked into a bar …’

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