Friday, January 11, 2013

Molly Tanzer's Guide to Books & Booze

Time to grab a book and get tipsy!

Books & Booze  premiered as a new mini-series of sorts here on TNBBC back in October. The participating authors were challenged to make up their own drinks, name and all, or create a drink list for their characters and/or readers using drinks that already exist. 

Molly Tanzer's Infernal!

Mixology is a passion of mine, so I was tickled when Lori asked me if I would like to compound some sort of  A Pretty Mouth-themed libation for The Next Best Book Blog. I hadn’t yet designed an Ivybridge cocktail; last year, around the book’s publication I’d been tinkering with The Heavenly Twins  (two cocktails with the same base, titled after a book that planted the seed for A Pretty Mouth in my brain many, many years ago when I was still in grad school) but nothing that was strictly Calipash-themed.

For those of you who have read A Pretty Mouth, or any of the individual stories in the various places they appeared before the collection debuted, you know that the Calipash family is a degenerate but noble line given to occasionally spawning pairs of evil/unsavory twins, usually during periods of English history and literature that are of interest to me personally. (Convenient, that.) For those of you who haven’t read A Pretty Mouth, well, feel free to buy it! It’s available in e- and regular book form … but as I just explained it’s shtick feel free to make the cocktail below and just not really get the joke.

Though there are many—five, to be precise—pairs of twins featured in A Pretty Mouth, I decided to do only one cocktail, based on the original pair: Basil Vincent and his twin sister Rosemary from the original Calipash story, “The Infernal History of the Ivybridge Twins.” Basil and Rosemary will always be special for me for a number of reasons (You never forget your first, right? Or something) and they also work together a lot better than most of the perpetually flaky Calipash spawn. Juxtaposing ingredients harmoniously is an essential part of creating new cocktails, after all.

Here’s a brief description of those original Ivybridge twins for the uninitiated:

“Truth be told, even had Basil been interested in women, his slouching posture, slight physique, and petulant mouth would have likely ensured a series of speedy rejections. Contrariwise, Rosemary was a remarkably appealing creature, but there was something so frightening about her sharp-toothed smile and wicked gaze that no boy in the county could imagine comparing her lips to cherubs’ or her eyes to the night sky…”

(Basil would, of course, be played by a young Jeffrey Combs and Rosemary by Chloë Moretz.)

Anyways! I wanted to design a cocktail that was sweet and sour and bitter and seductive, dangerous and amusing, and also somewhat historically interesting/educational. I must say I’m rather proud of the resulting potent potable. It’s vaguely gimlet-ish but with a few extras that make it a bit more special, and it’ll get you where you need to go.

Some explanation before the recipe:

1.      The “Infernal!” uses as its base “Old Tom” gin. If you’re not familiar with Old Tom, it’s a gin that traces its roots to the 18th century, and was immensely popular during the Victorian era. You can find bottles of Old Tom in high-end liquor stores these days. I think the most commonly-available brand is Hayman’s, but you can also find one these days called Ransom. I haven’t tried that one yet, but I very much want to. Basically, Old Tom gin is sweeter than a London Dry gin like Bombay Dry or, god forbid, Tanqueray. If you can’t find a Tom-style gin, ask your favorite liquor proprietor for a recommendation on a sweeter gin than the usual Dry style one finds most regularly these days. I really like Maxim, which is inexpensive, or Hendricks. But the fad for micro-distilling has provided the home mixologist so many regional options it’s best to ask someone locally in-the-know.
2.      Luxardo Maraschino Liqueur is available in most liquor stores. It’s used sparingly in many classic cocktail recipes, so it’s worth picking up a bottle. Most only call for a teaspoon or less so it’s a good investment.
3.      Real absinthe. Find some. Herbsaint (a common substitute for absinthe, especially in the Sazerac) is, in my opinion too strongly flavored, and as it’s often artificially colored … no thanks! Real, legitimate absinthe is legal and easy enough to find these days, so there’s no reason to compromise. If you’re unsure if you like absinthe, get a little bottle. Lucid, for example, makes smaller bottles, is reasonably priced, and totally good. If you can get Leopold Brother’s absinthe (Colorado peoples especially, I’m looking at you!) it’s amazing, but it’s a small distillery. Just be sure, in the liquor store, to check the back of the bottle (eschew artificial coloring if you can!) and read reviews before you buy.

Okay! Enough chit-chat and noodling. Time to start drinking! Or rather, mixing. Mixing then drinking is preferable, of course.


2 oz Old Tom gin
½ oz basil and rosemary-infused simple syrup (recipe follows)
½ oz lemon juice
½ tsp. Luxardo Maraschino liqueur
¼ tsp real absinthe

Combine all ingredients in a cocktail shaker with ice; shake vigorously and pour gently over a cocktail cherry* nestled in the bottom of a chilled cocktail glass.

Basil and Rosemary Simple Syrup

The leaves of 4 stripped sprigs of rosemary, washed well
1 c natural brown sugar like Turbinado or Demerara**
1 ½ cups water
The leaves of 4 sprigs of basil, washed well

Combine the first three ingredients in a small saucepan over medium heat. Stir and bring to a boil. Simmer for 1 minute, then kill the heat and let steep for 45 minutes. Strain and chill. Store in a sealed Tupperware or mason jar or something, and use within 1 month of making. If you’re not making Infernal!s, use it in place of sour mix in a whiskey sour or Tom Collins, but avoid using Rye. The spicy notes make resultant cocktails taste like those lemon-eucalyptus cough drops. Not good.

*Recommended: Luxardo Maraschino cherries for the cherry in the bottom. Yes, those cocktail cherries you’ve laughed at for being priced around 19 dollars a jar. Trust me, they’re worth it—and more importantly, you’re worth them.

** Not grocery-store brown sugar! If you don’t have natural brown sugar, use regular white sugar.

That’s it! Thanks much to Lori for reviewing A Pretty Mouth and for taking an interest in the project. We’re doing an author Q&A inFebruary so check back for updates on that, it should be a blast! 

Molly Tanzer lives in Boulder, Colorado along the front range of the Mountains of Madness, or maybe just the Flatirons. She is a professional writer and editor, among other things. Her debut, A Pretty Mouth, was published by Lazy Fascist Press in September 2012, and her short fiction has appeared in The Book of Cthulhu (Vols. I and II), Future Lovecraft, and Fungi, and is forthcoming in Zombies: Shambling through the Ages, Geek Love: An Anthology of Full Frontal Nerdery, and The Starry Wisdom Library. She blogs—infrequently—about writing, hiking, cocktail mixing, vegan cooking, movies, and other stuff at, and tweets as @molly_the_tanz.

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