Time to grab a book and get tipsy!!!
River Aria begins in Manaus, Brazil, in the year 1928. Manaus was a hotspot during the South American rubber boom, but once the boom ended (rather abruptly, in 1912), all the greedy rubber barons ran back to Europe, leaving behind the fishing community that was there before they ever descended on the place.
Yes, the people of Manaus were poor, but they knew how to party. Their drink of preference was (and still is) Caipirinha, which is made with cachaça, a Brazilian spirit extracted from sugarcane juice.
When I visited Manaus, our river guide, Carlos the Jaguar, made Caipirinha onboard the boat while we traveled on the Amazon and Rio Negro. He didn’t measure anything, so the recipe went like this:
· Lots of limes, halved and squeezed by hand
· Lots of white sugar
· Lots of cachaça
· Put it all in an oversized jar and shake well.
If you happen to be drinking it on land, drag the furniture out of the way, roll up the rugs, bring in the musicians with their cavaquinhos, violas and pandeiros, and spend the night dancing lundos on the wood floors.
While River Aria starts in Manaus, over the course of the novel the two main characters, Estela and JoJo, travel to New York—where they encounter Prohibition! No worries, JoJo finds a job working for the owner of a speakeasy. Though it takes him until the middle of the book to understand why, his first job is to paint two boats to look exactly alike, including painting the same names along both starboards.
One thing JoJo learns early on: when the boss says, What’ll you have to drink? ask for Dewar’s. Otherwise who knows what you’ll get. Bootleggers thought nothing of selling watered-down whiskey—or even moonshine or industrial alcohol mixed with fruit juices or Coca-Cola to disguise the taste. Some of that stuff could kill you! Really! If you wanted to stay safe, you asked for Dewar’s.