Friends Laura Becherer and Cameo Marlatt were drinking whisky in a Glasgow pub one evening when conversation turned to Heroines, a book by the feminist literary critic Kate Zambreno. Heroines explores the fates of the “wives and mistresses” of modernist literature, from Zelda Fitzgerald to Jean Rhys: writers and artists in their own right whose identities were suffocated, overshadowed and silenced by those of the male writers who used and abused them as muses.
The more they talked, the more irate Becherer and Marlatt – both writers themselves – became. Fitzgerald, they knew, was far from the only woman to have her literary output viewed as ‘less than’ a man’s.
There was Mary Shelley, who some academics still argue must have had ‘help’ from her then-lover Percy Shelley when she wrote Frankenstein in 1816. There was Dorothy Wordsworth, often forgotten next to her famous brother William. There were countless women writers of colour whose work was routinely overlooked, from the Canadian Mohawk poet Pauline Johnson to the Antiguan-American writer Jamaica Kincaid.
Partly because they were in a pub, and partly because they had been discussing the Fitzgeralds (whose love of a stiff drink is well-documented), Becherer and Marlatt got to thinking about the machismo that still pervades much of drinking culture.
As they put it: “If we had a dime for every time a male bartender has asked us, ‘Uh, you know that’s a dark beer, right?’, a male bartender has mansplained whisky to us, or a strange bloke at the bar has interrupted our conversations with our male partners to explain the drinks menu to him over our own recommendations, we could afford to buy ourselves nicer gin.”
It was out of this conversation that Becherer and Marlatt’s new book, A Drink of One’s Own: Cocktails for Literary Ladies was born. At once a compendium of enticing drinks recipes and a whistle-stop tour through literary feminist history, each of the 50 cocktails is based on a different important woman writer, from the well-known (Virginia Woolf, Maya Angelou) to the not-as-well-known-as-they-should be (Murasaki Shikibu, Louise Welsh).
Here, we select ten delectable cocktail recipes from A Drink of One’s Own. Happy reading – and happy drinking.
A Drink of One’s Own: Cocktails for Literary Ladies by Laura Becherer and Cameo Marlatt, with illustrations by Savannah Marlatt, is published by Freight Books, RRP £9.99. Buy it here.