From Charlie and the Chocolate Factory to Murder on the Orient Express, these are the drinks to pair with your favourite books.
There’s nothing better than curling up with a good book – unless, of course, you’re curling up with a good book and a glass of something delicious, that is.
From Breakfast at Tiffany’s to 1984, The BFG to Great Expectations, we’ve taken a look back at some of the most iconic drinking scenes in literature, in order to bring you the perfect book and booze pairing guide.
Breakfast at Tiffany’s – Truman Capote
The drink: Champagne (or Prosecco, depending on your budget)
In Breakfast at Tiffany’s, Holly Golightly glides through New York society like an “American geisha”, allowing wealthy men to escort her to clubs and restaurants, and to spoil her with money and expensive presents. Someone with such a taste for the finer things in life naturally prefers bubbles – and it’s not long before she introduces her neighbour to the delights of early morning champers.
“I don't think I've ever drunk champagne before breakfast before,” he tells her. “With breakfast on several occasions, but never before-before.”
Little Women – Louisa May Alcott
The drink: Spiced mulled cider
There’s something about Louisa May Alcott’s tome of sisterhood that makes us want to read it over and over again. Picking up a battered copy of Little Women is like pulling on a comfy worn-in jumper; you feel warm, and cosy, and soothed by the author’s rich imagery.
The iconic scenes that everyone picks out of this tale usually revolve around Jo March; she’s flying at Amy for burning her book, or she’s plunging into an icy lake to save her wayward sister, or she’s setting off for an adventure in NYC, or she’s flying home to nurse her beloved Beth. She’s the ultimate literary heroine – but Alcott makes sure to ground her in the real world. We read of flame-coloured autumnal leaves, and crisp snow underfoot. Hot potatoes burn our hands straight from the oven, and baked apples perfume the air.
And, while the girls themselves keep to strict vows of temperance (they drink wine, but only medicinally), we can’t help but feel that a warm mug of mulled cider is the perfect accompaniment to their tale. It’s basically all the smells and tastes of summer, autumn, and winter, all bottled up and warmed through for our pleasure. Perfection.
Great Expectations – Charles Dickens
The drink: Brewdog’s 5am Saint
Great Expectations is all about a brewery – albeit one that is no longer brewing. We join Pip as he meets the attic-bound Miss Havisham, whose family brewery in Kent has remained silent and become covered in rust, ever since the day, decades earlier, she was jilted on the morning of her wedding. As such, there are “no horses in the stable, no pigs in the sty, no malt in the storehouse, no smells of grains and beer in the copper or the vat.”
“All the uses and scents of the brewery might have evaporated with its last reek of smoke,” explains Dickens. “In a by-yard there was a wilderness of empty casks which had a certain sour remembrance of better days lingering about them. But it was too sour to be accepted as a sample of the beer that was gone.”
Not one drop of ale or beer remains – and it is, for that reason, that we crave it all the more. And we don’t stop craving it, even as Dickens weaves his mysterious tale of convicts, spinsters, and anonymous benefactors…
Spoilers. Pour yourself a mug of Brewdog’s 5am Saint, savour all those marmalade, caramel, chocolate, berry, buttered toast, and malted biscuit undertones, and settle down with a copy of Dickens’ most famous book. We promise you won’t regret it…
Charlie and the Chocolate Factory – Roald Dahl
The drink: Chocolate Baileys on ice
Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.is filled to the brim with magical and mouth-watering descriptions – and Dahl leaves us salivating at every turn of the page, causing the tiny hedonistic child inside of us to call out for eatable marshmallow pillows, and whipplescrumptious fudgemallow delights, and rainbow drops, and square sweets (that look round).
But, most of all, we crave liquid chocolate that’s been freshly churned by waterfall – and that’s where a glass of Bailey’s comes in handy. Close your eyes, wrap your lips around the glass, and succumb to that creamy goodness; it’s basically your Golden Ticket to Wonka’s factory.
For true seekers of pleasure: If you really want to up the ante, swap the classic Bailey’s for the chocolate version.
1984 – George Orwell
The drink: A stiff G&T
1984 is at the top of the literary charts right now – and, worryingly, it’s because people can relate to the plot more than ever before. Originally published in 1949, the classic dystopian novel tells the story of a world at constant war, and a public manipulated and controlled by a repressive government. This tyranny is apparently directed by Big Brother: a party leader who holds sway over a brainwashed and adoring population by depicting himself as infallible and all-powerful.
Throughout the novel, however, are small glasses of Victory Gin – a synthetic spirit which forces the water from one’s eyes and gives the sensation of being struck on the back of the head with a club – just waiting to be sipped. Its devotees knock it back under the pretence of vice, as a means of shunning governmental control… despite the fact that it ensures the subconscious compliance of the masses.
Swap it, instead, for a delicious G&T with a twist of lime; the botanicals of the gin and the bitterness of the tonic should help to combat the nasty taste that the worryingly realistic dystopia leaves in your mouth…
Murder on the Orient Express – Agatha Christie
The drink: Cognac
A tale of murder, intrigue, deception, and… well, luxury train travel, Agatha Christie’s Murder on the Orient Express is laced with food and drink references throughout. The one that stands out the most, however, is the cognac.
It is Mrs Hubbard who sips the alcoholic beverage, but not of her own choice; indeed, the train’s doctor is the one who insists she drink it after her fainting fit in the dining-car. And it certainly does the trick…
“A few minutes later she was sitting up, sipping cognac from a glass proffered by the attendant, and talking once more.”
Tempted to try it for yourself? With complex fruity notes, oaky richness, mysterious undercurrents of flavour, and plenty of depth, Courvoisier Cognac is the perfect pairing to Christie’s iconic tale.
The Harry Potter saga – JK Rowling
The drink: Dark Star’s Crème Brûlée
“Harry drank deeply,” writes Rowling, weaving a spell over us as capably as any wizard might. “It was the most delicious thing he’d ever tasted and seemed to heat every bit of him from the inside.”
Everyone has their own idea of what butterbeer ought to taste like, but we’re all agreed on one thing; it should be tinged with sweetness, wonderfully smooth, and (ideally) alcoholic. And, yes, there are plenty of muggle-penned recipes on the internet for making your very own boozy potion at home – but we think we might have found the closest thing to it in Dark Star’s Crème Brûlée.
The specialist milk stout is brewed using sugars, vanilla beans and plenty of roasted malts, making for a sweet caramel drinking experience – with just enough of a butterscotch hint to make you feel as if you’re sat alongside Harry, Ron, and Hermione at the Hog’s Head.
Remember: This is a seasonal special for Dark Star, so you will have to keep an eye out for it on keg (or buy your very own 5l keg from the website)
The Great Gatsby – F Scott Fitzgerald
The drink: Gin Rickey
This delicately fizzing concoction of gin, lime, and soda was a Prohibition staple, making it the perfect tipple to enjoy alongside Fitzgerald’s Great Gatsby (aka the ultimate tale of decadence, jazz, and doomed love).
The drink is actually mentioned by name in a scene set on a boiling summer’s day, when Daisy orders her husband Tom to “make us a cold drink” – and, as soon as he leaves to do so, gently murmurs to Gatsby that she loves him.
When Tom returns, he carries “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”.
How to make it: Put three or four ice cubes in a highball glass, and squeeze in the juice of half a lime. Add around 60ml of gin, and top with soda. Rub the lime wedge around the rim, then drop into the glass, et voila!
Any of the Famous Five books – Enid Blyton
The drink: Crabbie’s ginger beer, of course
Julian, Dick, Anne, George, and Timmy taught us some very important life lessons; firstly, that we should always strive for adventure – and be brave, bold, and ballsy. Secondly, that we should spend as much time with our friends as possible. Thirdly, that “the meals we have on picnics always taste so much nicer than the ones we have indoors” – and, finally, that ginger beer is a drink bestowed upon us by the gods.
For a truly sublime Famous Five reading experience, we recommend taking yourself off into the garden, or the park, or the beach – and packing some potted meat sandwiches, crisp lettuces, red radishes, hard-boiled eggs, tinned peaches, and heaps of tomatoes, too.
Then all that’s left to do is settle back, pop open a bottle of fizzing ginger beer, and take a bite of your picnic whenever the Five stop their adventure for a meal. Believe me when I say you’ll be full in no time.
To Kill a Mockingbird – Harper Lee
The drink: Sweet tea flavoured vodka
Perhaps one of the best-loved books of all time, To Kill a Mockingbird – told through the eyes of young Scout Finch – is a powerful book, with an incredibly important message at its heart. However there’s no denying that Lee’s descriptions of the Deep South are every bit as memorable; she describes Maycomb as a dusty old town, filled with creaking porch swings, pecan trees, unhurried townsfolk, dusty streets, and blazing sunshine.
Ask any Alabama local and they’ll tell you the best antidote to the heat is tin after tin of sweet tea – so why not sup on a sweet tea flavoured vodka as you work your way back through this warm morality tale once again?
Firefly is distilled four times, infused with tea grown on a plantation five miles from the distillery and blended with real Louisiana sugar cane. It tastes just like real sweet tea, but with an even sweeter kick – and is the ideal accompaniment to a night curled up with the Finch family.
Sense and Sensibilty – Jane Austen
The drink: Muscat wine
Austen may not be the first author to come to mind when you think of great food and drink in literature, but throughout her books – Sense and Sensibility included – she painstakingly detains social interactions. And, as such, the sharing of meals is crucial; we attend countless banquets, dinners, and family breakfasts. We sample haunches of roast venison, creamy French puddings, sweetmeats, and delicious nibbles.
Indeed, when Marianne Dashwood’s heart is broken by Willoughby, she dramatically refuses to eat – and, in doing so, makes everybody wretched. It’s a start contrast to warm-hearted Mrs Jennings, who presses the younger woman to try some dried cherries, or olives, or (most importantly here) sweet Muscat wine from Constantia.
It’s a drink that comes up time and time again throughout Austen’s work, so it seems only fitting that we ought to raise a glass of the stuff to the author while we read. We recommend investing in a bottle of Torres Floralis Moscatel Oro NV (£8.99); it’s indulgently sweet, with plenty of spicy notes and an enduring candied finish.
The BFG – Roald Dahl
The drink: Raspberry rum float
This magical tale of a brave little girl and her giant companion is every bit as engrossing for adults as it is for children – maybe even more so, as we can appreciate Dahl’s wordplay all the more. Just like he did in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, the author creates plenty of fictional goodies for us to lust after in The BFG, our favourite being ‘frobscottle’.
As soon as Sophie tastes it for the first time, she’s completely undone. “How delicious it was,” writes Dahl. “It was sweet and refreshing. It tasted of vanilla and cream, with just the faintest trace of raspberries on the edge of the flavour. And the bubbles were wonderful. Sophie could actually feel them bouncing and bursting all around her tummy.”
Naturally, a few imaginative folks have done their best to recreate a boozy version of frobscottle – but our favourite is, by far, a fruity, fizzy, and funky raspberry rum flat.
How to make it: Pop 1 1/2 lb of raspberries into a blender, along with ½ cup of white rum, 1 tsp of lemon juice, ½ cup of ‘sugar water’ (to make your own, bring equal parts sugar and water to boil). Strain through a sieve, discard the seeds, and divide amongst four glasses. Top them up with 4oz soda water (16oz overall), stir gently, and top with a scoop of vanilla ice cream. Serve immediately with long straws and spoons.
The Lord of the Rings – JRR Tolkien
The drink: Honeyed mead
Tolkien’s decision to have four hobbits lead us through The Lord of the Rings’ Middle-Earth was a stroke of genius – and not just because, in their love of home and hearth, they are so very much like us.
No, it was genius because it meant we were treated to gastronomical delights; thanks to Frodo, Samwise, Merry, and Pippin, we sup on honey-cakes, elven breads, buttery potatoes, and salted fish – and, best of all, we’re introduced to the wonders of Miruvor.
A warm, fragrant, and clear cordial enjoyed by the elves, it renews strength and vitality, and, as such, only very small nips of the precious liquid are taken. It is often described as flooding one’s body with warmth – and, of course, as tasting like a “sweet mead”.
How to drink your mead: Many recommend treating it like a sweet white wine. Serve it at a slight chill, and in a tighter glass to hold the aromas – and pair it with soft cheese and sweet fruits (such as apricots and dates) if you get peckish!
Chocolat – Joanne Harris
The drink: Chocolate Rubis Wine
Chocolat is a complex and bittersweet tale of contradictions; through an outsider’s eyes, we learn how wonderful life in a small town can be – and how endlessly stifling, too. We experience the joys of heady self-indulgence, and the grim satisfaction found in self-denial and restraint. Most importantly, we are forced to confront our own prejudices, our treatment of The Other, and our fear of the unknown; this may be a slim volume, but this book packs a lot of weight.
Throughout, the scent of chocolate pervades the page with a “throaty richness like the perfumed beans from the coffee stall on the market”; it is “a redolence of amaretto and tiramisù, a smoky, burned flavour” that enters our mouths somehow and makes them water – and it is relentless in its pursuit.
Satisfy your cravings with a deep glass of Rubis, an unconventional but highly-indulgent wine which blends premium chocolatey essences with bold cherry fruits, spices, fresh vanilla, and deep red grapes from the vine. You can take a small sip every time Vianne Rocher’s array of candies makes your mouth water…
The Song of Ice and Fire series – George R R Martin
The drink: Malbec, or any full-bodied red wine
George R R Martin’s bestselling books have since been transformed into HBO’s hit series, Game of Thrones – but, while the TV show is a brilliant adaptation of the medieval political drama, it’s never quite been able to capture Martin’s heady, sensuous, and downright erotic descriptions of food and drink.
On the page, the author dedicates long and beautiful passages to everything edible, from bread to lemon cakes, but our favourite ones are those dedicated to the rich wines of Westeros. Take, for instance, the moment Littlefinger presented Sansa with a glass of his favourite beverage:
“The wine was very fine; an Arbor vintage, she thought. It tasted of oak and fruit and hot summer nights, the flavours blossoming in her mouth like flowers opening to the sun.”
Why the Malbec? Known for its plump dark fruit flavours and smoky finish, Malbec wine sums up everything we want from a Westeros vintage – and more.
Casino Royale – Ian Fleming
The drink: A Vesper Martini
James Bond is pretty much synonymous with martinis – and, thanks to the plethora of movie adaptations, we know exactly how he likes them, too. The first one that 007 ever orders, however, takes place in Casino Royale, and it’s completely unlike the “shaken, not stirred” creation we’ve come to know and love. In fact, Bond orders the barman to follow a recipe of his own invention: Gordon's, vodka and Kina Lillet.
"I'm going to patent it when I can think of a good name," he says, later naming it for love interest Vesper Lynd.
You can reconstruct the drink from the comfort of your own home, serving it (at Bond’s insistence) in a “deep champagne goblet” with a “large thin slice of lemon peel”. Just be sure to shake the living daylights out of it first…
Kayleigh Dray is editor of Stylist.co.uk, where she chases after rogue apostrophes and specialises in films, comic books, feminism and television. On a weekend, you can usually find her drinking copious amounts of tea and playing boardgames with her friends.