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.
The Virginia Woolf Cocktail
Woolf’s A Room of One’s Own is a classic of early feminist literature that explores the financial, social and psychological limitations faced by women writers throughout history. Within the progressive environment of the Bloomsbury Group of London intellectuals, Woolf (1882-1941) wrote novels known today for their masterful lyricism, formal innovation, and treatment of women’s lived experience.
So raise a glass to the queen of British Modernism: light as Clarissa Dalloway’s floral arrangements, strong as an existential crisis, this gin cocktail is Woolfian through and through.
- 60 ml (2 fl oz) gin
- 120 ml (4 fl oz) sparkling lemonade
- sliced cucumber
- lime slice
In a Collins glass, pour gin and lemonade over ice. Muddle in a slice or two of cucumber and add a slice of lime if desired.
The Zelda Fitzgerald Cocktail
Zelda Sayre Fitzgerald (1900-1948) was the original flapper. She was married to American author F. Scott Fitzgerald, and the combination of 20th century society and Scott’s massive ego left Zelda stifled by her husband and his obsession with success. When Zelda tried to become creative in her own right, Scott grew wildly jealous. She was committed to an asylum, and ‘diagnosed’ with schizophrenia.
Today, people largely remember Zelda in relation to her husband, and some scholarly rhetoric still casts a victim-blaming light on her drinking and mental health misdiagnoses.
In Zelda’s honour, we present you with this gin-based twist on a Prohibition classic. Before you drink it, raise your glass to Zelda; toast her and all other women whose identities have been consumed by their husbands
- 45 ml (1 ½ fl oz) gin
- 30 ml (1 fl oz) honey syrup
- 30 ml (1 fl oz) ginger beer
- 15 ml (½ fl oz) lemon juice
To make the honey syrup, stir honey into an equal part of hot water until dissolved.
Refrigerate the leftovers. Combine all ingredients and stir well. Pour into a highball glass over ice.
The Simone de Beauvoir Cocktail
French writer and intellectual de Beauvoir (1908-1986) is best known for her classic work of feminist philosophy The Second Sex, published in 1949. This foundational second-wave text addresses the history of women’s oppression and contains her famous statement on gender performativity, that “one is not born, but rather becomes, a woman”.
The next time you’re sitting down for some serious feminist philosophising, grab a brandy snifter and arm yourself with this elegant cocktail: a rich blend of brandy and port, with cinnamon syrup for a touch of spice and lemon juice for bite.
- 30 ml (1 fl oz) brandy
- 30 ml (1 fl oz) port
- 15 ml (½ fl oz) honey
- cinnamon syrup
- 7.5 ml (¼ fl oz) lemon juice
- lemon peel twist to garnish
For the syrup, combine equal parts honey and water on the stovetop and add a cinnamon stick. Heat while stirring until the honey is dissolved and the mixture tastes strongly of cinnamon. Store the excess in the fridge.
In a cocktail shaker, combine the brandy, port, syrup, and lemon juice. Shake with ice, and strain into a chilled brandy snifter. Garnish with a twist of lemon peel.
The Maya Angelou Cocktail
Her writing process famously involved locking herself in a hotel room with a bottle of sherry, so we’ve added a dash to this delicious cocktail, which is a sweet and uplifting blend of white rum and pineapple juice.
- 45 ml (1 ½ fl oz) white rum
- 60 ml (2 fl oz) pineapple juice
- 1 tsp grenadine
- 1 tsp amontillado sherry
- Maraschino cherry to garnish
In a cocktail shaker, combine rum, juice, grenadine and sherry. Shake with ice and strain into a chilled lowball glass. Garnish with a maraschino cherry.
The Margaret Atwood Cocktail
Atwood (1939-present) writes across a variety of genres, from the speculative fiction of The Handmaid’s Tale to the historical exploration of Alias Grace to the layered narratives of The Blind Assassin.
This hot buttered rum cocktail with Canadian maple syrup is perfect for those cosy winter nights when you settle in for a long evening with her latest book.
- 8 tbsp butter
- 165 g (¾ cup) brown sugar
- 180 ml (¾ cup) pure maple syrup (make sure you use pure maple syrup for this recipe; the imitation brands will not turn out well)
- 1 tsp nutmeg
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- 1 bottle (750 ml) brandy
- 750 ml (3 cups) boiling water
- 4 whole cinnamon sticks
Melt butter in saucepan over medium heat. Add sugar and nutmeg, stir until sugar has melted. Remove from heat.
Add brandy and vanilla to saucepan, stir continuously. Add boiling water and cinnamon sticks, stir. Return to burner.
Add maple syrup, stir over low heat to mix. Leave pot on very low heat to keep warm, serve in warm mugs.
Lady Oracle, The Handmaid’s Tale, The Blind Assassin, Alias Grace, Surfacing, The Robber Bride, The Penelopiad, the Maddaddam trilogy, The Heart Goes Last, Bluebeard’s Egg, Stone Mattress, Murder in the Dark, The Door
The Angela Carter Cocktail
Carter (1940-1992) was a second-wave feminist author most well-known for her sensual and explicit reinterpretations of fairy tales.
Whether she is rewriting classic tales like Beauty and the Beast, reinterpreting notorious figures like Lizzy Borden, or crafting tales around legends like the German Erlkönig, Carter gives her material fantastical, usually bloody, twists that often explore the female body.
To honour our favourite collection of Carter stories, The Bloody Chamber, we have selected a Bloody Mary recipe. Mix up this thick, spicy treat and kick back with a volume of macabre feminist reflections full of lady vampires, errant wolves and gratuitous amounts of blood.
- 180 ml (6 fl oz) tomato juice
- 45 ml (1 ½ fl oz) beetroot-infused vodka
- 2 dashes Worcestershire sauce
- 2 dashes hot pepper sauce
- 1 dash steak sauce
- 1 dash grated horseradish
- 1 clove roasted garlic
- pinch of celery salt
- pinch of sea salt
- squeeze of lime
- black pepper to taste
Mix all ingredients well and pour over ice in a highball or other tall glass.
Garnish with celery, pickles, olives, and/or pickled okra.
The Isabel Allende Cocktail
Isabel Allende (1942-present) is a Chilean-American writer born in Peru. She writes in Spanish, but her novels have been translated the world over. She writes primarily historical fiction that is well-known for often containing elements of magical realism, and puts a strong focus on female characters in her stories.
Allende’s cocktail is a version of a Chilean classic. Port wine, whisky, egg yolk, and spice combine to present you with a heady, rich drink.
- 30 ml (1 fl oz) port wine
- 30 ml (1 fl oz) whisky
- 1 egg yolk (very fresh)
- 1 tsp sugar
- dash Angostura bitters
- cinnamon sugar (to top)
- cocoa powder (to top)
Whisk together until completely blended. Pour into a glass over a generous amount of ice. Sprinkle with cinnamon sugar and cocoa powder.
The Alice Walker Cocktail
Walker (1944-present) is a black writer from Georgia, USA, who overcame great poverty and institutional racism to become one of the world’s most famous and important writers on the subjects of humanity and injustice.
With her Pulitzer Prize-winning book The Color Purple in mind, we created a cocktail that to us encapsulates the relationship between its central characters, Celie and Sugar. Fresh rhubarb and strawberry remind us of Celie’s rural upbringing, and the champagne represents Sugar’s glamour.
- 250 ml (1 cup) plain or flavoured yoghurt
- 200 g (1 cup) diced rhubarb
- 200 g (1 cup) strawberries
- 2 tsp fresh mint
- chilled champagne
- mint to garnish
Add yogurt, rhubarb, strawberries, and mint to a blender and blend. Pour into tall glasses or Mason jars, top with champagne, and slowly stir to combine. Garnish with mint.
Almost any fruit combination may be used for this recipe, so don’t be afraid to experiment! Other ideas include using combinations of raspberry, banana, blueberry, blackberry, mango, pineapple, peach, etc.
The J.K. Rowling Cocktail
Rowling (1965-present) is often dismissed as being ‘just’ a children’s author. The Harry Potter series is one of the most famous sets of books worldwide and is hardly beloved only by children; the universal love of these books made Rowling richer than the Queen of England, and Harry and his friends have captured the hearts of nearly every magic-lover in the world.
To remind you that Rowling’s work is not just for children, we offer you an adult twist of the classic butterbeer: a blended butterscotch martini. Perfect for those summer evenings when you’re visiting the lawn of Hogwarts!
- 250 ml (1 cup) vanilla ice cream
- 60 ml (2 fl oz) vodka
- 30 ml (1 fl oz) butterscotch schnapps
Combine ingredients in a blender until smooth and pour into a martini glass.
The Zadie Smith Cocktail
One of England’s most popular living novelists, Zadie Smith (1975-present) was born in London to a Jamaican mother and English father. In circumstances that garnered great publicity, the 21-year-old Smith’s incomplete first novel was picked up after a bidding war between several publishers while she was still studying at Cambridge University. The comedic and expansive White Teeth was an instant commercial and critical success, cementing Smith’s reputation as a literary star.
Paralleling the zing of postmodern irony so characteristic of Smith’s work, this tart cocktail is a take on the classic Brown Derby, substituting tequila for bourbon.
- 45 ml (1 ½ fl oz) tequila
- 30 ml (1 fl oz) fresh grapefruit juice
- 15 ml (½ fl oz) honey syrup
For the honey syrup, dissolve honey into an equal part of hot water.
In a cocktail shaker, combine tequila, juice, and honey syrup. Shake with ice and strain into a chilled martini glass.