The best cure for writer’s block? A stiff drink.
Booze and literature have long had a close relationship; many of the world’s most famous authors were as good at drinking as they were at writing. And the drinks they liked to imbibe made such a strong impression that Raymond Chandler, F. Scott Fitzgerald and more immortalized a number of classic cocktails in their novels.
So if you like to enjoy a well-made cocktail while reading your favorite classic novel, be sure to check out which drinks inspired the most prolific American writers over the years. From Martinis to Vespers to Gin Rickeys, you may earn a new respect for the writers (and cocktails) behind your favorite books.
Weigh in below: What’s your favorite cocktail mentioned in a novel?
This influential author may have countless other drinks associated with his name, including the Death in the Afternoon (which he invented) and the Mojito. But rest assured: Papa loved his Daiquiris—he even has one named after him! The drink was invented at the Floridita bar in Cuba, where Hemingway spent much of his time while America was suffering through Prohibition. The refreshing drink is perfect for summer soirees, but it’s good enough to drink year-round.
Mystery writer Raymond Chandler was as much a fan of this simple sour drink as his booze-guzzling protaganist Philip Marlowe, who enjoyed the drink in many a dive bar with plenty of shifty dames.
In fact, Marlowe is quite specific about his recipe in The Long Goodbye: “What they call a Gimlet is just some lime or lemon juice with a dash of sugar and bitters,” he says. “A real Gimlet is half gin and half Rose’s Lime Juice and nothing else. It beats Martinis hollow.”
Call us snobs, but we prefer a Gimlet made with fresh lime and simple syrup over the pre-bottled Rose’s.
Poet Anne Sexton was known for drinking Martinis while socializing and working on her verse. She met fellow poet Sylvia Plath at a seminar and the two hit it off. Later on, they would meet up at the Ritz Carlton in Boston to talk about work over a cocktail or two. (Or three: Sexton eulogized her friend in “Sylvia’s Death,” writing “the death we said we both outgrew,/the one we wore on our skinny breasts,/the one we talked of so often each time/we downed three extra dry martinis in Boston”. Who knows how many eloquent lines came out of those meetings?
William Faulkner wasn’t the first author to drink while writing, and he won’t be the last. (We admit it helps at times!) Faulkner’s drink of choice was Southern staple the Mint Julep, an easy mix of fresh muddled mint, simple syrup and bourbon. He once said, “I usually write at night. I always keep my whiskey within reach; so many ideas that I can’t remember in the morning pop into my head.”
You can see Faulkner’s own metal Mint Julep cup on display at Rowan Oak, his longtime home (it’s now a museum) in Oxford, Miss.
Gin Rickeys, which comprise gin, lime and soda, were popular during the Great Experiment (aka Prohibition). F. Scott Fitzgerald, along with his wife, Zelda, were among the drink’s biggest fans.
The easy-to-make cocktail even made an appearance in Fitzgerald’s classic The Great Gatsby when Daisy Buchanan asks her husband, Tom, to make the party (including Gatsby) a cold drink. Tom returns "preceding 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."
We’re eternally grateful to Ian Fleming for immortalizing one of literature’s most debonair secret agents, James Bond. But we’re even more thankful for his contribution to modern mixology: the Vesper. It first made its appearance in 1953’s Casino Royale—the first Bond novel—and even appeared in the 2006 film adaptation of the book. Fleming introduces the drink just as the climactic poker game is about to start, with Bond asking for “three measures of Gordon’s, one of vodka, half a measure of Kina Lillet. Shake it over ice and add a thin slice of lemon peel.”
Novelist, poet and short story writer Carson McCullers wasn’t just a late-night drinker. She was known for sipping a combination of hot tea and sherry throughout the day that she kept in a Thermos. She called the concoction the Sonnie Boy and claimed it helped her creativity. We imagine this was her preemptive cure for writer’s block—and we like it.
Mixing your cocktail