There are a ton of fake holidays out there — November 7, “Bittersweet Chocolate with Almonds Day,” we’re talking about you — but when that “holiday” involves succumbing your vices, we are down to celebrate.
Today, June 8 is Name Your Poison Day, and though there are a few ways you could celebrate this fine day, we’re going to go with drinkin’. In an effort to justify our decision, we’ve paired some of our favorite drinks with our favorite authors. Bottoms up!
1. Statti Lamezia Rosso: Joan Didion
There’s something special about Didion’s writing, both her fiction and her non-fiction. Since the early ‘60s, she’s been able to give weight to topics that, in the hands of a less capable artist, might come off as maudlin. For decades, Didion has enraptured readers with her artful prose. Try pouring yourself a glass of Lamezia Rosso the next time you find yourself rereading “On Keeping a Notebook”; the full-bodied wine is not quite as complex as Didion’s writing, but with notes of chocolate and cherries, it is the alcoholic equivalent.
2. Pumpkin Ale: Donna Tartt
Some things are so great that they are worth however long you have to wait in order to get them. Two prime examples? Pumpkin ale and Donna Tartt. The spiced beer is usually available only in fall, but its malty, toasty flavor is well worth powering through three other seasons for. Tartt’s books don’t come out every fall (we wish!) but every decade. We’re not complaining, though. Her most recent novel, The Goldfinch, won this year’s Pulitzer Prize for Fiction and is a must-read. And hey, if you start the 784-page book now, pumpkin ale might be available by the time you finish!
3. Hot Toddy: Cheryl Strayed
If you’ve ever ordered a hot toddy on a cold night, you know how comforting the simple combination of whiskey, honey, lemon, brown sugar, cloves and hot water is. The literary equivalent to such a soothing drink is, of course, Cheryl Strayed. Whether you’re reading her memoir, Wild, her novel, Torch, or her book of advice, Tiny Beautiful Things, you’re bound to feel better about yourself and the world around you. But, like hot toddies, Strayed isn’t all sugar. Her writing is calming, yes, but it’s also no-nonsense. “Let yourself be gutted,” she writes in Tiny Beautiful Things. “Let it open you. Start there.”
4. Dirty Martini: Gordon Lish
Lish is a writer, yes, but he’s best known for his work as a literary editor, using his pencil as an ax to make Barry Hannah, Amy Hempel and Raymond Carver the writers they became famous for being. Pair an old school cocktail, like the dirty Martini, with some of Lish’s work (or since his hand is so heavily in it, some of Lish’s students work). All that we ask is that you don’t get so drunk that you become as big of a jerk as Lish can be.
5. White Russian: John Green
“What?” you might be asking yourself. “How the hell is young adult author John Green a White Russian.” Oh, ye of little faith, allow me to explain: Green is, yes, an author of YA novels, but his books are an embodiment of why YA, as a genre, deserves to be taken more seriously. He’s best known for his most recent book, The Fault in Our Stars, which manages to tackle teeangers with a cancer in a way that isn’t corny. His first novel, Looking for Alaska, is ripe with existential, adult themes. He writes, “The only way out of the labyrinth of suffering is to forgive.”
So, how does this relate to White Russians? The sweet cocktail made from vodka, cream and coffee liqueur is, so to speak, “an adult drink,” but, if you were just to look at it, it might appear to be a glass of whole milk. Both White Russians and Green’s books are far more adult than they originally present themselves as being.
6. Long Island Iced Tea: Lydia Davis
Here’s another one that might not make a ton of sense at first. Davis, a skilled stylist, is like a … Long Island Iced Tea, the drink you order at T.G.I. Friday when you’re 16?
Yep. And here’s why: Though Davis certainly isn’t lowbrow, she, like the infamous Long Island Iced Tea (which typically has four different kinds of alcohol), packs a lot into one small package. Davis’s stories aren’t just short; sometimes they’re just one paragraph or a few sentences. But, not unlike a Long Island Iced Tea, one is typically all you need. When reading Davis, you want to read slowly, soaking in the style and humor she imbeds in her writing. Oh, and for what it’s worth, you should also go slow when you’re drinking a Long Island Iced Tea.
7. Lambrusco: Jenny Offill
There are a few things that Lambrusco and Jenny Offill have in common, not the least of which that I have yet to hear someone come back disappointed when I suggest drinking or reading them, respectively. But their near-universal appeal merely skims the surface. On the outside Lambrusco looks like any other red wine, but as soon as you take a sip, your taste buds are met with soft bubbles, blackberries and bitter greens. Similarly, Offill’s work seems simple from afar. Her most recent novel, Dept. of Speculation, is a simple story of a marriage, but with cool precision, she imbues the book with bittersweet observations about her marriage, husband and daughter.
Disagree with one of the drink and author pairings above? Have a new pairing you’d like to suggest? Tell us all about it in the comments below.
Michelle King grew up in South Florida and now lives in Brooklyn. Her contributions have appeared on BULLETT, Refinery29 and The Topaz Review. Harriet M. Welsch is still her role model and probably always will be.
(Image credits, top to bottom: Flickr, Vivino, Wikipedia, Brew Public, Salon, Brandy Rand, Cheryl Strayed, Sixteen Dates, Numéro Cinq, Fine Art Bartending, John Green, Liquor, Untitled Books, Livestrong, Post Gazette)
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