Cocktails With Writers

L.A. Dirty Water by Fred Smith

Fred Smith, has contributed a summer club-life cocktail. (And he should know. The photo on the Tayari Jones and Fred Smithleft is of Fred and me at El Rey in LA. I’m the one in the false eyelashes.)
So, with no further ado–Here’s his drink & pitch!
“Jeremy and Kenny, the main characters in my latest novel, Right Side of the Wrong Bed, are one of those couples.
You know them, they’re probably among your circle of friends, and most definitely among your circle of distant relatives. High drama. Lots of chemistry. Love hard. Fight hard. Love hard again. The type of couple that makes you wonder, “What do they see in each other? Why are they together? And how long before it finally ends?”
Of course it never ends when expected. Because when it seems to be over, one of them picks up the phone after a couple drinks – much like Lee Ann Womack sings in one of my favorite songs “I May Hate Myself In The Morning (But I’m Gonna Love You Tonight)” – and the ride begins again.
One thing that bonds Jeremy and Kenny, besides their obvious emotional and physical attraction for each other, is their love for a good cocktail. Early in their relationship, Kenny ends up caretaking for Jeremy, who enjoyed a night out on the town a little bit too much.
The following recipe is the kind of drink I imagined Jeremy drinking in that scene. It’s called a “Dirty Water,” though here in Los Angeles I’ve heard it called “L.A. River” or “Sewer Water.” I’m sure the name changes in every city. I’ve seen it as a full cocktail and also as a shot. Either way, it should be taken in slow and responsibly.”

Dirty Water

  • 2 parts Absolut Apeach
  • 1 part Absolut Citron
  • 1 part Absolut Mandrin
  • 1 part Aged Rum Of Cuban Type
  • 1 part Coke
  • 1 part Cruzan Coconut Rum
    Fill a highball glass to the rim with ice cubes. Pour absolut apeach, absolut citron, absolut mandrin, aged rum of cuban type, cola and cruzan coconut rum into a shaker. Fill the shaker with ice cubes and shake it until the shaker is very cold. Strain the drink into the highball glass.
    “Funny, touching, and intoxicating. Smith has written yet another compulsive read.” –Maurice Jamal

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    I arrived to the screening of “Wristcutters” a little bit early and I FREEDOM TO WRITE COCKTAILstumbled into a fabulous cocktail party already in session. This sort of event, I think, shows you what you are made of. Do you pout that you weren’t told about the party in advance? Do you hide in the corner because you are not properly dressed for such an occaision? Or do you say “yes please” to the handsome waiter cruising by with a tray of intriguing looking beverages? Well, I said yes.
    Here is a recipe for the special drink of the night. It’s called “FREEDOM TO WRITE” in honor of PEN’s campaign to free jailed and repressed writers all over the world.

  • Grey Goose La Poire (That’s pear-flavored to you and me.)
  • Elderflower Liqueur (Can you believe I managed to score a free bottle?)
  • Fresh Lime
    It is a fun, sweet, summertime drink.
    Update! I received an email from Sarah D, who brought this lovely beverage to PEN:
    hi tayari,
    thanks for the shout out to my cocktail! i hope your summer is full of delicious drinks! in case you want the exact recipe, the quantities are: 1 1/2 parts la poire, 1 1/2 parts st-germain elderflower, 1/4 part lime juice. you have to shake it well over ice, then strain into a chilled martini glass. i enjoy flaming a lime twist on top, which adds a touch of danger… cheers,

    “flaming lime twist”?? Now that’s a party!

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    In Honor of Cinco de Mayo

    I know Cinco de Mayo isn’t until Monday, but I have a feeling that some folks out there want to get the party started over the weekend. Rigoberto Gonzalez has offered up a recipe for Michelada Mexicana, his favorite drink for the holiday. (He is so over the margarita.) But before the recipe, here’s a story about his family and the way they have made a language of their own.
    by Rigoberto Gonzales:
    Mexicans prefer the version that says “michelada” is an abbreviation of the phrase “mi chela helada” (my cold beer). One, because “chela” is Mexican slang for “beer” and two, because it celebrates a linguistic curiosity of Mexican Spanish—word coinage.
    In this case, a double-coinage: “chela” comes from the proper word for beer, “cerveza,” which is then used to coin the second term, “michelada.”
    In my memoir, Butterfly Boy, I tapped into how my own family invented words that developed from a series of associations. “Inflarse,” for example, means “to inflate onself,” but is used to describe a person who gets angry. How do members of the González family get angry: we inflate like toads. To say that someone got angry, you simply point with your chin and say, “Se infló.”
    As if it needs to be said.
    We are a family of big people, so the image really works on multiple levels.

    Continue reading

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    Michelada Mexicana by Rigoberto González

    Variations of this thirst-quenching drink are available throughout Latin America, but the Mexican recipe has found its way into the U.S. Rigoberto Gonalezmarket—slowly joining the margarita as the Cinco de Mayo beverage of choice. And like the margarita, there are dozens of stories floating around explaining the origin of its name and the origin of its creation, but people usually agree it’s a 1940s concoction because that’s when it started making appearances in film.

  • 12 oz. beer (Mexican beer, please!)
  • juice from a juicy lemon
  • 2 dashes of Worcestershire sauce
  • 1-3 dashes of Tabasco sauce (how spicy do you like it?)
  • 1 dash of soy sauce
  • 1 pinch of black pepper
  • salt
    Mix all ingredients with plenty of ice. Add beer. Shake it up. ¡Salud!

    “This stirring memoir of a first-generation Mexican American’s coming-of-age and coming out is wrenching, angry, passionate, ironic, and always eloquent about conflicts of family, class, and sexuality.” —Booklist, *starred review*.

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    Long Island Tea by A Native Daughter

    It’s Thursday, the end of a long week, and this writer could really use a cocktail. This week’s offering is a serious one by Kelly McMasters, author of just-released Welcome to Shirley, a green-themed memoir
    about her blue-collar hometown on the east end of Long Island. The town is a service-town to the Hamptons and is on the south shore, has a lovely natural setting, but is threatened by a nearby nuclear
    laboratory that has been leaking into the town’s drinking water
    aquifer for 50 years. (In other words, it may be safer to drink a Long Island Tea, than tap water– that’s just my two cents. Here’s what Kelly has to say about her hometown and it’s namesake cocktail.)
    “Of course, the drink I have in mind is the Long Island Iced Tea. I
    think it reflects the town perfectly–Shirley has an all-or-nothing
    vibe in its heart, and hard drinking took up much of our time as
    teenagers. The LI Iced Tea’s potency made it a favorite (along with
    Zima, which thankfully no longer exists!). And the drink’s undeserved
    bad reputation mirrors the story of my town.
    I also used to bartend, and whenever someone ordered this drink I
    immediately carded them–it is a favorite for the young/new drinker
    because it sounds classy, but has more alcohol than almost any other
    Here is the classic recipe:

  • 1 part Vodka
  • 1 part Tequila
  • 1 part Rum
  • 1 part Gin
  • 1 part Triple sec
  • 1.5 parts Sour mix
  • 1 splash Coca-Cola
Mix alcoholic ingredients together over ice in a glass.
    Pour into shaker and give ONE brisk shake. Pour back into glass and
    squirt in splash of soda– make sure there is a touch of fizz at the
    top. Garnish with lemon.
    “Powerful…debut explores the author’s happy childhood next to a
    controversial nuclear laboratory that leaked toxic waste into a Long
    Island aquifer. McMasters follows up this moving material with pages
    that delve into case-study numbers and scientific quotes … Sincere
    and expertly researched.”
    —Kirkus Reviews

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    Min Jin’s Spin on A Classic

    Min Jin Lee will be taking part in Upstairs At The Square tonight in NYC. If you’re around and not — like me — working late, you MUST attend.
    Here’s Min Jin’s spin on a classic:
    In my mind, I am a good drinker, because I am a good eater—an inveterate, unrepentant glutton of sorts with a gym membership. I eat butter, fried potatoes, white bread, spaghetti, and ice cream. I am never going to give up white rice. I am Korean, after all.
    However, I had a liver disease for over twenty years, and though I am very well now, I do not drink alcohol. Well, not often. I am that girl at the table who will eye your lovely drink and ask, “Hey, you gonna finish that?” I am a sipper. Kind of like your temporary taster.
    I am also a cook, and I look for reasons to make a party (that’s what you say in the boroughs). For brunch, I will fry up anything you want with eggs, cream and oil. At the house, there will be bacon and sausages, and I am delighted to bake you treats that will require a run or a swim. Outside the kitchen, my patient husband Christopher takes the coats and he’ll pour the drinks. This is what we serve on Saturday mornings:

  • 1 bottle of LOOZA tomato juice (33.8 oz)
  • 2-3 T bottled hot horseradish (not for the weak-kneed)
  • 5-6 dashes of Tabasco (The kitchen is operated by a Korean. See above.)
  • 10 -12 oz. of your favorite yuppie vodka (Ketel One, Stolichnaya, Absolut)
  • 2 T Worcestershire sauce
  • Freshly ground black pepper
    Combine the above ingredients into a large pitcher then pour into glasses filled with ice.
    Serves 4.
    “Assimilation. Independence. Love. Betrayal. Class. Race. Sex. It’s all in there. And reading FREE FOOD FOR MILLIONAIRES will, in the words of another writer to whom Lee has been compared, be a ‘far, far better thing’ than you’ve ever done.”
    – Karen Grigsby Bates, NPR DAY TO DAY

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    Camille’s Fast & Loose With Pomegranate Juice!

    Who could doubt cocktail advice from Camille Dungy? After all, her first book is called What To Eat, What To Drink, And What To Leave For Poison. As spring has finally sprung on the east coast, here’s her fun and fruity winter’s-over celebratory beverage.
    Here’s Camille and what she has to say this yummy concoction:
    “I’ve been loving the bitters. They’re good for the tummy and tasty on the tongue, but they are, well, bitter, so it’s always nice to lighten them up. It being the onset of spring, and Demeter all joyful to have her girl back, and there being little worry about anyone having to get stuck back in to winter for awhile now, how about playing fast and loose with pomegranate juice?”
    Here’s how to do it:

  • Fill a shaker with ice.
  • Add 4 parts pomegranate juice, 2 parts vodka, 1 part Campari.
  • Strain and pour into tumblers over ice.

  • Add 2-4 parts soda and generous squeeze of lemon (or just use sparkling lemonade), leave the twist in the glass.
    If you’re prone to like your drinks less fizzy, it’s plenty good without all the soda, but that twist is essential.
    “Whatever way you like your poetry, this book is a must.”
    —Nikki Giovanni

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    Rose Petal Iced Tea by Gayle Brandeis

    Cocktails with Writers was meant to celebrate the start of spring, but now I am using it to coax spring into showing her pretty face. So, in the spirit, here is a lovely non-alcoholic beverage contributed by Gayle Brandeis, the author of the novel, Self Storage. Here’s what she says about her recipe:
    “The main character of Self Storage is fascinated by her Afghan neighbor, who wears a full burqa. Flan never sees Sodaba’s face or has a full conversation with her, but their lives collide and they find human connection.”
    In honor of Sodaba and all her sisters, here is a cool drink for hot days, fragrant and refreshing:
    Rose Petal Iced Tea
    Serves 4-6

  • Petals from 3 pesticide-free roses
  • 1/2 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
  • 5 cups of water
  • 3 bags of green tea
  • sugar to taste

  • Boil 3 cups of water. Add the rose petals and lemon juice, turn off the heat and let steep for 8-10 hours.
  • Strain into a large jug; discard the petals.
  • Boil 2 cups of water. Remove from heat, and add the tea bags.
  • Brew for 5 minutes. Stir in sugar to taste.

  • Cool, then pour into jug with rose water. Add additional sugar if you’d like a sweeter tea.
    Serve well chilled over ice, garnished with extra rose petals (perhaps even candied rose petals), if desired.

    “Walt Whitman couldn’t have asked for a slyer, funnier, savvier envoy than Gayle Brandeis to carry his ‘Song of Myself’ into our day and age.” —ABBY FRUCHT

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    Almond Joy by Honoree Fanonne Jeffers

    Cocktails With Writers is a spring feature, but I figure it’s spring somewhere, if not here in New Jersey.
    Honoree Fanonne Jeffers, the author of three volumes of poetry, including Red Clay Suite, contributed the recipe. Here’s what she says about it:

    “I’m a fan of anything with coconut in it (cookies, candy, granola, etc.), and I was thrilled to discover coconut rum–the authentic kind, not the artificially flavored mess–at a Caribbean friend’s house about five years ago. I thought it was a new thing, but it turned out I was the last to know. I’m not too sophisticated about alcoholic drinks; I drank Mad Dog 20/20 back in college if that gives you any indication. Anyway, I wondered if there was a drink that tasted like an Almond Joy (the ultimate candy), so I found this recipe. For those who like their drinks a little stronger, add a little bit more rum (to taste), and for coconut fans like me, add a tablespoon of all-natural unsweetened coconut cream to the drink in the mixing process (although that will cut the sweetness a bit); you can find real coconut cream at health food stores, which in small cities like mine are usually across town from those naughty liquor stores.”

    Almond Joy Cocktail

  • 1/2 oz high-end coconut rum
  • 1 oz amaretto almond liqueur
  • 1 oz creme de cacao
  • 2 oz cream
  • ice
    Mix together all the liquid ingredients. Then pour over ice into a highball glass. You can garnish with shredded coconut and chocolate bar shavings if you want to get all fancy with it.

    “Honorée Jeffers leads with her ear and follows with her rigorous intellect, then adds an emotional depth and fearlessness that make her poems uniquely powerful. This brilliant third book is a thinking woman’s blues that continues to challenge, delight, and terrify.”—Elizabeth Alexander

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    Misery Loves Mojitos

    I was going wait until spring officially sprung, but after that little heartbreak with the nice people at MacDowell, I could use a little pick-me-up on the rocks.
    “Cocktails With Writers” is a weekly spring series here on the blog. Writers share with us their favorite drink recipes.
    Let’s kick it off with Carleen.

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