With one hand firmly grasping a trusty cocktail recipe book, like PDT Cocktail Book (Sterling, $24.95), Death & Co. (Ten Speed, $40) or The 12 Bottle Bar (Workman, $14.95), I've been perfecting my own bartending technique. And there's nothing quite like a fresh, cool drink enjoyed while reading on a sunlit deck in summertime. Here are several of my recent favorite cocktail and book pairings:
Rosemary Tom Collins (rosemary-infused gin, lemon juice, simple syrup and seltzer, over ice in a Collins glass): the bitter herb infusion complicates this classic's light, tart effervescence, making it the perfect companion for the genealogical and paranormal investigation Hannah Nordhaus documents in American Ghost (Harper, $25.99). History twisted by legend makes for the best haunting stories, and folklore often associates rosemary with remembering the dead.
Rattlesnake (rye, lemon juice, agave syrup and egg white in an absinthe-rinsed coupe): I love drinks with a frothy whip on top. They're often rich, mesmerizing cocktails and this one, with its whisky base, carries a powerful bite, one not dissimilar to the vibrant, luxurious verse in Parneshia Jones's book Vessel (Milkweed, $16). Sip both of them slowly; savor them.
Champs-Élysées (cognac, lemon juice, green chartreuse, simple syrup, angostura bitters in a chilled coupe): known for its many delightful attractions, the thoroughfare in Paris from which this drink derives its name is perfectly analogous to the curious and varied flavors swirling in the glass. In perhaps an artless pairing on my part, it makes sense to be enjoyed with sensual, tempting story of Édouard Manet's muse in Paris Red (Norton, $24.95), a novel by Maureen Gibbon. Sultry and intense, their pleasures are plentiful.
Of course, while enjoying a book, there is no wrong libation to sip. Whatever suits your mood will do just fine, and mine tends toward the old fashioned. --Dave Wheeler, associate editor, Shelf Awareness