In Biblio’s hometown of Asheville, N.C. there are bars everywhere – in the local record store, on a nearby fire escape, in a shipping container. There’s a cigar bar, a guitar bar, and a used bookstore inside a Champagne Bar (our favorite!).
In that same vein, we’ve been daydreaming about opening our own bar – the Bibliobar – where you get a classic book to go with your drink order. It’s kind of like a blind date, only safer and more likely to be a good match.
Here are our book recommendations based on what you’re drinking. Feel free to chime in with your own drink and book recommendations in the comments, and look for round two (and three) of Bibliobar.
For the Oenophilic Bibliophile:
Sauvignon: The Lover by Margarite Duras
An autobiographical novel published in 1984 but taking place in the 1920s, The Lover tells the story of a 15-year-old French girl and her love affair with a wealthy 27-year-old Chinese man. Although their love is deep, there is no possibility of it existing beyond their brief affair, although the author is still so deeply affected by him that 70 years later she wrote the book. Duras struggled with alcohol throughout her life, and this book is said to have the confessional tone of someone after a few glasses of wine. The full body and high alcohol content of a Cabernet Sauvignon pair well with this novel’s sensuality.
2. House Red: Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck
Cushion your feelings about this depressing story that follows migrant farmers leaving Oklahoma for California to survive the Great Depression with an affordable glass of California juice.
This novel, published in 1939, won both the National Book Award and the Pulitzer Prize. Steinbeck went on to win the Nobel Prize in 1962. Steinbeck became a champion for workers rights and the plight of poor Americans after the publication of this book. In his 1962 work Travels with Charley Steinbeck states “I have always… drunk hugely… and taken my hangovers as a consequence, not as a punishment.”
3. Malbec – Good Morning, Midnight by Jean Rhys
Jean Rhys was born in 1890 on the island of Dominica where she grew up before being educated as a teenager in England. Her most famous novel, Wide Sargasso Sea (1966), is a prequel to Jane Eyre and focuses on the crazy wife in the attic. Good Morning, Midnight, published in 1939, deals with a protagonist that has returned to Paris but cannot seem to escape the desperation in her life and chases the loneliness and depression with alcohol and sleeping pills, adrift in the City of Love. Pair this heavy book with a very dark Malbec, or ‘black wine.’
4. Bubbly: Breakfast at Tiffany’s by Truman Capote
“I don’t think I’ve ever drunk champagne before breakfast before. With breakfast on several occasions, but never before,” says Holly Golightly. Don’t be a person who only watches the movie, because if you skip this classic novella you’ll miss a lot of the story! Get a glass of bubbly and sink into Capote’s tale of Holly Golightly’s search for love in the high culture cafe society of New York City in the 1940s.
5. Sauvignon Blanc – Pride & Prejudice by Jane Austen
Austen was a well-known lover of wines, mentioning not only the hope of her sister bringing a new white wine in her letters but also of drinking so much wine it affected penmanship. Order a glass of crisp dry Sauvignon Blanc to enjoy this 1813 British romance of manners and money.
6. “Several Bottles of Wine” – The Sun Also Rises by Ernest Hemingway.
If you are in the mood to order several bottles, you should pour yourself a glass or three and sit back to enjoy Hemingway’s 1926 novel about a bunch of British and American expatriates traveling from Paris to Pamplona to see the running of the bulls. Love, sex, death, masculinity, bulls – it’s pure Hemingway. We can’t promise you won’t get in a bar fight.
7. IPA – Midnight’s Children by Salman Rushdie
The name India Pale Ale came with the brew’s popularity with British troops during the occupation of India. In Midnight’s Children, Rushdie, a British Indian novelist, deals with India’s transition from British colonialism to independence. As in Satanic Verses and other Rushdie works, magical realism is an important part of the storytelling, so – Bartender’s tip – don’t have too many if you want to follow the tale.
8. Half Pint of Hobgoblin – The Lord of the Rings Trilogy by J.R.R. Tolkien
J.R.R. Tolkien was part of a writing group dubbed the Inklings, who met weekly for 20 years at a pub. At first, it was just Tolkien and his friend C.S. Lewis, meeting on Monday mornings to drink beer and talk, but eventually, the group grew to include 19 writers and the meetings moved to Thursday night. It was in this group that Tolkien began writing The Hobbit, the popularity of which spurred the creation of The Lord of the Rings. Let’s join Sam and Pippin as they sing “Ho! Ho! Ho! To the bottle I go / To heal my heart and drown my woe…”
Lit Canon Cocktails:
9. Bloody Mary – In Cold Blood by Truman Capote
Another pairing with a pick by Truman Capote, who was known to imbibe quite a bit. In Cold Blood is a non-fiction book published in 1966 which details the murder of a family of four in a small town in Kansas. After reading of the murders in the New York Times, Truman and his childhood friend Harper Lee, who published To Kill A Mockingbird in 1960, went to Kansas to investigate. Capote
10. Vesper – Casino Royale by Ian Fleming
“Three measures of Gordon’s, one of vodka, half a measure of Kina Lillet. Shake it very well until it’s ice-cold, then add a large thin slice of lemon peel. Got it?” The Vesper Martini is named after Vesper Lynd, the original Bond girl and one of the only girls Bond truly loved. According to Fleming the Vesper is “strong and cold and very well-made.”
Good luck getting an original Vesper though – the key ingredient is Kina Lillet, an aromatic wine that gave the Vesper its distinct bitter edge, and it is no longer available. An important ingredient in Kina Lillet was quinine, made from the bark of the cinchona tree and found to treat malaria, which was a big problem. As markets changed, the winery that produced Kina Lillet changed the recipe, taking out most of the bitter quinine, and changing the name to Lillet Blanc. If you want to be like Bond, we’ll let you have a Martini – shaken, not stirred…but if you order a chocolate martini we’re giving you Chitty-Chitty-Bang-Bang.
11. Martini, extra dry – Live or Die by Anne Sexton
Cut down on the vermouth to make your Martini extra dry, a la Anne Sexton. Sexton famously bonded with fellow poet Sylvia Plath over 3 extra-dry martinis at the Ritz Carlton in Boston. Sexton won the Pulitzer Prize in 1967 for her collection Live or Die, but, like Plath, Sexton struggled with depression and ultimately killed herself in 1974. Sorry to bring the place down, but most of the writers associated with heavy drinking tended to meet bitter ends despite their literary fame and triumphs.
12. Gin Rickey – The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald
Fitzgerald, a celebrated drinker, highlighted the popular Prohibition-era cocktail, the Gin Rickey, in his classic novel The Great Gatsby. The Rickey, a cocktail comprised of gin, lime juice, and soda, was a kind of precursor to the now popular Gin & Tonic before bottled tonic was readily available. Just avoid the swimming pool, ok?
13. Mint Julep – The Sound and the Fury by William Faulkner
Faulkner liked whiskey. He had his own recipe for a Mint Julep: whiskey, 1 tsp sugar, ice, and mint. The Sound and the Fury was Faulkner’s fourth novel, first published in 1929, and considered by many to be his masterpiece. The story is told from four distinct perspectives, and uses a stream of consciousness, inventive narration, time shifts, unconventional sentence structure, and punctuation to get
14. Liquid Heroin – The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde by Robert Louis Stevenson
Stevenson’s classic about good and evil was first published by Longman, Greens & Co. January 5th, 1886. Lose yourself in the tale of dueling personalities and the heady mix of one part Jager to one part Peppermint Schnapps. We can’t guarantee you won’t throw up, or kill someone.
And a Temperate Tome for the Teetotaler:
15. Shirley Temple – The Little Princess by Frances Hodgson Burnett
The Mocktail of all Mocktails, this mix of ginger ale and grenadine topped with a maraschino cherry is ordered by fancy kids at restaurants throughout the world, and it should be celebrated with this classic children’s tale that was later turned into a movie starring – you guessed it – Shirley Temple.
Amy C. Manikowski is a writer, bookseller, trail-diverger, history buff, and pitbull lover. She graduated from Chatham University with an MFA a while ago, and after wandering aimlessly settled in Asheville NC.