Wednesday, November 21, 2018

On the Coffee Table: Eric Felten

Title: How's Your Drink?: Cocktails, Culture, and the Art of Drinking Well
Author: Eric Felten
Learning more about cocktails is a central piece of my stated mission for the blogging yearHow's Your Drink? is the second non-fiction book I've read recently on the subject.  Whereas the quest of David Wondrich's Imbibe! (reflection here) is authentic history, Felten's book is more free-wheeling.  Felten still includes plenty of history but he explores broader topics, too: liquor-related scandals, drinks and gender, drinks and the military, drinks and the holidays and, soberly, drink and addiction.  While I would give Wondrich the win for likely accuracy, Felten's book is more fun.

Most enjoyable for me are the many film and literature references.  Predictably, James Bond gets lots of love.  007's tastes are much mocked by cocktail enthusiasts but there's no doubt author Ian Fleming inspired many of those same enthusiasts with the ink devoted to the vodka martini and the Americano.  The gimlet plays a starring role in Raymond Chandler's The Long Goodbye.  There are a couple references to The Thin Man, one of my wife's favorite movies, including Nick's advice on cocktail shaking: "Always have rhythm in your shaking.  Now, a Manhattan you shake to fox-trot time, a Bronx to two-step time, a dry Martini you always shake to waltz time."

Felten comes from a family of jazz musicians so not surprising that the music world gets its due.  The bar blender, without which frozen daiquiris and margaritas would not exist and Jimmy Buffet would have lacked a clever rhyme, was marketed and popularized by Fred Waring, a Jazz-Age bandleader.  Unfortunately, this same squealing blender has been the bane of existence for musicians playing in bars ever since.

It's a fun read.  I am glad to have read both in succession as I now feel well-equipped to drone on Cliff Clavin-style about cocktails to whomever will listen.  I'll be trying Fenten's recipes, too.  Stay tuned.


  1. Loved watching the The Thin Man with my Mum and Gimlets but most of all enjoy your Cocktail Aventures.

    Happy Thanksgiving,
    cheers, parsnip and badger

  2. And that also sounds like fun but probably not something I'll be able to get to right away.

    And happy Thanksgiving to you!
    What did you try as a Thanksgiving cocktail?