This is Creative Friends, the series where I spotlight friends whose work inspires me. I’m very excited to feature two mega talented women: Cameo Marlatt and Laura Becherer, authors of the recently released A Drink of One’s Own: Cocktails for Literary Ladies. This is a cocktail recipe book featuring recipes inspired by female writers from all around the world. So if you (like me) enjoy booze, books or all of the above, stick around!
For this post, I sat down with Cameo and Laura to chat about the inspiration behind their new book. Of course, we couldn’t do so without a cocktail in hand. Cameo whipped up The Sylvia Plath, which features gin, grenadine, cream, egg white and raspberry coulis. Delicious! We sat back and sipped our cocktails as Laura and Cameo filled me in on how A Drink of One’s Own was born.
Carly: You’ve created a cocktail book, with recipes inspired by female writers from around the world. How did you first come up with the idea for the book?
Laura: Cameo and I were sitting at a table at The Curler’s Rest pub and were discussing Kate Zambreno’s book Heroines, which we were studying in a class at that time. We were talking about how ill-used Zelda Fitzgerald has been, and how writing culture still reflects the glorified masculinity of Scott Fitzgerald, Hemingway, Bukowski, etc. A lot of them are exclusionary and misogynistic, and the idea of the alcoholic writer is romantic only when it’s men. When it’s a drunk woman, she’s out-of-control and a “hot mess.” Add into that all of the comments by said writers that still reflect the exclusionary publishing and reviewing world today, i.e. TS Eliot’s “there are few men, and no women, worth printing.” (Or whatever).
We pitched the book as a project for our Editing and Publication class. We pitched to Adrian from Freight Books and the project went from there.
So once you knew you were doing the book, how did you select which writers to include?
Laura: Originally, the list was 100 authors and we had to cut it down to around 50. Some of our favorite authors had to be scarified for the final edit. We focused on cutting white women when possible to avoid cutting down on the women of colour (including a number Black women specifically, and also Asian-American, Latina, and Native American). We were devoted to not cutting women of color and the publisher wanted a very international mix, so the final selection was a mixture of personal values (showcasing a diverse group of writers) and marketing aims.
Cameo: This was probably the hardest part of the process for us, because there are so many amazing women writers out there that we wanted on the list. We joke that we still both wake up in a cold sweat in the middle of night, thinking of women we should have included. For me, Ali Smith and Elizabeth Bishop were the hardest cuts, and I know that Laura would have loved to see Patricia Highsmith in the book. Our publisher chose to organize the drinks based on the authors’ countries of origin, so there is a diverse range of nationalities represented as well, though I regret that we don’t have more authors from African countries. But for us, the book’s feminist framework meant that diversity was our priority, and that really helped us make the final cut. One of the best things about writing this book was discovering and learning about underrepresented authors, and we wanted our readers to have the same experience.
My favorite cocktail from A Drink of One’s Own (so far), is The Virginia Woolf which features gin and sparkling lemonade. How did you come up with recipes to reflect the different authors?
Laura: We tried to make the cocktails new or a twist on an existing cocktail. All of our recipes are original, or as original as they can be in a world with literally thousands of cocktail recipes; you won’t find any mere copies of classic cocktails in our book. Sometimes we matched the cocktail to the personality of the writer, sometimes to where they are from (i.e. bourbon for a southern writer), sometimes to their work. Sometimes the link is very clear (a butterbeer martini for JK Rowling), sometimes its more subtle (oranges for Amy Tan, because she writes about Chinese culture and talks about oranges as good-luck food; or blackberries for Louise Erdrich because she’s from the Midwest and my own personal memories of Midwestern summers include blackberry picking). I researched a lot online and was more experimental with my creations than Cameo. I’m also a practicing witch and was interested in creating my own liquor and simple syrup infusions with herbs and fruit, etc.
Cameo: We both had so much fun with this aspect of the book. For me, it was more satisfying creatively than any of the writing, and I loved engaging with these authors’ works and personalities in such a unique way. Sometimes I would be inspired by specific details from the author’s texts. For example, there is a scene in one of Julia Alvarez’s novels in which a character goes guava picking, so I wanted to use guava juice in her cocktail. But for many of the recipes, it was more instinctual. The ‘Dorothy Parker,’ a classic manhattan with the addition of black pepper syrup, was inspired by the author’s personality and time period.
You are both writers, as well. If you had a cocktail in this book, what would it be?
Laura: My first inclination is to say something with hazelnut, because I love hazelnut (and hazelnut ice cream above all), but I’ve recently discovered, after writing the book, that the Bramble is my favorite cocktail. I like it with lime instead of lemon, so that would probably be my twist on a classic. Blackberries are, as I said, a big part of my childhood, so the Bramble tastes like a grown-up version of a kind of fairy-tale vision of my childhood. Since I work with fairy-tales so much, especially rewriting them for adults. So it seems appropriate.
I would definitely choose something whisky-based for Cameo, and something wicked strong! It’s not a cocktail, but I recently made her a whisky sugar scrub for Christmas, using my own personal bottle of Oban single malt. Whisky is just so Cameo—and she’s the one who introduced me to single malt, specifically my favorite (Laphroiag). And I’m not even a whisky person!
Since she loves the Manhattan, I would say that for Cameo I would make a Manhattan with Canadian whisky, since she’s from Canada, and would also maybe use orange bitters.
Cameo: This is such a good question! I’ve always had a soft spot for whisky cocktails, but if I were to choose a cocktail based on my writing, I think it would be more botanical in nature, because plants inspire much of my poetry. Maybe a very dry martini made with kelp-infused gin, with just a dash of orange blossom water.
And because I can’t stop myself from making cocktails for all the amazing women writers around me, I’ve made a “Carly Brown” as well. It is a take on the classic sidecar, for a very classy lady. I have lessened the lemon juice, and added pineapple juice for sweetness to create a cocktail that is bright and zesty, just like its namesake and her wonderful poetry!
The “Carly Brown”
1.5 oz. brandy
3/4 oz. Cointreau
¼ oz. lemon juice
1.5 oz. pineapple juice
lemon peel twist for garnish
In a cocktail shaker, combine ingredients, add ice, and shake until cold. Strain into a chilled old-fashioned glass. Run a lemon peel twist around the rim, and toss into the drink for garnish.
Thanks to Laura and Cameo for joining me for this interview and for making me a delicious cocktail from their collection! AND for creating a cocktail for me. 🙂 I can’t wait to try it!
You can order your copy of A Drink of One’s Own from the publisher, Freight Books, here.
The duo have also recently launched a literary magazine, Ground Floor Drinkers, aimed at publishing subversive writing that reflects on identity. They are currently open for submissions and you can find out more about it here.
Thanks for reading! x