The Canon: A Booze-Filled Reading Roundup

Getting drunk at the Vatican, growing seeds for cocktails, and the forgotten women who made a damn good drink.

by Paige Pritchard

photo illustration via Buzzfeed

There’s a lot to love about liquor. Embracing a spirit of choice is not only about the alcohol itself, but also its history and cultural background. Just like international cuisine, a region’s spirits are a palatable tourist destination. Visit the coast of Scotland via an Islay whisky dram, or travel back to 1920s Paris with a sip of the same cocktail Hemingway imbibed at Les Deux Magots. The shared experiences borne by fine spirits and their respective cocktails transcend time and geography, leaving stories as rich as the varying flavors along the way.

So, sidle up with your drink of choice, and sit back with this cocktail-friendly curated reading list. 

1. Specific Spirits: Don’t worry, you can even get drunk in Antarctica

“Using Absinthe in Cocktails” by Clair McLafferty

Paste, January 2015

Absinthe has been legal in the U.S. since 2007. Now that it’s more readily available to American drinkers, McLafferty answers the question, “what should we make with it?” 

“How to Drink Vodka at the Bar at the End of the Earth” by Alex Baumhardt

Munchies, February 2015

Veteran Riveter contributor Alex Baumhardt hopped on a scientific research vessel to Antarctica last year. She returned covered in penguin guano and telling some wild tales about vodka shots in the world’s southernmost bar.

“Shackleton’s Whisky” by Betsy Morais

The New Yorker, November 2012

One hundred years after Ernest Shackleton abandoned his 1907 mission to become the first explorer at the South Pole, a team of conservationists uncovered a store of whisky he left in the small hut his team built at their southernmost achieved point. This discovery resulted in a reproduction of the original spirit, a sold-out supply of said reproduction, and even a new modern-day voyage to recreate Shackleton’s original trip.

2. DIY: Be the change you want to see in your cocktails.

“How to Grow a Cocktail” by Jeanne Carstensen

Modern Farmer, April 2013

Cocktails become a lot more personal when the mixology process includes harvesting key cocktail ingredients, like ‘mojito’ mint or the staple Bloody Mary celery stalk, from your own garden.

“Q&A with Amy Stewart” by the Imbibe staff

Imbibe, December 2013

You might know horticulture and nature writer Amy Stewart better by her pseudonym – the Drunken Botanist. Gain insight into the plants used in famous spirits with this Q&A, or visit her book website.

“75 Cocktail Recipes to Make at Home” by the Imbibe staff

Imbibe, April 2009

Home bars are not just for man caves. Pick a few cocktail recipes from this list, and then stock your new bar cart accordingly.

3. Drunk History: To drink or not to drink, plus forgotten female bartenders.

“Players Club” by Rebecca Lemon

Lapham’s Quarterly 

Like many famous authors, William Shakespeare had a unique relationship with drinking. Learn all about it in this “brief history of Shakespeare and alcohol.”

“Masters of Mixology: Ada Coleman” by Gary Regan, August 2012

Coleman rose to fame as bartender at The Savoy Hotel bar in the early 1900s. Although her name has been buried in some history books, many in-the-know mixologists are well acquainted with the industry’s first famous lady libationist.

“The Sobering History of Women Bartending” by Cristen Conger

Stuff Mom Never Told You, June 2010

Learn why some women (like Ada Coleman above) were written out of bartending history with this podcast from Stuff Mom Never Told You.

4. Boozy Habits: From drinking while writing to drinking while…going to church.

“Pregnant Pause?” by Alyssa Giacobbe

Boston Magazine, December 2012

Is it really that damaging for a woman to have an occasional drink while pregnant? Despite mounting evidence against the traditional no-booze-with-baby-bump rule, many women still feel ashamed for even asking this question. Giacobbe gets in-depth on the current culture and research surrounding drinking while pregnant.

“The Best Time I Attended Mass at the Vatican While Drunk” by Jessie Lochrie

The Hairpin, August 2014

Because we’ve all been there, right?

“What drives writers to drink?” by Olivia Laing

The Guardian, July 2013

Remember when I mentioned that thing about Shakespeare and writing and drinking? Laing wrote a whole book about it. Get a taste with this edited extract.

“Sometimes Women Want to Drink Alone” by Rebecca Mae Lam

Munchies, July 2014

This one’s for all the women who just want to sit down with a scotch neat and a nice book at a bar and not get weird looks. 

“A Woman’s Right to Booze” by Jane-Claire Quigley

The Hairpin, July 2013

Get giggly with these re-imagined cocktail names, like “A Rum of One’s Own.” Our staff favorite from this list: “Rosé the Riveter” (duh).

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Paige Pritchard is a contributing writer at The Riveter. Follow her on Twitter at @peapodpritchard.