Sunday, October 2, 2011

Literature's Greatest Cocktails: 6 Inventive Libations

Writers have a long and complicated history with alcohol (see John Cheever or F. Scott Fitzgerald for further info), which may be why, when faced with the task of writing about alcoholic beverages, they pull out all the creative stops.

                                 Photo: Cocktails 365

Inventing a cocktail allows an author to be as hyperbolic as he or she would like to be when describing the taste and the effects. Read on for the best of the bunch. It's 5 o'clock somewhere.

Moloko Plus
from A Clockwork Orange by Anthony Burgess

Alex and his droogie friends in A Clockwork Orange spend their slack time in the Korova milk bar drinking Moloko, or "milk-plus" --the "plus" being any one of a selection of near-futuristic designer drugs. Moloko may not contain actual alcohol, but the added vellocet, synthemesc or drencrom make Alex feel "knifey." Anything that leads to stomping hobos, putting the smackdown to random academics and leaving a newsstand covered in blood is apt to be pretty strong (and a long way from making risque jokes at the office party).

The Glasgow Kiss
from The Cruise Connection by Peter Kerr

You wouldn't want to eat the food on mystery writer Peter Kerr's fictitious cruise ship The Ostentania (a severed finger is found in the quiche lorraine), but the drinks are plenty strong. So strong, in fact, that Kerr reports that a reader who didn't realize it was a joke imbibed a real-life Glasgow Kiss, landing him in the hospital. The ingredients for the drink (named for the Scottish slang for a headbutt): Scotch whisky, Drambuie, Southern Comfort, brandy, gin, vodka, tequila, Pernod, sweet sherry, port, cherry brandy, Archer's peach liqueur, Carlsberg Special, Coke, Buckfast Tonic Wine and Irn-Bru.

The cocktail is pre-mixed in a stainless steel bucket, then dispensed into glasses via hypodermic syringe just before serving. (Does "Do not try this at home" even need to be said?) [Note: If, like many outside the UK, you're unfamiliar with Irn-Bru, get a load of their TV ads. Some of the best/funniest in the biz.]

The Pan-Galactic Gargle Blaster from The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams

Drinking what is reported to be the most potent drink in the Universe, courtesy of Douglas Adams' Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, "is like having your brain smashed out by a slice of lemon wrapped round a large gold brick." Several adventurous mixologists have supposedly concocted real-life versions, but Adams says no way. "Unfortunately there are a number of environmental and weapons treaties and laws of physics which prevent one being mixed on Earth," he said in an interview. (Not to mention the fact that peach schnapps and blue curacao are no substitute for Arcturan mega-gin and Fallian marsh gas bubbles.)

The Electrick Floorbanger
from Monstrous Regiment by Terry Pratchett

'Got no head for his drink,’ said Eyebrow. ‘Typical of the young bucks. Wants to play the big troll, comes in here, orders an Electrick Floorbanger, doesn’t know how to handle it.'

Suffice it to say that a drink that can knock out a troll is not one for the kiddies. Pratchett doesn't tell us precisely what goes into the makeup of an Electrick Floorbanger, but the trolls in his Disc World series tend to drink liquefied metals. Troll beer is ammonium sulfide dissolved in alcohol, so it stands to reason that the cocktail is, at the very least, like drinking a battery. Maybe with orange juice.

The Vesper Martini from Casino Royale by Ian Fleming

James Bond is pretty much synonymous with martinis, and the movies have ensured that we know exactly how he likes them. The first drink Bond orders in print, though, is an Americano. In Casino Royale, he deviates again from the martini recipe we know so well, ordering a concoction he says is his own invention: Gordon's, vodka and Kina Lillet (though his instructions are considerable more exacting.) "I'm going to patent it when I can think of a good name," he says, later naming it for love interest Vesper Lynd.

As this drink is actually re-constructable, try one, as Bond insisted, "in a deep champagne goblet," with a "large thin slice of lemon peel." You'll first have to shake the daylights out of it, but that's a paraphrase.

The May Queen from Uncle Fred in the Springtime by P.G. Wodehouse

If there were a literary prize for excellence in fiction featuring cocktails, Wodehouse would win the Lifetime Achievement trophy. Besides creating the iconic ne'er-do-well tippler Bertie Wooster (who once announced he would name his first child "Green Swizzle Wooster" in admiration of a cocktail he was particularly enjoying), Wodehouse also gave us a list of the 6 types of hangovers: The Broken Compass, the Sewing Machine, the Comet, the Atomic, the Cement Mixer and the Gremlin Boogie.

His most genius contribution to the fictional cocktail world, though, comes in the novel Uncle Fred in the Springtime, in the form of a concoction which has to be abbreviated as "The May Queen." The full name of the cocktail, as described by Lord Ickenham, is "To-morrow'll be of all the year the maddest, merriest day, for I'm to be Queen of the May, mother, I'm to be Queen of the May."

It consists, Ickenham says, of "any good dry champagne, to which is added liqueur brandy, armagnac, k├╝mmel, yellow liqueur, and old stout, to taste." He adds that it's pretty much guaranteed to alleviate the deepest despondency.

Got a literary drinking anecdote? Leave it in the comments section. Unless it's the one about a drunken Tennessee Williams swallowing the lid to an aspirin bottle and subsequently expiring. Heard it.


  1. I had to smile from the innovativeness of this post. Good one. I'm not too surprised if a lot of writers enjoy sitting in the evening with some type of alcoholic beverage, sipping as they write. I do it myself on occasion. I would also not be surprised as the alcohol romances ones writing state of mind that the writer might slip some alcohol into the written work at hand. It wouldn't surprise me at all.

    The examples you cited here are some pretty inventive drinks I must say. Offhand the first literary drinking example that comes to my mind is in Catcher in the Rye, but only because it's one of the most recent things I've read. Don't remember the specifics and it's not because I've drinking this morning. I just have a bad memory.

    Tossing It Out

  2. I remember Holden Caulfield ordering a Scotch and soda. The rest is a bit of a blur. (Read it decades ago.)

  3. After reading this, I wonder if my writing would be more "creative" if I took up drinking. I might need to experiment.

  4. I am posting this for another blogger who can't seem to post a comment on your site Lee : (to follow)

  5. KELLY ~
    I really like your blog! Normally I do not care for blogs about writing (as ArLEE Bird will confirm), but yours isn't one of those "instructive" bores (e.g., here's how to create more believable characters; here's how to spice up your plots; here's how to compose an effective query letter; here's how to... Zzzzzzzz...).

    You write very well and you are entertaining!

    ...Wodehouse also gave us a list of the 6 types of hangovers: The Broken Compass, the Sewing Machine, the Comet, the Atomic, the Cement Mixer and the Gremlin Boogie.

    Six different types, eh? Yeah, I can believe that because I have experienced all seven of them!

    In what book does he describe them? Is that in "Uncle Fred In The Springtime" also?

    He's right though, there really is more than one kind of hangover... up until about 26 years of age. After that, I think they are pretty much the same and simply "unfun". Maybe 3 kinds after 26: Headache & Nausea; Mental Weird-out; and Nausea WITH Mental Weird-out.

    In about 1991 or '92 I attended a bartender's school and afterwards I invented my own cocktail called a "Frozen Walt". It was one of those slushy-type concoctions but layered with multiple colors. I got the idea for the name by thinking of how colorful the animated Disney movies are and combining that with the fact or the urban myth that Walt Disney's body resides in a cryogenic tube somewhere.

    I can't even remember now what the "Frozen Walt" consisted of, but I always thought I had come up with a "cool" name.

    Your blog is quickly becoming one of my favorites that I “Follow”. I sure wish I could leave comments on it, but the buggy system won’t allow me to. What a pisser!

    ~ D-FensDogg
    'Loyal American Underground'

  6. Visit Stephen's blog at

    His post on Rock and roll L.A. is one I think you'd enjoy, not to mention his many other posts. Hopefully, he'll be able to leave comments on your site on his own in the future.


  7. Stephen--

    Thanks for all the kind words, even if you had to send them by messenger. The 6 types of hangovers are mentioned in The Mating Season, one of the Jeeves and Wooster novels --all of which usually end up having a lot of fun commentary on drinking. Bertie Wooster is probably my favorite fictitious drinker, with Nick Charles of the Thin Man movies a close second.

    Thanks for following. Sounds like I have a reputation to uphold now!

  8. "If there were a literary prize for excellence in fiction featuring cocktails, Wodehouse would win the Lifetime Achievement trophy."

    Hahaha! Sing it, sister!

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