How’s Your Drink? (Book Review)

June 8, 2012

My first book review, ‘Boozehound’ was cocktail travelogue. The last one, ‘Imbibe’ was cocktail history and archaeology. ‘How’s Your Drink’ – a reworking of author Eric Felten’s former cocktail columns for the Wall Street Journal – is a marvellous piece of cocktail cultural and literary studies.

That isn’t to say that How’s Your Drink: Cocktail Culture, and the Art of Drinking Well, is dense and academic. Far from it. It’s a breezy yet educated read which, much like ‘Boozehound’, mixes great writing about the subject with related cocktail recipes (about 50 in all).

Felten has a lot of the history of the drinks, but it’s certainly a cultural history, heavy on the interesting anecdotes, and peppered with scores of references from literature and film – a touch that I adore – from James Bond to John Updike to The Thin Man to Philip Marlowe. For example, quick pop quiz, what is the first drink James Bond orders in his first novel – a Vodka Martini (shaken not stirred), right? No, it’s an Americano (Campari, Sweet Vermouth and Soda), and he also drinks Gin and Tonic, Enzian, Ouzo, Raki, Old-Fashioneds, Bourbon and Branch, his own signature drink the Vesper, and even a Miller Beer.

Eric Felten

There’s great stuff in this slim 200-page volume; stuff that when researching drinks for this blog I was unable to find anywhere online. I love his comments on the ridiculous gender stereotyping of drinks (I mean “Ladies’ drinks” – what is this? Victorian England?) and his rhapsodic writing about his favourite bar, Blair’s Blue Room, really makes me want to go there. Where is it? You’ll have to read to find out.


6 Responses to “How’s Your Drink? (Book Review)”

  1. putneyfarm Says:

    I enjoyed his columns, so will check out the book. Thanks.

  2. […] get this information from How’s Your Drink, by Eric Felten, and he supplies this variation which I have yet to try, but looks […]

  3. […] again it was Eric Felten to the rescue. In his wonderful book, How’s Your Drink?, I found a few pages dedicated to Pousse Café. He writes about how Trader Vic’s story above […]

  4. […] usual, one of my best booze anecdotes comes from Eric Felten’s great book, How’s Your Drink. He tells how Teddy Roosevelt defended against accusations that his high-spirited behaviour was due […]

  5. […] The next one I was tried was a Brandy Smash, with this recipe from Eric Felten: […]

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