The news last week that the author of "To Kill a Mockingbird," Harper Lee, had died was sad to all of us who loved her book as well as her iconic characters, including Scout, Atticus, Dill and Bo Radley. I first read the novel in freshman English class many years ago, and just to remind myself of its brilliance, I re-read it a few years ago, marveling once again at her storytelling abilities.
But I was also reminded of another book -- and I don't mean Lee's other novel, "Go Tell a Watchman." The book I was thinking of was a slender volume from 2013 bearing the punderful name "Tequila Mockingbird: Cocktails with a Literary Twist" (Running Press, $15) by Tim Federle.
Yes, your favorite volumes of literature (and a few you may have hated, too) have provided the basis for some fantastic drinks. Romance lovers will lap up the liquid tale of Romeo and Julep or the Austen-inspired Rye and Prejudice. Fans of magical realism can always soak up Love in the Time of Kahlua, while a few too many Malted Falcons will give you a noir to forget.
These are not simply classic drinks with a classic title twisted to suit the occasion. Well, not all. Are You There, God, It's Me, Margarita? does offer a fine, traditional mix of tequila, triple sec and lime without any sugary additions. The Lord of the Mai-Tais, though, starts with rum and a slice of pineapple as a garnish, but the drink also includes a winning combination of cranberry juice, orange juice, coconut rum and grenadine. Gin Eyre is an original mix of gin with mint, lemon juice, sugar and orange bitters for a refreshing summertime treat. And who would not be crazy for a drink called The Rye in the Catcher with its blend of rye, pineapple and lemon juices, and ginger beer?
Federle has taken his gift for puns on to other fields and has produced two more cocktail books, "Hickory Daiquiri Dock: Cocktails with a Nursery Rhyme Twist" and "Gone with the Gin: Cocktails with a Hollywood Twist." As if that's not enough, he's also a YA novelist who's working on a musical version of "Tuck Everlasting."
But back to "Tequila Mockingbird." In writing about the original novel, Federle offers this explanation for the inspiration of his drink: "After a conclusion that leaves you both hopeful and haunted, toast to a sometimes sour justice system with a tequila shot that's guilty of packing a dill pickle punch." Raise a toast to Harper Lee while you're at it. and enjoy.
1 1/2 ounces tequila
2 drops hot sauce
1 dill pickle
Pour the tequila into a shot glass, add the hot sauce, and slam that bad boy back before chasing with a big chomp of pickle. No tears allowed here: If you can't stand the heat, get out of the South.
Makes 1 cocktail.
From "Tequila Mockingbird" by Tim Federle