Where new writing finds its voice
The List

Literary Tipples

Felicity Cloake

‘Man, being reasonable, must get drunk;
the best of life is but intoxication’

– Lord Byron, Don Juan


  1. The real hero of Brideshead Revisited, Anthony Blanche, presses a snottily disapproving Charles Ryder into the George bar for an aperitif before their delightful dinner date in Thame. He ordered: ‘“Four Alexander cocktails, please,” ranged them before him with a loud “Yum-yum” which drew every eye, outraged, upon him. “I expect you would prefer sherry, but, my dear Charles, you are not going to have sherry. Isn’t this a delicious concoction? You don’t like it? Then I will drink it for you. One, two, three, four, down the red lane they go. How the students stare!”’ If you would like to follow Anthony’s excellent example, the Brandy Alexander is made of ¾ oz brandy, ¾ oz brown crème de cacao and ¾ oz single cream, garnished with freshly grated nutmeg (and a side order of tightly repressed homosexuality).

  2. The Vesper, James Bond’s drink of choice, is served in a deep Champagne goblet, and consists of ‘Three measures of Gordon’s, one of vodka, half a measure of Kina Lillet. Shake it very well until it’s ice-cold. Then add a large thin slice of lemon-peel.’ Make sure you don’t make the same mistake as the barman at the Casino at Royale-les-Eaux; the vodka must be grain, rather than potato-based. Kina Lillet is a brand of vermouth from Bordeaux now known simply as Lillet Blanc.

  3. During his time in Paris, as documented in A Moveable Feast, Hemingway was partial to the odd Chambéry Cassis, which is fairly self-explanatory once you know Chambéry is a vermouth from eastern France – the Dolin brand is widely available in this country. Please note that Ribena is no substitute for crème de cassis.

  4. In Raymond Chandler’s last novel, The Long Goodbye, gumshoe Philip Marlowe ensures his creator’s place in history by giving us the definitive recipe for a Gimlet: ‘A real gimlet is half gin and half Rose’s Lime Juice, and nothing else. It beats martinis hollow.’ The brand is important: Rose’s cordial contains actual lime juice. Value versions often do not.

  5. Falstaff is famous for his fondness for sack, declaring in The Second Part of King Henry the Fourth: ‘If I had a thousand sons, the first humane principle I would teach them should be, to forswear thin potations and to addict themselves to sack.’ Sack was the English name for a sweet wine made in the Jerez region of Spain, and a forerunner of the drink we know today as sherry. As it was only aged for a couple of years at most, experts have suggested that the closest modern equivalent would be a cheap, young oloroso sherry, further sweetened with honey for that authentic Falstaffian tooth-aching goodness.

  6. And finally, a Moloko Plus, popular with Alex and his droogs in A Clockwork Orange. It’s a milk-based cocktail (funny, you don’t imagine violent delinquents knocking them back, do you?) enhanced with vellocet or synthemesc or drencrom. Or you could just try adding some LSD as one internet site helpfully suggests.