1. Vesper Martini — Casino Royale
So named for Vesper Lynd, the only woman James Bond ever loved, Sir Ian Fleming created this cocktail for his famous British spy while writing at the Duke’s Hotel. As for how to make the Vesper Martini, I’ll leave it to Bond to tell you: “Three measures of Gordon’s [gin], 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. Got it?”
2. Mint Julep — The Great Gatsby
Daisy Buchanan’s favorite drink is the classic libation of all Southern belles. Typically reserved for the Kentucky Derby and hot summer days, the Mint Julep is an endlessly superior alternative to all the cheap beer and Franzia that too often dot New Year’s Eve parties. Crush 4-5 mint leaves; add two sugar cubes, and two teaspoons of water in a Tom Collins glass. Fill it up with crushed ice and add 2.5 oz. of bourbon. Keep it classy by sipping from a straw, and, if you’re so inclined, perhaps serve it with a little bit of Daisy-style sass: “‘I’ll make you a mint julep,’ Daisy tells Tom. ‘Then you won’t seem so stupid to yourself.’”
3. Singapore Sling — Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas
The Singapore Sling was the beginning of a very weird journey for Hunter S. Thompson’s Raoul Duke. As Thompson writes, we were “sitting in the Pogo Lounge of the Beverly Hills Hotel… in the patio section, of course, drinking Singapore Slings with mescal on the side.” Named after its place of creation — the Raffles Hotel in Singapore — it’s not an easy drink to make, and yet its fascinating complexity is surely worth a try. Combine 1.5 oz. of gin, .05 oz of Cherry Liqueur, 0.25 oz. of Cointreau, 0.25 oz. of Benedictine, .33 oz. of grenadine, 0.5 oz. of lime juice, 4 oz. of pineapple juice, and a dash of bitters. Serve over ice in a highball glass.
4. Alexander Cocktail — Brideshead Revisited
Anthony Blanche, the eccentric “aesthete par excellence,” was serious about his dessert drinks. It’s may not be the most typical posh Oxford cocktail, but does well for those chilly English evenings. More for after dinner than before, the Alexander is crafted by pouring 1 oz. brandy, 1 oz. dark crème de cacao, and 1 oz. cream into a chilled shaker. After straining into a cocktail glass (a tumbler does just fine), then you can garnish with a dusting of nutmeg.
5. Wine Spodiodi — On the Road
At one point in Jack Kerouac’s classic critique of contemporary culture, he and Dean walk into to a bar only to discover a truly ingenious drink. As Kerouac writes, “Dean and I had ended up with a colored guy named Walter who ordered drinks at the bar and had them lined up and said, ‘Wine Spodiodi!’ which was a shot of port wine, a shot of whiskey, and a shot of port wine. ‘Nice sweet jacket for all that bad whiskey!’ he yelled.” The best part is that the Wine Spodiodi isn’t a bad mask for all that cheap wine either.
6. May Queen — Uncle Fred in the Springtime
Having already invented The Broken Compass, the Sewing Machine, the Comet, the Atomic, the Cement Mixer, and the Gremlin Boogie, P.G. Wodehouse’s greatest literary cocktail creation is surely The May Queen. In Uncle Fred in the Springtime, Lord Icenham mentions the drink, saying, “Tomorrow’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.” As for how to make it, you’ll need a base of dry champagne in a champagne flûte (fill it up as much as you wish) with the additions of liqueur brandy, Armagnac, kümmel, yellow liqueur, and old stout, to taste. Wodehouse never specifies ratios, but four parts champagne to a half part of everything else usually does the trick.
7. Moloko Plus — A Clockwork Orange
Tap into your inner deviant with the drink of choice of Alex, Anthony Burgess’ roaming, violent misfit. The drink is terribly odd, but weirdly tasty (although I’d recommend it after having had a few other drinks). Try combining 1 oz. absinthe, 1 oz. anisette liqueur, 2 oz. Irish cream liqueur, 1 tablespoon of sugar, and 5 oz. of milk. Put it all in an ice shaker, then strain into a tall highball glass. Alex took his with barbiturates (central nervous system depressants), but I wouldn’t recommend this illegal addition.