Jule Selbo enjoys an eponymous Belmont Jule. Photo by Mark Winkworth

One of the best gifts I received in 2020 was Tim Federle’s book “Tequila Mockingbird: Cocktails with a Literary Twist.” If you’re already familiar with my love of puns, you’ll understand how delighted I was to discover cocktails such as Love in the Time of Kahlua, Gin Eyre, and Are You There, God? It’s Me, Margarita. When I came across the Bloody Carrie, I had to see what I could come up with for other Maine authors.

I already run a book club in which I pair a cocktail with each book, and although they’ve always been connected in theme, now I try to give them punny names as well. This month, we’re reading Kerri Arsenault’s “Mill Town: Reckoning With What Remains.” The drink, essentially a margarita (for Mexico, Maine, the author’s hometown) made with rum (for neighboring Rumford, where the mill is based) instead of tequila, is delicious, but I needed a name. Arsenault suggested Mill Swill. Her superior wordsmithing prowess may have something to do with why she has a book out, and I do not. Well, that and the fact that she was willing to do over 10 years of research.

If you or your book club is at a loss for what to read, or drink, next, perhaps these Maine author-inspired cocktails will help.

Starting with the classics, I’d do a Longfellow Iced Tea in honor of Maine’s most famous poet. E. B. White, who wrote much of his work at his farm (the inspiration for “Charlotte’s Web”) in Brooklin, would get an E.B. White Russian (vodka, cream, and a coffee liqueur such as Kahlua).

If you’re making an E.B. White Russian, you might as well go ahead and make a Black Russo-ian (vodka and coffee liqueur) to accompany one of Richard Russo’s many novels.  Alternatively, you could drink a gin and tonic while shouting “The sun never sets on the British Empire Falls!” in honor of his Pulitzer-winning novel, which was made into a miniseries starring Paul Newman.

Speaking of gin, pour some over an olive and you’ve got Olive, In Gin, the perfect partner for Elizabeth Strout’s novel “Olive, Again.” If you’re feeling macabre, use your gin to make a Corpse Reviver (1 ounce gin, 1 ounce Lillet Blanc, 1 ounce lemon juice, 1 ounce orange liqueur and a dash of absinthe) to enjoy with one of the many works by either former homicide detective Bruce Coffin or former Buddhist monk and boxer Jaed Coffin.

If bourbon is more your style, grab one of Jule Selbo’s books or plays and make a Belmont Jule (1.5 ounce bourbon, 2 ounce lemonade and 1 ounce pomegranate juice), a riff on the Belmont Jewel, the official cocktail of the Belmont Stakes. If you’re a Monica Wood fan, have an Old Fashioned made with Papermaker’s Mark or Woodford Reserve.

Vodka enthusiasts can make an Oaks Lily to sip while reading something from Lily King.  A sweeter version of a Cosmo, the Oaks Lily is popular at the Kentucky Derby and contains vodka, cranberry juice, orange liqueur, simple syrup, and lemon juice. Garnish with blackberries.

An even sweeter option is a Mudslide (Bailey’s, vodka, and coffee liqueur), perfect for Susan Conley’s most recent novel, “Landslide.”

If you’re more of a mocktail person, you can enjoy a Shirley Temple Stream in conjunction with Bill Roorbach’s “Temple Stream.”

Kate Russo, drinking an Amaretto Sour. Photo by Tom Butler

I don’t want to overlook some exciting first books by Maine authors, so let’s start with Kate Russo (who I was delighted to discover is a former bartender). The main character of her debut novel, “Super Host,” carries a bottle of Amaretto around with him, so an Amaretto Sour was the natural choice: bourbon, Amaretto, simple syrup, lemon juice and maraschino cherries.

If you’ve been dying to read Vietnamese immigrant Phuc Tran’s memoir, “Sigh, Gone,” pour yourself some good quality rye. When the glass is empty, put it down and announce, “Rye gone!”

Angie Bryan is a former diplomat who is enjoying getting acquainted with her new home in Portland, one cocktail at a time.


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