On Books and Booze
Writers and writing have always gone hand in hand with drinking, and it was our pleasure to provide the liquid inspiration at this year’s Sydney Writers’ Festival. It was so inspiring, in fact, that it got us thinking about our favourite classic books with a spirituous spin.
Everyday Drinking, Kingsley Amis, 1983
Kingsley Amis wrote not just one book on the topic of drinking, but three, and they’re all gathered in this hilarious tome which is handy because they’re all out of print. Inside he offers witty musings on cocktails and hard spirits, turns down his nose at tequila, and offers hangover cures from Churchill to Coleridge (six fried eggs, one glass laudanum and seltzer for the latter).
On Booze, F. Scott Fitzgerald, 2011
“First you take a drink, then the drink takes a drink, then the drink takes you.” This collection of F Scott Fitzgerald’s best drinking stories will take you from the wine-soaked gutter to the sparkling Jazz Age with the turn of a page.
Peat Smoke and Spirit, Andrew Jefford, 2004
A now slightly out of date survey of one of the most charming and alluring regions of Scotland, Islay. It captures the essence of a rural distilling location and its inhabitants in at a critical moment in its evolution. The period of its writing exposes Islay in a time of innocence before the hoards of peat-loving whisky lovers turn their attention and glasses to the region. There is an honesty about the book in which distillery managers speak off script and openly. With a gentlemanly tone which underscores fantastic historical research, this is a must for any true whisky boffin.
The Science and Technologies of Whisky, J.R. Piggott, R Sharp and R. E. B. Duncan, 1989
Not exactly a light read, but this is one of the most travelled and lovingly worn books in our Master Distiller Dave Withers’s home library. It’s ultimately a technical resource, yet there is so much inspiration that can be gleaned from its pages. Dense (and for many people incomprehensible), this book is inspiring both scientifically and creatively.
A Moveable Feast, Ernest Hemingway, 1964
You can’t talk about reading or drinking without talking about Hemingway, who spent much of his youth in the 1920s downing glass after glass in the bars and cafes of Paris, attempting to make it as a writer. A Moveable Feast is a booze-soaked love letter to the City of Light and all its liquid pleasures - Kirsch, brandy, Campari, Champagne and plenty of carafes of Sancerre.
The Slap, Christos Tsiolkas, 2008
The undercurrent of beer and disobedience is one of the reasons we love this Australian novel. Set in “zombie suburbia”, as one character describes it, the tension increases with every chapter.
Down and Out in Paris and London, George Orwell, 1933
This particular memoir recalls Orwell’s ragged stint working on and off (mostly off) as a casual dishwasher, or plongeur, in the underworld kitchens of Paris. His prayer to a photo of Sainte Eloise begging for money for bread and wine at a particularly destitute moment sticks out - what else would you need for sustenance?