The best—if we’re being honest, maybe the only good—part of the summer of 2020 has been the books. From twisty thrillers to steamy romances, we’ve had it all. Our summer 2020 reads are hot, sweet, evocative—kind of like a really good cocktail. And since you’re likely reading any number of these with a drink in your hand anyway, I thought I’d do the work of pairing some of the biggest summer reads with the perfect drink. You’re welcome.
‘Luster’ + Death In The Afternoon
I love a Death in the Afternoon—and no, that’s not just when my coffee crash hits—because this cocktail almost begs you to drink it. It’s so glamorous, yet kind of out-there (tell me the last time you saw one of these on a cocktail menu… exactly). Not to mention, it’s delicious. I think Raven Leilani’s Luster is just as compelling. So much of this book is about that all-too-familiar striving for satisfaction, electric and desperate and wry. Luster is the perfect accompaniment to this cocktail because it hits those same dark and quixotic notes. Another irresistible point of symmetry is that this drink has only three ingredients, mirroring the open marriage at the center of this story.
- ¾ oz absinthe
- 4 oz chilled prosecco
- 1 sugar cube
Pour the absinthe into a champagne glass. Slowly add the chilled prosecco; if you do it right, your drink will turn an enchanting, iridescent green. Drop in the sugar cube and enjoy that gratifying fizz while it lasts.
‘Hysteria’ + Tequila And Habanero Sour
This book burns with sensual urgency, sort of like the burn from the habanero in this twist on a sour. Jessica Gross’ immersive and dark debut is complex and beautiful, hitting every note in that virtuosic range between desire and shame. I couldn’t resist matching Hysteria with this spicy tequila sour, a drink that encompasses an equally impressive range of flavor and fragrance.
- 4 oz blanco tequila
- 2 oz freshly squeezed lemon juice
- 1 ½ oz agave
- 2 dashes habanero hot sauce
Add the tequila, lemon juice, and agave into a shaking tin. Throw in the hot sauce and five to seven ice cubes, then shake vigorously for almost a full minute (if your arms can hold up). Fill two rocks glasses with ice and pour out the mixture through a strainer, dividing the cocktail between the glasses equally. Garnish each glass with a freshly sliced lemon wheel.
‘The Death Of Vivek Oji’ + Mezcal Aperol Gimlet
Akwaeke Emezi’s story about community and loss is the real deal. The masterfully rendered characters and shifting points of view create a poignant vision of the kaleidoscopic world surrounding Vivek. I found it nearly impossible to put this book down, which is why I had to pair it with a drink that I also find impossible to put down: this complex, bittersweet, vibrant mezcal Aperol gimlet.
- 2 oz mezcal
- ¾ oz agave nectar
- 1 ½ tsp Aperol
- ¾ oz freshly squeezed lime juice
- grapefruit zest for garnish
Combine the mezcal, agave, Aperol, and lime in a shaking tin. Add five to seven ice cubes and shake vigorously for at least 30 seconds. Strain your cocktail into a rocks glass filled with ice and garnish with a generous strip of grapefruit zest, if you have it.
‘Pizza Girl’ + Rum And Cherry Coke
Pizza Girl will take you for a ride in the very best way. Jean Kyoung Frazier so clearly, brilliantly—and almost harshly, because it’s so relatable it may feel like an attack—renders the mistakes, tragedies, and miracles of youth. I couldn’t resist going a little more literal with this one and pairing Pizza Girl with a riff on a rum and coke. This one’s hopefully a step up from what you were drinking in your high school friend’s basement while your parents thought you were studying, but it’s still a throwback to those days. (Not to mention, it goes great with pizza.)
- 2oz Flor de Cana rum
- 4 oz cherry Coke
- 1 maraschino cherry
You know this song, right? Fill a tall glass with ice and add your rum and cherry coke. Give it a little stir and add a maraschino cherry so you can practice tying the stem into a knot with your tongue when you’re finished.
‘Last Call On Decatur Street’ + Sazerac
Iris Martin Cohen’s Last Call on Decatur Street perfectly captures the blurry beauty of a long night out in one of the most bewitching cities in the world. (Ugh, remember nights out?) A Sazerac is really the only match for this dazzling ode to New Orleans, since the drink was created there in the early 19th century. The dreamy absinthe rinse along with a bold bolt of rye will bring you to the exact sort of summer night Cohen conjures in her page-turning second novel. Just maybe pace yourself with this drink, or you may find yourself having a blurry night of your own.
- 1 ½ tsp absinthe
- 2 oz rye
- 4 dashes Peychaud’s bitters
- 2 dashes Angostura bitters
- 1 ½ tsp simple syrup
Pour the absinthe into a glass along with two ice cubes; swirl the glass and coat the interior. Set aside and add rye, both bitters, simple syrup, and ice to a separate mixing glass. Stir for about a minute. Then, empty the absinthe and ice from the first cup and pour—through a strainer—the contents of the mixing glass into the rinsed glass.
‘Vanessa Yu’s Magical Paris Tea Shop’ + St. Germain
Aside from my friends and family, I probably miss traveling the most. Vanessa Yu’s Magical Paris Tea Shop is a tonic for anyone craving adventure. For a more immersive experience, fix yourself a St. Germain champagne cocktail to go along with it. This drink is as lovely, effervescent and delightful as Roselle Kim’s transportive tale of Vanessa’s voyage to Paris. Plus, it’s French AF so it will really set the scene.
- 1 oz St. Germain
- ½ oz freshly squeezed lemon juice
- 4 oz chilled sparkling wine
- lemon zest for garnish
Add the St. Germain and lemon juice in a shaking tin over ice. Shake vigorously for 30 seconds and pour into a champagne glass. If you want to get really fancy with it, chill the glass first. But if you can’t wait, don’t worry about it. Top with cold sparkling wine and garnish with a twist of lemon zest. If you don’t have a shaking tin, you can make this one right in the glass—just make sure you pour in the St. Germain and lemon juice first.
Image: Dragon Images / Shutterstock.com
We’re in full-swing August now, which means it’s too hot to breathe, let alone like, leave my apartment to do shit. But August is also the month where all my shows and my will to live goes on sabbatical until October. It’s like the TV executives who make these v important decisions don’t realize people are counting on them? It’s fucking rude. So in the meantime what am I supposed to do here? Converse with my peers? Date people? EXERCISE?? Nope. Not into it. I’m going to continue doing what I do best, which is to
live my best life sit on my ass and avoid reality. And if it can’t be done through watching 5-6 hours of Olivia Benson doing far too much detective work for a police sergeant and tracking down perps, then it will be through the literary equivalent. I’m sort of a book slut so I know my shit when it comes to books that don’t suck. So buckle up, betches, here are 7 books to binge read until your fave fall TV shows come back on:
1. If You Watch Broad City…
Read Animals by Emma Jane Unsworth
Just reading about this shit show of a dynamic female duo will make you feel drunk. Laura and Tyler are long-time besties and the girls in your friend group whose livers you are secretly praying for. They’ve been getting into some rowdy shit for years until Laura gets engaged and is suddenly pulled between marriage (ew) and her BFF’s hard partying ways. If you consider yourself more Broad City than Girls (i.e. more ratchet than spoiled and narcissistic) then this is definitely the book for you. Even though I can’t imagine a world where Abbi or Ilana would give up their lifestyles in the name of settling down, Unsworth knows her shit and portrays this ride-or-die friendship in a way that will hold you over until your favorite fictional besties come back on TV at the end of August.
2. If You Watch The Handmaid’s Tale…
Read Sex Object by Jessica Valenti
It’s similar to The Handmaid’s Tale in that it’ll make you want to set the next male you come into contact with on fire, but different in that it’s not a work of fiction it’s real fucking life. *Takes slow, calming breath* Sex Object is a memoir about growing up as a woman in this dumpster fire of a world. Any betch living in NYC dealing with subway trolls—or just
men trolls in general—will fucking love this book. And though the narrative may feel more real for us city betches, literally any person with a womb should read it. It’s v humorous and also way too fucking real. My only advice is to maybe not read this book if you suffer from rage blackouts or before swiping on Bumble.
3. If You Watch Law & Order SVU…
Read Find Her by Lisa Gardner
Betchy co-ed, Flora, gets kidnapped by a psychopathic pervert during a ratchet night out on spring break and the next 472 days of her life is literally every bad thing our mothers ever warned us about. Seven years after she escapes from captivity, Flora is out for fucking blood and is taking down scummy club bros and potential roofie rapists in between vodka sodas at the bar. But then another college coed goes missing and Flora is suspect number one for the crime. Told through alternating perspectives, Flora’s and
wannabe Olivia Benson Detective D.D. Warren’s, the story is real AF, and just as addictive as spending an entire Sunday hungover binge-watching Law & Order: SVU episodes.
4. If You Watch Riverdale…
Read Addicted To You by Krista & Becca Ritchie
If you like watching TV shows with ridiculously pretty people and an even more ridiculous plot lines (Hi) then you have to read Addicted To You. It’s about a bunch of rich hedonistic college kids living their best lives. Think all of the Bughead angsty love but if, like, Veronica was a sex addict and Jughead was an alcoholic. Tell me you don’t want to read that shit. TELL ME.
5. If You Watch Drunk History…
Read It Ended Badly by Jennifer Wright
If you don’t watch Drunk History then I don’t know what you’re doing with your life. There’s nothing that brings me more joy than watching average to semi-famous people get shit-faced and try and teach you a history lesson. Literally nothing. Jesus, I need better hobbies. It Ended Badly is the literary equivalent of the show, minus all the alcohol (though I 100 percent recommend drinking and reading, fucking duh). The book is a collection of nonfiction essays about the worst breakups throughout history and let me just tell you that shit is juicy. You thought Rob and Chyna’s breakup was crazy? Wait until you read about Rome’s Emperor Nero and his breakup with one of his wives. There’s castration, a slave boy, and drag involved—shit is crazy.
6. If You Watch Scream Queens…
Read Final Girls by Riley Sager
I’ve never felt more personally victimized than when I found out Scream Queens would not be coming back for a third season. My responses in my group texts are about to get a whole lot less savage let me just tell you. THANKS, FOX. Thank god there’s Final Girls by Riley Sagar, aka Scream Queens’ campy, horror book equivalent. The book is all about Quincy Carpenter, lone survivor of a horror movie–scale massacre and newest club member of the world’s saddest sorority: the Final Girls. Honestly, I dare you not to read Quincey’s lines in Chanel Oberlin’s voice. Dare you. Anyways, the Final Girls are made up of similar real-life horror movie survivors until each member starts to get murdered. Now Quincy has to annoying shit like relive her past lest she end up next on the killer’s list.
7. If You Watch Are You The One?…
Read I Had A Nice Time & Other Lies by The Betches
Honestly you should read this book if you don’t want to end up on the trashiest island MTV could buy, hooking up with human garbage for potential Instagram likes. Save yourself now and read this book. We’ll give you advice on anything from which dating app will help you meet your husband and which one will likely result in your date wearing your skin as a suit to how to trick your Bumble hookup into being FB official. You’re welcome.