Random Family: Love, Drugs, Trouble, and Coming of Age in the Bronx by Adrian Nicole LeBlanc
• 1.5 oz Bulleit Rye
• 3 dash Angostura Bitters
• 1 sugar cube (1 tsp sugar)
• 1 orange slice
Muddle sugar cube, Angostura bitters and a splash of water until sugar is dissolved. Muddle in orange slice, paying attention to rind to release oils. Place block of Old Fashioned ice in glass and pour Bulleit Rye over top. Give it a quick stir and enjoy.
My first nonfiction writing class introduced me to Adrian Nicole LeBlanc’s Random Family: Love, Drugs, Trouble, and Coming of Age in the Bronx. LeBlanc’s commitment to following one family over 10 years completely envelops me in a harsh life I have never known.
I recommend finding a warm corner, an Old Fashioned, and giving in to LeBlanc’s overwhelming attention to detail as she rebuilds 10 years of drugs, heartbreak and family around you.
— Natalia Araujo
In The Company of Women by Grace Bonney
• 1.5 oz Campari
• 1.5 oz gin
• 1.5 oz sweet vermouth
• Orange twist
Stir all ingredients with ice. Strain into a rocks glass filled with fresh ice. Garnish with orange twist.
As a longtime follower of Design*Sponge (Grace Bonney’s design blog), this new release of hers has been on my radar for a while. Over the past weeks, I’ve been enjoying reading a few profiles a night with a cocktail. The book focuses on female entrepreneurs-makers-designers and their communities while providing unique insight into their creative evolution as artists and sources of inspiration for their work.
Honestly, this book could be paired with any creative concoction from your home liquor cabinet (like those profiled in the book, be inspired by what’s around you!) but I’ve found a Negroni to be a good match — a refreshing, bittersweet palate-cleanser that commands your attention while it goes down but makes room for future possibilities with its clean citrus-y finish.
— Frankie Schneckloth
The Sixth Extinction: An Unnatural History by Elizabeth Kolbert
Cedar Ridge’s Iowa Bourbon
This was on my “To Read” list for a while. The book, which nabbed the Pulitzer Prize in nonfiction last year, takes readers all over the world to document the quiet disappearance of species in the ongoing extinction event that scientists predict will upend the current order of things on a scale not seen since the dinosaurs were wiped out.
The book is laid out in a series of stories based on Kolbert’s travels: deep into the Andes Mountains, to remote scientific outposts on the Great Barrier Reef and to Iceland, where the last of the flightless, penguin-like great auks were killed in the 1800s.
It’s not an uplifting read, so keep your glass handy. The book makes readers consider the impact mankind has had — often unwittingly — on this planet. Humans play the bumbling, short-sighted antagonist to the survival of countless living creatures. But it has stuck with me since reading it months ago, and Kolbert’s easy writing style meant I chowed through the pages in one lazy weekend.
I read this with a glass of whiskey in hand, preferably Cedar Ridge’s Iowa Bourbon.
— Lauren Shotwell
Unfathomable City: A New Orleans Atlas by Rebecca Solnit and Rebecca Snedeker
• 0.75 oz brandy
• 0.75 oz rye whiskey
• 0.75 oz sweet vermouth
• 1 barspoon Benedictine
• A dash each of Angostura and Peychaud’s bitters
• Lemon peel
Pour into a mixing glass. Add ice and stir. Strain into chilled glass, rub lemon peel around the rim and drop in the glass.
Solnit and Snedeker combine data and storytelling to paint a multifaceted picture of the physical and human landscape of New Orleans. Sharing the past and keeping it alive is a way of life for the city’s residents, who fiercely preserve their traditions while welcoming newcomers. The uneven streets fill the senses with striking visuals, constant music, unrivaled hospitality and the weight of a beautiful but troubled past.
Strength of community and openness to individual expression coexist with deep-seated corruption, oppression and violence. History is layered on the buildings, and sometimes the paint peels and it’s hard to distinguish the layers, but there’s always someone nearby who can explain. Unfathomable City gathers a multiplicity of voices and maps for a sample of New Orleans’ infinite stories.
The Vieux Carré is complex, boozy and bittersweet like its namesake, the French Quarter.
— Eleanore Taft
Touch Me I’m Sick by Charles Peterson
Charles Peterson is a humble human being and a quality photographer. This comes across in one of my favorite books, Touch Me I’m Sick, with its 90+ grainy black and white photos that document the rise of grunge, featuring many musicians who would become full-fledged rock stars.
There is no pretense accompanying these images — it’s simply the view of someone who was there when bands like Nirvana, Mudhoney and Soundgarden were still playing club shows. This book was a huge inspiration to me when I got my hands on it 13 years ago and a big reason why I wanted to photograph live music.
I suggest an ice cold beer to go along with this one: the cheaper the better, because you already paid cover to see the bands, and you’re probably going to want to buy a t-shirt.
— Zak Neumann
Strangers in Their Own Land: Anger and Mourning on the American Right by Arlie Russell Hochschild
Bourbon Stout cocktail
• ½ cup chocolate stout, such as West O CocO Stout
• ¼ cup bourbon, such as Cedar Ridge’s Iowa Bourbon Whiskey
• 1 tsp vanilla
• Cream, to taste
Stir together stout, bourbon and vanilla. Pour over ice and drizzle cream over top.
Hochschild does what a lot of my peers seem unable to do: dares to explore the conservative right population of America, not to condemn or even to forcefully educate, but explicitly to humanize. Diving into the anger and disenchantment of the “red” working class, she finds commonality and nuance in people, often revealing a lack of villainy without forgiving many cases of ignorance or reactionary behavior. Honestly, for an empathetic person living in the current political climate, this is a must-read, albeit a difficult one.
That being said, this Bourbon Stout cocktail goes perfectly. Bourbon is a strong, rough liquor but this mix is palatable and comforting.
— Kelli Ebensberger
Severed by Scott Snyder
New Belgium’s 1554 Black Lager
Scott Snyder is one of those authors you have to line up for hours ahead of time for his signings at comic conventions. Mostly, that’s due to his work on Batman for the past five years — but Snyder’s heart and soul are tied irrevocably to my own favorite: horror comics. Any fan of the genre knows his truly beautiful series American Vampire.
The work I keep coming back to, though, is his incredible short series Severed. Written with childhood friend Scott Tuft, with perfectly unsettling visuals from Attila Futaki, Severed is a breathless horrors-of-humanity story of a 12-year-old runaway in the early 20th century who takes up with the wrong traveling companion. It eschews excessive gore for a subtler dig at your psyche.
Although I usually tend toward the hoppiest of IPAs when it comes to beer, 1554 is a comfortable companion to this tale. It’s heavier than a typical lager, which would be too light for the weight of this story. It’s less dependent on temperature than many other beers, too, which comes in handy when I forget I’m holding it for several pages. It’s less complex than an IPA, which might pull me out of the moment. It’s simple, sweet and safe — the antithesis of this book, and the perfect security blanket while reading it.
— Genevieve Trainor
This article was originally published in Little Village issue 211.