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Key West Literary Seminar: How To Drink Like A Writer


All this week, we're bringing you stories from the Key West Literary Seminar which runs through this weekend. Shayne Benowitz originally posted this piece on the KWLS blog.

Reading Pico Iyer’s The Man Within My Head is one way to get under the influence of Graham Greene. Another is by sampling the cocktails at this year’s seminar.

Sean Hoard (bartender, Teardrop Lounge, Portland Oregon) and Jason Rowan (mixologist, Men’s Journal contributor) read deep into Greene’s work for inspiration, “which was a fun break from the cocktail books and food magazines I usually read,” said Hoard. The two then devised liquid tributes to characters, moments, and “vibes” drawn from the literature.

Last Thursday night’s menu, for example, offered the Aunt Augusta, inspired by Travels With My Aunt. A blend of local calamondin marmalade, Beefeater 24 gin, lemon juice, honey, and Champagne, the concoction embodied the free-spirited, worldly, classy character in the novel. It even resembled her: an orange-y redhead.

Credit kwls.org
At the end of a long day of working with words, a drink is often just what the doctor ordered.

For last weekend’s power-hour event before the Three Poets, Hoard offered a Whisky Priest, combining Scotch, soda, and apple cider bitters by Brooklyn Hemispherical Bitters (Jason’s brand), which “kick up even the most basic cocktail,” said Hoard. Rowan’s contribution that night was the Hotel Continental, in honor of the lodging in The Quiet American. Another rift on a classic, it featured an Asian-inflected, Beefeater gin martini, infused with cucumber slices pickled in ginger, lemongrass, and dill. “Thursday’s invention was an old-school drink turned 90 degrees,” says Rowan. “Friday’s were only about 25 degrees from the original, less labor-heavy due to time.”

In his talk on Greene, Iyer said “It’s a writers job to see what will happen to a stranger tomorrow.” The bartenders are doing what they can to make sure plenty does.

The Key West Literary Seminar runs through Sunday. You can find a schedule of events at the KWLS website.

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