Cocktails for the Boozy Bookworm: 4 Recipes From New York’s Literary Bar Scene

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Have you ever wondered what it would be like to pull up a barstool next to Ernest Hemingway, or down gin with the likes of F. Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald? Well, that’s exactly what author Delia Cabe explores in her new book, Storied Bars of New York: Where Literary Luminaries Go to Drink. Traveling around New York City to the spots that played host to the some most renowned writers of 20th century, Cabe presents a historical celebration of these writerly watering holes and their signature concoctions.

For all you boozy bookworms, we bring you four recipes featured in Cabe’s recently released collection. Allow yourself to be transported back in time as she takes you on a journey through the bars and taverns that fostered some of the century’s favorite writers, granting you a deeper understanding of their cultural place in New York City and the world as a whole.

The Dorothy Parker
The Algonquin Blue Bar
No bar existed at the Algonquin Hotel when the members of the Round Table began holding their wit-filled lunches in 1919, but that didn’t stop Dorothy Parker, Robert Benchley, and rest of the gang from lingering over their daily meals with a flask of bootleg liquor. By the time Prohibition ended in 1933, the group had disbanded, yet the Algonquin had officially opened the Blue Bar. Over the last 80 years, the lounge has undergone several remodels, yet it still retains the vintage elegance of its earlier time — further amplified by a menu of literary-inspired cocktails. The Dorothy Parker — made with gin, St. Germain, lemon juice, and honey — is a little sweet and a lot acerbic, just like the writer herself. See recipe

The Old Cuban
Bemelmans Bar
Named for Ludwig Bemelmans, the writer and illustrator behind the classic Madeline children’s series, Bemelmans Bar at the Carlyle Hotel continues to attract socialites, politicians, movie stars, and moguls. Today, the bar honors the legend with The Old Cuban, a cocktail inspired by Bemelmans frequent travels, during which he often rendezvoused with Ernest Hemingway. The rum-based libation commemorates Hemingway’s two decades in Cuba, and has been considered a contemporary classic since its debut on the menu in 2002. See recipe

The Zelda
Bedford & Co.
Built in 1928, the former Hotel Bedford catered to writers and artists who needed a place to park their typewriters for anywhere between a few weeks to a few years. Though the hotel — redone and reopened in 2015 as the Renwick — no longer owns the bar, Bedford is still connected directly to the lobby and pays homage to the luminaries who stayed here, including F. Scott Fitzgerald and his vivacious wife Zelda. The latter’s namesake cocktail on the bar’s menu tantalizes the taste buds with a sweet, sour, and spicy combination of tequila, Cointreau, grapefruit, lime, and jalapeno. As lead bartender Tommy Warren says, “We decided to dedicate this cocktail to the frequently wild Zelda herself, as we all have a tequila story of our own.” See recipe

Beatnik
San Remo Cafe
At the corner of Bleecker and MacDougal streets in Greenwich Village is where you’ll find a bronze plaque marking the site of the former San Remo Cafe, the epicenter of the Beat scene in New York after World War II. Described as “a sort of Village United Nations,” the cafe drew the likes of Allen Ginsberg, Jack Kerouac, James Baldwin, Norman Mailer, Dylan Thomas, and Tennessee Williams — just to name a few. Many of these writers first met at the San Remo and immortalized the meeting place in their various works. By the mid-1950s, most of the Beats had dispersed around the country, many ending up in San Francisco. Paying tribute to the Beat Generation’s ties to both New York and his hometown, SF-based bartender Duggan McDonnell created this drink called the Beatnik, an in-your-face update on the classic Manhattan. See recipe

For more recipes from New York’s literary bar scene, as well as fascinating stories about your favorite authors, pick up a copy of Storied Bars of New York: Where Literary Luminaries Go to Drink