BYT Interviews: Shakespeare, Not Stirred
kaylee | Sep 23, 2015 | 12:00PM |
We’re huge fans of booze and literature at BYT, so when we heard that there was an entire cocktail book dedicated to Shakespeare, and that it was filled with terrible / wonderful puns, we were basically sold. So we badgered Caroline Bicks and Michelle Ephraim, English professors and authors of Shakespeare, Not Stirred: Cocktails for Your Everyday Dramas, with all of our relevant (and not so relevant) booze and Shakespeare questions. If any of the below delights you (and it probably will because what isn’t delightful about about alcohol?) you can badger them in person, and pick up a copy of the book, at their free book talk at the Folger Theatre this Friday.

Why use Shakespeare as the basis for the cocktail book? Why not other famous booze influenced authors like Poe or Hemingway?

Since we’ve spent our adult lives teaching, writing, and thinking about Shakespeare, we feel that he’s the author whose characters and plot lines resonate most with our own lives. At its heart, this is a book about how Shakespeare’s plays can help you through your problems and also be with you as you celebrate the good times. Booze is a good fit for both of those occasions.If you were going to do a second edition to the book, which author would you choose? Or do you still have more to say about booze and Shakespeare?

We’ve only scratched the surface of Shakespeare’s world, so we definitely have more to say about how the predicaments he imagines for his characters intersect with our readers’ everyday problems. We have a few ideas in the works. Stay tuned!

Cool. You guys talk a lot about the drama and the awkward / uncomfortable relationships in Shakespeare. Which character do you think has the most dysfunctional family, relationship, whatever? Basically, who needs a stiff drink the most?

That’s a tough question. Shakespeare puts his characters through some truly epic trials. Gertrude’s probably managing the most dysfunctional family, what with her boomerang son Hamlet working through all his issues by telling her to stop having sex with her new husband. Although, to be fair, her new husband is a lying murderer who killed her first husband.

What’s your favorite cocktail in the book? Why?

We each have different ones. Caroline loves Richard’s Gimme-let, mixed in honor of the future King Richard III and his ambitious power grab. It’s a yummy lime and gin gimlet with a habanero pepper garnish to give it extra bite. Michelle’s favorite is Lady Macbeth’s G-Spot, a Scotch Whiskey-based drink that features pomegranate seeds for an “Out, damned spot!” effect.

Do either of you have bartending experience? How did you come up with the recipes in the book?

Nope. We just love a good cocktail, and did a lot of reading and experimenting. We also have friends and husbands with considerable mixology knowledge, and they were happy to share their favorite recipes and liquors with us.

Were there any recipes that were cut from the final copy that you loved?

Everything we wanted to be in the book made it in. We did cut the “Hamlet’s Kill-Joy,” which was a truly awful drink. It was non-alcoholic (since Hamlet complains about his stepfather’s and his countrymen’s excessive drinking habits).

That sounds like the worst. If Shakespeare was raised from the dead due to unusual and probably illegal circumstances, what do you think would be his drink of choice?

Oh, that’s a good question. He’d be so excited by all the possibilities available to him in 2015, he’d probably never write another word. He’d be too busy working through the cocktail menu at the Cheesecake Factory.

There are so many puns in this book. What is your favorite / most embarrassing (all the best puns are embarrassing)?

Actually, we have a few favorites. There’s the title of the book, of course, which was our primary inspiration for writing it. We also love the Maki-Beth rolls (there are original hors d’oeuvre recipes in the book, too); and then there’s the chapter entitled “Exit, Pursued by a Beer: Drowning Your Sorrows.” That one’s a pun on the most famous stage direction in Shakespeare: “Exit, pursued by a bear”—which doesn’t end well for the character getting chased—Antigonus from The Winter’s Tale.

Finally, what is your favorite Shakespeare play? Least favorite?

Caroline: It’s hard to pick a favorite. But I’d say Macbeth. The language is so lyrical and compact at the same time, and it packs such a powerful punch at every turn. It’s a great play for thinking about manhood and fatherhood. And that “Tomorrow and tomorrow and tomorrow” speech gets me every time. It’s so bleak and beautiful.  My least favorite, if I’m being honest, is Pericles. It’s a bit of a sprawling mess. But even that one has some great moments.

Michelle: I’ll start with a caveat: my “favorite” can change at any time, without warning. Sometimes I’m greatly affected by a particular performance. At this moment, my favorite is The Winter’s Tale, which breaks my heart and makes me laugh. It’s an emotional roller coaster that gets at the poignant, fragile stuff of parent/child bonds. My least favorite (right now!) is The Tempest (I’m hearing the boos already). I know, I know–Caliban’s an amazing character, as are many of the others. I just feel like Prospero’s “rough magic” jumps the shark at a certain point. (Did I just say “shark”? No sea-voyage/tempest/marine life pun intended. Promise.)