Cocktail Hour

I’ll admit it; I have been known to resort to using a drink as shortcut when describing a character in fiction. It’s easy to say, “She ordered her usual dirty Martini” OR “He smiled as he took his first sip of his favorite single malt Scotch” —as both evoke an impression of the character in a minimum of words. In fiction, as in real life, the guy who drinks domestic beer directly from cans does not live the same kind of life as a wine connoisseur with a 100 bottle wine fridge.

The draw of the drink gambit is in the details. An obsessive character might insist on three olives—not one and not two. A dramatic character might float a coffee bean in his shot of Sambuca, while a romantic character would order an Aperol Spritz and reminisce about visiting Venice.

The drink choices of all characters—from teetotalers to chronic alcoholics—reveal habits, ideas, values, background and more. When everyone else is imbibing and one character only drinks ginger ale or orange juice, is he a recovering alcoholic, a Mormon, a Christian Scientist, fearful of losing control, on medication, or from a family of heavy drinkers? Refusing the convivial drink after work with the gang once is not indicative of anything, but when that character is known for not drinking, it’s an entrée into their life and backstory.

When I ran across an article in The New York Times about a book on cocktails in Hollywood movies, I immediately recalled specific drink/character connections in mystery fiction. Chief Inspector Morse drinks ale while Hercule Poirot orders a tisane (herbal infusion) at every opportunity. From Cosmos and Manhattans to Bloody Mary’s and Tequila shots—the drinks reveal aspects of characters not easily portrayed in dialog.

So tell me, what kind of character drinks an Irish Car Bomb?

Beer during a recent trip to The Netherlands.

Beer during a recent trip to The Netherlands.


    • Candy Korman

      Maybe Poirot’s tisane would be medicinal? But think of what crazy theories the other characters would develop about a character based on you?

  1. You’ve opened a can of worms today Candy. Budding authors will be scanning everyone in pubs and bars now to find the right drink for their character and the right way to have it. Normal maybe or with the quirky 3 olives you mention, and that’s just the beer.
    The non-drinkers will of course be open to much speculation. I wasn’t a heavy drinker by any means but I could be classed as social back in 1988. That was the year I stopped drinking and if I had to be in a pub it was a lime and lemonade in my hand, as it still is.

    Hmm an Irish car bomb. That could be an Irish Catholic drink of choice but I think I’d place it in the hands of a cynical, careworn Scotland Yard detective.
    xxx Massive Hugs xxx

    • Candy Korman

      I LIKE the cynical detective drinking the Irish Car Bomb! The only people I know who drink it here are Frat Boy types, but a careworn Scotland Yard-er … um so good and a little against the grain.

  2. Characters and cocktails are such a great combo. I used to joke with the other English teachers how the stories of the ninth grade English curriculum featured quite a variety of booze. Without a doubt, some innocent 14-year-old would as, “What’s gin?” Ahhh, gotta love teachable moments….

    • Candy Korman

      “Gin was mother’s milk to her!”
      I remember that line from ‘My Fair Lady’ and having to ask my mom what it really meant. Of course, Mom was a gin martini drinker in her younger days (until very recently) so she laughed.

      It’s certainly hard to read Fitzgerald or Hemingway without alcoholic references. Now that we’re on the subject of educators, how would the teacher in your short story collection handle the boozing characters in a classic, given the restrictions of the local community? Um… something to think about. I think I need another cup of coffee to handle that one.