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?