The Debut Review: THE BARTENDER’S CURE (4/20/22)

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Wesley Straton’s irresistible debut is an emotional coming-of-age story set in the service industry. THE BARTENDER’S CURE is an ode to all the neighborhood bars that have fostered a sense of community, but it is also a story about finding happiness and family in the most unexpected places. And, of course, it is filled with delicious cocktail recipes in each chapter, so today we have Wesley Straton sending a message to librarians and creating a special library-inspired recipe of her own, perfect to sip on while reading the e-galley (which is available for download on Edelweiss now).

The call number cover

The Call Number
2 ounces rye whiskey
1/2 ounce Cherry Heering
1/4 ounce triple-sec
2 dashes Angostura bitters

Stir over ice, then strain into a coupe or a rocks glass over ice (one big cube is fun here if you have it!). Garnish with a flamed orange peel—I’m sure there are YouTube tutorials for this if you’re a visual learner, but basically, you take a long strip of orange peel, then curve the sides together with the skin facing out over the drink and squeeze the sides together a few times to release the oils. Run a lighter up and down along the peel (watch your fingers!) then squeeze one more time for some minor pyrotechnic action, rub around the rim of the glass, and drop it in.

Thank you so much for your support of THE BARTENDER’S CURE! I’ve been a great lover of libraries since I was little, and I have so much respect and appreciation for what you all do. I have a lot of fond childhood memories about my favorite libraries—the Palo Alto Children’s Library had an old carousel horse in the front, a secret garden in the back, and all the Roald Dahl and YA Star Wars novels I could have ever asked for; my middle school library was a converted storage closet staffed by a flamboyant 6’7” actor/book critic known as Walter the Giant, who used to lend me and all my baby-goth friends his personal copies of Neil Gaiman’s Sandman comics, because he knew we’d love them (we did) and also knew they were inappropriate to stock in a middle school library (they were). When I lived overseas, I relied on libraries for internet access, printing, and clean public bathrooms—I got books there, too, but what I learned in New Zealand and Australia is that the American library system is something special. These days I’m at my local branch of the Brooklyn Public Library every other week, and I cannot wait to see my own novel on the shelves!

I’ve put together a recipe for librarians, a Manhattan variation called “The Call Number.” The Manhattan (rye whiskey, sweet vermouth, Angostura bitters) is one of those very elegant, very old classics whose actual origin story is unknown. There’s a popular theory that it was invented at The Manhattan Club at a party hosted by Jennie Jerome, Winston Churchill’s mother, to celebrate Samuel J. Tilden’s election as governor. Which is a viable enough explanation, except that at the time of the alleged party, Jennie Jerome was back in England, giving birth to little Winston. David Wondrich gets into some other theories in his fantastic book of cocktail history, Imbibe, but for our purposes, it’s a mystery.

A library-inspired cocktail, I thought, should feel cozy and warm but also have some heft and depth to it, so building off a Manhattan felt right to me. I also wanted this to be relatively easy to recreate at home—not too many ingredients, no syrups or tinctures to be made. I kept the oaky richness and spice of the rye, but traded in the vermouth for a blend of Cherry Heering—a centuries-old, all-natural cherry liqueur that is sweet but well-balanced and generally a fun cocktail ingredient to have around—and triple-sec (orange liqueur), which to me is a home bar essential. You don’t need anything super fancy—Cointreau is a classic, but pricy; Combier or Pierre Ferrand would be great, but really as long as your triple-sec comes in a glass bottle, it’ll be just fine! The Angostura stayed in too, and the flamed orange peel felt fun and playful, but also lends a hint of citrus and smoke to the drink that ties it together nicely. Enjoy!

Thanks again, and cheers!

Wesley Straton

THE BARTENDER’S CURE by Wesley Straton; 9781250809070; 6/28/22.

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