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‘Bottoms Up’ Means Cocktails and Classics in Hartford

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tm1 It’s been described as “the cocktail book for the literary obsessed.” That is Tim Federle’s “Tequila Mockingbird,” a book that is both fun and functional when it comes to stirring or shaking a good book and a good cocktail. Federle, a novelist, comedy writer, Broadway actor, choreographer and director, is bringing his humor and his adult libation expertise to a program on July 11 at Real Art Ways with the Mark Twain House & Museum. Titled “Bottoms Up!” the evening will celebrate the cocktail culture with a screening of the documentary “Hey, Bartender,” a post-film talk with Federle and a splashy cocktail party featuring drinks from his book. Before getting ready for the summer cocktail party of the season here in Hartford, the multi-talented Federle put down the Bronte and the bourbon so he could Spill the Beans with Java.

Q: What makes you an expert in cocktails?

A: As anyone in show business knows, you are either toasting with cocktails on opening night or drinking away when a show closes early. I have been in my fair share of both.

Q: I guess I don’t get it. “Tequila Mockingbird” is a book about literary classics and cocktails. Explain?

A: The book is a taking a poke, some good-natured fun at the heavier English books all of us lugged around. I’m not a professional bartender and I wrote the book for people who are not professional bartenders. The drinks in the book are a twist on the classics. And they are not complicated. I wanted anybody who had access to a corner store to be able to find the ingredients they needed. I really wanted them to be something that you want to make after working all day.

TEQUILA MOCKINGBIRD coverQ: The cocktails are great but all I can think about is what the authors would have to say to you about “mocking” their classics by naming cocktails as a kind of parody. Charlotte Bronte’s “Gin Eyre,” Harper Lee’s “Tequila Mockingbird,” and what about, Ernest Hemingway’s “ Vermouth The Bell Tolls,” okay well, maybe not him, but anyway, just seems these esteemed authors might be a little miffed. How do you explain it to such celebrated authors?

A: I had this glorifying moment recently where I mentioned Rodger and Hammerstein’s South Pacific to someone under 20. The response what “what’s that.” These drinks in my book were created solely as a tribute to these classic literary works. I would hope these folks would be honored or at least tickled that something they created so long ago still stands the test of time.

Q: So it’s education using booze?

A: The way I have laid the book out is that along with each cocktail recipe there are also facts about the book. There is a short synopsis of the book, some interesting facts about the author. I would hope these writers might recognize there is a whole new generation of readers who might have forgotten some of the more interesting and tangible facts about these authors. We live in a mash up culture and have this provincial idea about bookish people, that they wear tight buns in their hair and glasses. I thought this would be something fun, an insight into what happens when the library closes and the fun begins. I am delighted to find that the #1 readers of my book are librarians.

Q: Is the book supposed to be a bit of a joke?

A: I’d say it is one halfway tongue in cheek. There is something fun about pairing a book with a drink. It’s like a fine wine with a steak. And as far as the pairings in the book, I didn’t want to make puns that meant nothing. I wanted the drinks tied thematically to the book.

Q: Now most of the authors are dead, but what about Judy Blume and her “Are You There God, It’s Me Margarita?”

A: Most of the authors in the book have left our world but there are a handful of living authors whose books are included. I would love to get a copy to Judy Blume so that in the most loving way she knows it’s a 100 percent tribute.

Q: Did you read all the books that are part of “Tequila Mockingbird?”

A: I either read each one or most of each one or did a lot of research. It was a way to bond with my dad who is a scholar. It was a nice way to explore these books again. It was a very literate summer for me.

Q: Since The Mark Twain House & Museum is co-sponsoring your visit here, what related book and cocktail celeb rates Mark Twain?

A: A “Huckleberry Sin,” a really delicious vodka soda with muddled berries.

Q: How old were you when you had your first drink?

A: I was a really good boy and did not drink until I was officially of drinking age. But in my teens someone served me ice cream with Kahlua on top and I remember saying ‘someone try this new ice cream sauce.’ Who knew it could be so good!


Tickets for the show which begins at 7 p.m. are $20 per person, $15 for members of RAW or MTH&M. You must be 21 years old or older to attend. For tickets go to realartways.org.