Celebrate the Sexiest Novel of the Year With a Custom Cocktail Recipe
EL’s managing editor Alyssa Songsiridej’s debut novel "Little Rabbit" is out today, and it’s as delicious as this drink
Editor’s note: We don’t typically commission custom cocktails for book releases, but when our own managing editor is named one of the National Book Foundation’s 5 Under 35 for her sensational debut, Little Rabbit, a toast is in order. So we invited mixologist and author of The Gold Persimmon, Lindsay Merbaum, to develop this custom cocktail inspired by the novel.
Alyssa Songsiridej’s novel Little Rabbit is the story of a 30-year-old queer writer whose first novel gets published just as the press folds, leaving her with a closet’s worth of dusty copies. To pay her bills, she spends her days at Harvard working as an administrative coordinator. At an artists’ retreat in Maine, she meets an older man, a celebrated choreographer who is annoying at first, talking too much over dinner, yet also gorgeously masculine and erotic—“golden,” she calls him. They quickly become lovers, the choreographer naming her his “Rabbit,” urging her to spend every weekend with him in his apartment in New York, or at his house in the Berkshires.
Their relationship is electric, twisting and turning in on itself like a knot, stretching her life here, binding and tightening there. Until the narrator finds she’s become “a woman with a secret. A woman with a choice,” a person seemingly losing her definition just as she’s coming to know the dimensions of her desire for pleasure, for art, and to be unmade:
“The work possessed me, seized me, until I was no longer a woman writing but writing taking the form of a woman in order to be born. I sank down, surrendered, waiting for the words to teach me about my life.”
Like a modern queer feminist Story of O, this nuanced exploration of desire and the unseen dance between the lover and the beloved sucks you into its lush, yet precisely-rendered reality, one edged with ambiguity regarding possession and power, perception and identity.
Scotch serves as the base of this booktail, as it’s the liquor the narrator drinks during her one “wild” night in Maine, when she gets drunk and jumps in the lake, unaware her future lover is watching. On their first sort-of date, she again begins with Scotch. The night they officially become lovers, the choreographer makes, discards, then re-makes Aperol spritzes, marking the “before” and “after.” Aperol also shares the bittersweet taste of a gin and tonic, which the narrator always seems to enjoy with others of her own age: in college, with the choreographer’s young dancers at his house in the Berkshires, and at the opulent after-party for the conference her roommate Annie organizes. Finally, coffee liqueur references cafecitos with friends Rita and Vera and a writing practice that involves getting up at 5 am, sometimes accompanied by a whole pot of coffee. The combination of Scotch and coffee produces a chocolate-y tone, while the smoky notes in the Scotch bring out the bittersweetness in the Aperol. Altogether, it’s a simple, beautiful combination that’s not at all what you would expect.
This booktail is presented against a fur backdrop for “the wolves”–those art critics and donors in need of ego-stroking–and the sumptuous, primal, and slightly dangerous sensuality that exists between the story’s lovers. The Tiffany’s glass in which the drink is served is nestled in the fur, gently framed with feathers for the plumage on the choreographer’s bookshelves. Delicate dried flowers and ferns appear behind the cocktail, reminders of the dried flowers on the altar by the choreographer’s door, as well as atop Annie’s dresser. One purple bloom is also pressed to the base of the glass, its color a complement to the watercolor cover of Hélène Cixous’ book Dream I Tell You. In the background, a dried red petal perches on the book’s top right edge, punctuating the ‘i’ in “Rabbit.”
- 1.5 oz Scotch
- 1 oz coffee liqueur
- 0.5 oz Aperol
Set a tumbler in the freezer or at the back of the fridge to chill. Meanwhile, add a large cube or chunk of ice to a shaker, along with the Scotch, coffee liqueur, and Aperol. Agitate vigorously until the shaker turns frosty. Then remove the chilled glass from the fridge or freezer and add a fresh cube of ice. Strain the drink into the glass, over the fresh ice, and serve.