Literary Libations Week Launches Today at Houston Bars

Books and booze have long shared an entwined—and entertaining—history. Just look to writers like Sinclair Lewis, Eugene O’Neill, William Faulkner and Ernest Hemingway whose prose reflects thoughts and discussions influenced by imbibing. Starting today, proceeds from specific cocktails inspired by these kinds of writers and sold at four Houston bars will go towards promoting literacy. Based on information provided by Literary Libations Week organizers, four Houston bars and restaurants are participating this year: Mongoose vs. Cobra, B&B Butchers, Lucille’s, and Boheme.

Last year, the organizers of the Texas Book Festival (an annual event in Austin that highlights and supports all things literary) launched Literary Libations Week, during which Texas bars create and serve cocktails inspired by a book chosen by the staff. A portion of each cocktail purchase is donated to support the festival’s Lit Crawl in Austin, a literary pub crawl held during the festival weekend.

This year’s Literary Libations Week takes place August 14 through 18 and the Texas Book Festival is November 4 through 5; the Lit Crawl is on November 4. “This was a fun way to engage with an audience that might not be as familiar with Texas Book Festival,” says executive director Lois Kim. “Craft cocktails are an art form that is meant to be savored with friends or by one’s self, much the same as books. Inspired by and incorporating elements from a famous literary work, each literary concoction makes for a great drinkable story . . . and the best part is that when patrons buy a Texas Book Festival literary libation, they’re raising a glass to support the arts and a free Lit Crawl during the Texas Book Festival Weekend.”

Here’s what to expect at each locale.

The Ninth Circle cocktail at Mongoose vs Cobra, made with Campari, Fernet-Branca and grapefruit juice. Photo by Andy Charlton

The bar: Mongoose vs. Cobra, 1011 McGowan in midtown Houston
The cocktail: The Ninth Circle (Campari, Fernet-Branca and grapefruit juice)
Created by: Andy Charlton, manager
Book inspiration: Dante’s Inferno
Tasting notes: A deceptively light-looking cocktail prepared with grapefruit juice and cava is altered by the bitterness of Campari and the herbal and minty notes of Fernet.
Extras: “We are a bar that is greatly influenced by literature,He who photo” says owner Mike Sammons. “Anything that contributes to literacy or reminds people of the millions of great pieces of writing in the world is something we are more than happy about being a part of and contributing.”
Cost: $8 per cocktail including a $1 donation

The bar: Lucille’s, 5515 La Branch (Note: promotion starts on Tuesday, 8/14 since Lucille’s is closed on Mondays)
The cocktail: Grey Expectations with Salignac (cognac, in place of Rémy Martin), crème de violette, lime juice, Earl Grey infused simple syrup
Created by: Chris Williams, chef-owner
Book inspiration: Great Expectations
Tasting notes: Sage, cedar, lemon oil and dried violets
Extras: Find Grey Expectations on the brunch menu after the 18th.
Cost: $11 per cocktail including a $1 donation

The Old Man and The Sea at B&B Butchers. Photo courtesy of B&B Butchers.

The bar: B&B Butchers, 1814 Washington
The cocktail: The Old Man and The Sea; Flor de Cana Grand Reserve 7 year rum, lime juice, Luxardo Maraschino and grapefruit juice
Created by: Jeremiah Butler, beverage director
Book inspiration: Butler draws on memories of reading The Old Man and The Sea as a kid, saying that he was an avid fisherman and could relate to Santiago. The cocktail is also hand-shaken, which reflects the traditional preparation for a Hemingway daiquiri.
Tasting notes: Rum and lime juice form the primary flavor profile with elements of vanilla, fig, butterscotch and caramel.
Extras: The cocktail is available all the time, because as Butler says, “It is universal and timeless—just like Hemingway!”
Cost: $14 per cocktail including $4 donation

The bar: Boheme, 307 Fairview in Montrose
The cocktails: Dill and Peace; Lolita No. 1 and Lolita No. 2
Created by: Danielle Delgado (Dill and Peace); Adrienne Feinberg Lolitla No. 1 and Lolita No. 2 (with help from fellow bartenders at Boheme)
Book inspiration: War and Peace; Lolita
Tasting notes: The “Dill and Peace” is like a refreshing herbaceous lemonade while “Lolita No. 1” lends a crisp mouthfeel with cherry jam components. “Lolita No. 2” combines caramel and cherry vanilla coke qualities with fruit and almond flavors.
Extras: Dill and Peace incorporates vodka and dill—two ingredients that are closely associated with Russian cuisine. The Lolita drinks use “two versions of the candy-influenced cocktail, because a child, especially a somewhat spoiled and demanding one like Lolita, wouldn’t want to choose between two candies. She would want both.”
Cost: $8 per cocktail including at $1 donation; available during happy hour only.

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