Classic Cocktails: A Modern Shake


236 pages
ISBN 0-7710-9558-9
DDC 641.8'74




Illustrations by Seth
Reviewed by Janet Arnett

Janet Arnett is the former campus manager of adult education at Ontario’s Georgian College. She is the author of Antiques and Collectibles: Starting Small, The Grange at Knock, and 673 Ways to Save Money.


Kingwell serves up a sippable cocktail of equal parts literary
references and drink traditions, stirred with a generous dash of humour
and strained into a traditional glass of recipes. He brings to cocktails
the philosophy that drinking them is meant to be “fun, but not too
much fun.” He acknowledges that part of the fascination with cocktails
is that they are dangerous, glamorous, and wicked. While advocating
moderation, he sets off to give an account of how cocktails worked their
way into our cultural imagination. His method for achieving this
“cultural deployment of the cocktail” is to trace their appearance
in classic literature and film. He shares references and associations to
approximately 30 drinks, found in works by P.G. Wodehouse, Ernest
Hemingway, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Tennessee Williams, Stephen Leacock,
Evelyn Waugh, and dozens more. Humphrey Bogart, Mary Pickford, even
Homer Simpson all put in an appearance.

The featured cocktails include the Cranky Canuck, Bling-Bling Special,
Banff, Algonquin, Canadian, Bloody Mary, Celtic Twilight, Frog Cutter
… the ones with the best literary and cinematic associations. Kingwell
identifies the perfect cocktail accompaniment to cigar smoking, watching
baseball in Boston, solving murders or other P.I. routines, wagering at
the race track, playing the dandy, talking about fishing, or any of
numerous activities that go better with a cold glass in hand.

The recipes are given as part of an informative glossary, leaving the
main text to concentrate on the personality of the various drinks and to
set the atmosphere and mood in which they are most at home.

Kingwell’s dry wit and gentle humour make the book an easily imbibed
source of cocktail party trivia as well as a unique collection of
recipes for mixed drinks.


Kingwell, Mark., “Classic Cocktails: A Modern Shake,” Canadian Book Review Annual Online, accessed July 22, 2024,