BOOK REVIEW: Shakespeare, Not Stirred: Cocktails for Your Everyday Dramas by Bicks and Ephraim

A couple of weeks ago, I ran into a Boston Globe story about a book by two Shakespeare scholars, the title of which gave me pause and a smile: Shakespeare, Not Stirred: Cocktails for Your Everyday Dramas. Now, (my wife Lisa and) I don’t mind a libation every now and then, so that grabbed me right off the bat. The story talked about how the book’s two authors, Caroline Bicks, PhD (associate professor of English at Boston College) and Michelle Ephraim, PhD (associate professor of English at Worcester Polytechnic Institute), took solid scholarship on the Bard (which has been the basis for their Everyday Shakespeare blog), a shared interest in a good drink (shared with me and my wife as well), and a cheeky tone, and built a cocktail (and hors d’oeuvres) recipe book. I was in: Quick trip to Amazon, and pre-ordered it.

Come Tuesday, the book automatically downloaded onto my trusty old Kindle Fire (told you it was old), and I dove in that afternoon. Now unfortunately for me and my digestive system, I was hit by a pretty bad bug late Sunday night and it knocked me flat for Monday, so fortunately for my reading desire, I was still spending some of my waking hours in bed on Tuesday. Let’s just say Shakespeare, Not Stirred is a quick read. It’s not a thick book to begin with: 176 pages, counting illustrations and a substantial index. But it’s the tone that makes this book fly.

Each recipe (usually, a fairly common type of drink, but pun-ily renamed for a character or predicament from the plays) begins with humorous intro, followed by the ingredient list, and instructions for making the drink or appetizer. Some include a sidebar “Mini-Bard,” discussion of the literary or historical connection to the play or character (so you can learn something, too!). Sample titles/recipes: Claudius’ Sex in the Breach, Kate’s Shrew-Diver, Hermione’s Matyr-ini, and my favorite, Prospero’s Dark and Stormy.

Here’s the intro for Gertrude’s Milkshake (which includes vodka, milk, chocolate liqueur, coffee ice cream, and ice) to give you a flavor of their prose:

Little known fact: baby Hamlet refused to let his mother hand him over to a wet-nurse, so Gertrude had to breast-feed him herself until he was ten . . .  just kidding! Still, that would explain a lot . . .
  • Shakespeare, Not Stirred: Cocktails for Your Everyday Dramas,
    Bicks, Caroline and Ephraim, Michelle.
    New York: Perigree, 2015;
    location 336 of 2816

Good stuff. Fun tone. And the hors d’oeuvres look good, too. Looking forward to Cleopatra’s Flings in a Blanket, Lucio’s Crab Cakes, and (for Halloween) Gloucester’s Jellied Eyeballs.

So at around ten bucks, I don’t think you can go wrong with Shakespeare, Not Stirred. One complaint, though: the Kindle edition is actually more expensive than the current hardcover price… what the heck? Regardless, it’s worth your time if you’re a drinker who loves Shakespeare.

Now, excuse me while I pick out some recipes for tomorrow’s Labor Day bbq… Lady Maceth’s G-Spot or Juliet’s Emoji-to? Prospero’s Dark and Stormy or Henry VIII’s Whiskey Slash? Ah, the choices!

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