Lots of people need a drink by the time Thursday rolls around, but a PBR doesn’t always cut it for the smarties of Cambridge and Somerville – the kinds of people who know the difference between Shakespeare’s “Timons of Athens” and “Titus Andronicus.”
That’s why it might be edifying to skip what passes for cocktail hour here and stop by the Harvard Coop to hear from Caroline Bicks and Michelle Ephraim, the academics behind “Shakespeare, Not Stirred: Cocktails for Your Everyday Dramas,” published Sept. 1 in a clever illustrated edition by a Penguin Random House imprint.
Bicks (of Boston College) and Ephraim (of Worcester Polytechnic Institute) answered some questions in advance of their appearance Dec. 10 in support of the book, a witty combination of Shakespeare insight and original, themed cocktails and party foods. The interview was lightly edited for publication.
How long – in ounces, say – did this book take to put together? Did tasting and testing sessions ever make it difficult to concentrate?
About three years. It’s a lot of work to create a book of original cocktail and hors d’oeuvre recipes. Again, fitting with Shakespeare’s own interest in bringing diverse people together to bond over shared life experiences, we’d gather friends, friends of friends and friendly acquaintances to help sip and sample. It was a three-ring circus of sorts: for each recipe, we had to blend concept, character and food chemistry. We were as committed to our puns as we were to our love of fresh ingredients and innovative cuisine.
Did you experience any Shakespearean revelations during the writing?
It’s easy to lose track of the essential Shakespearean spirit when you’re worried about publishing in academic journals and getting tenure. We believe that Shakespeare would have heartily approved of our discussions and debates about how his words shed light on the human condition. And he would have loved our tasting parties.
Who is this book for? When you do readings for this, who exactly are your audiences? Who are the people who have found the most use for this book, and how?
This book is written for people who know a lot, a little or nothing at all about Shakespeare. A sense of humor and a desire to eat and drink are requirements, however. We love when readers tell us that, because of “Shakespeare, Not Stirred” they learned a lot about Shakespeare, his plays and his world; threw a fantastic cocktail party; and found the perfect drink to match their own terrible/wonderful/complicated everyday drama.
This is a college town. Tell us about the drinking habits of that famous Automatic A and nongraduated student, Hamlet.
Even before he knows about his father’s murder, Hamlet’s sulking his way through his mother and stepfather’s boozy wedding celebration. He hates that drinking is such a big Danish custom and wishes that all of his countrymen would breach it. Is all that deep-thinking philosophy he’s studying at college getting in the way of good old-fashioned impulsive fun? This tragedy may be a cautionary tale about choosing the wrong major.
Come to think of it, our “Claudius’s Sex in the Breach” cocktail might be a good choice for all you Somerville and Cambridge people who need a break from those undergrads milling around. It’s much better than the traditional “Sex on the Beach” summer cocktail; this one will bring you pleasure for the entire academic year.
Bicks and Ephraim’s free reading from “Shakespeare, Not Stirred: Cocktails for Your Everyday Dramas” is at 7 p.m. Dec. 10 at The Harvard Coop, 1400 Massachusetts Ave., Harvard Square.