Shakespeare, Not Stirred: Cocktails for Your Everyday Dramas

Shakespeare, Not Stirred: Cocktails for Your Everyday Dramas

by Caroline Bicks, Michelle Ephraim


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In Shakespeare, Not Stirred, two professors mix equal parts booze and Bard to help you through your everyday dramas. It’s like having Shakespeare right there in your living room, downing a great drink and putting your crappy day in perspective. So get out your cocktail shaker and lend him your ears.
Each original cocktail and hors d’oeuvre recipe connects Shakespeare’s characters to life’s daily predicaments:

   • Drown your sorrows after a workplace betrayal with Othello’s Green-Eyed Monster
   • Distract yourself from domestic drama with Kate’s Shrew-driver or Cleopatra’s Flings in a Blanket
   • Recapture your youth with Puck’s Magic ’Shrooms
   • Mark a romantic occasion with Beatrice and Benedick’s Much Ado About Frothing
Featuring classic images from the Folger Shakespeare Library (hilariously doctored to feature some hard-partying Shakespearean protagonists) and Mini-Bards you can raid for extra context and commentary, Shakespeare, Not Stirred is a completely intoxicating experience.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780399173004
Publisher: Penguin Publishing Group
Publication date: 09/01/2015
Pages: 176
Sales rank: 596,506
Product dimensions: 5.50(w) x 7.60(h) x 0.70(d)
Age Range: 18 Years

About the Author

Caroline Bicks and Michelle Ephraim are both popular, tenured Shakespeare professors at their respective universities, and their Shakespeare-inspired personal essays and articles have appeared in such venues as The New York Times, The Washington Post, Lilith, and All Things Considered.

Caroline Bicks received her Ph.D. from Stanford University and has been on the faculty at Boston College for twelve years, as well as a teacher at the prestigious Bread Loaf School of English. She is the author of Midwiving Subjects in Shakespeare's England and coeditor of The History of British Women’s Writing, 1500–1610, Volume 2. Bicks also writes humorous parenting pieces that have appeared on Babble, McSweeney’s, and in the show and essay collection Afterbirth: Stories You Won’t Read in a Parenting Magazine. Michelle Ephraim received her Ph.D. from the University of Wisconsin–Madison and has been on the faculty at Worcester Polytechnic Institute for fifteen years. She is the author of Reading the Jewish Woman on the Elizabethan Stage as well as numerous articles on sixteenth- and seventeenth-century literature. Ephraim’s humorous life writing has appeared in publications such as The Morning News, Tikkun, and Word Riot, and has been featured on Open Salon.

Read an Excerpt


If you’re wondering what Shakespeare ate and drank when he was living it up in 1599 London, this isn’t the book for you. The same goes for all you historical reenactment fans out there. We don’t dress up like wenches and go to Renaissance Faires, or serve up foot-long Henry VIII–style turkey legs at our neighborhood block parties.

But we do love Shakespeare. In fact, we’ve devoted our adult lives to learning as much as we can about his works and his world. We get a geeky thrill out of researching things like sixteenth-century virginity tests and Bible translations. And we never get tired of talking to our students about the themes and moral dilemmas that Shakespeare explores.

We’re also close friends who love getting together over a good drink. It’s the perfect way to decompress from our everyday dramas—whether it’s academic politics, spousal standoffs, or home lice infestations. Frankly, besides Shakespeare, these few hours of high-quality confab are the only thing we don’t need a break from.

One night, at ye olde Cheesecake Factory, we had an epiphany: the characters we analyzed all day were starting to feel very familiar. And not just because we’d been teaching and writing about them for twenty years. The more we talked, the more we saw ourselves and our problems in their comedies, histories, and tragedies. Shakespeare’s insights into jealous siblings, shifty coworkers, and aging libidos were smarter than anything we could ever come up with on our own. And a whole lot cheaper than therapy.

Huh, we thought. This dead guy totally gets us.

Shakespeare never had to worry about hitting Reply All by mistake, or sending someone’s kid to the ER because of a stray peanut trace. But it felt like he was right there with us, sucking down a Factory Peach Bellini and feeling our pain.

We knew right then and there that we’d found our destiny: to write a cocktail book that would pay it forward, Shakespeare-style.

So we got to work, searching every corner of Shakespeare’s canon and our liquor cabinets to find the perfect drinks to match our favorite plotlines. We poured, shook, and tasted. Pondered and punned. We were obsessed with our plan—just like the regicidal Macbeth when he hallucinates a murder weapon floating before him. Except our ambitions involved daiquiris, not daggers.

The final product is what you see before you: a book that mixes equal parts booze and Bard to help you through your everyday ups and downs. It’s like having him right there in your living room, downing a great drink, and putting your crappy day in perspective.

Each of our cocktails connects Shakespeare’s characters to your daily predicaments. And we’ve paired the drinks with hors d’oeuvres, which we call “Savory Matters.” It’s our way of repurposing Hamlet’s snobby comment about popular entertainment and the commoners who consume it. According to him, those people only want “matter savory”—cheap, spicy jokes and sleazy plotlines. Well, we’ve got news for you, Hamlet: Shakespeare would have loved Bravo and buffalo wings as much as we do.

Like the editors of the 1623 First Folio, we’ve organized our Shakespeare into genres—some comical, some tragical, some historical. For example, Girls’ Night Out, Drowning Your Sorrows, and Recapturing Your Youth. And if you want to learn more about the plays or the time period, you can raid the Mini-Bards in each chapter for a quick shot of context and commentary. Or not. Unlike Hamlet, we don’t judge. The point is, if you want to brush up on your Shakespeare, and maybe learn some things that you didn’t know before, fabulous. If you just want to eat and drink, go for it.

Now some of you may be thinking: Booze? Professors? Isn’t this why we need to get rid of tenure? But hear us out. Shakespeare wasn’t just interested in Fate, Revenge, and Tragic Flaws. His plays are saturated with alcohol-related themes, and it’s our job to know about them. Some of these are pretty negative, like (1) Booze and booty don’t mix, especially if you’re a guy. As the drunken Porter in Macbeth says, drinking “provokes the desire but it takes away the performance.” Not to mention, (2) Drinking on the job equals career suicide. Antony and Cleopatra’s Lepidus learns this lesson the hard way when he blacks out on Pompey’s booze cruise and proves he’s not Roman Triumvirate material. And, of course, (3) Alcohol makes dysfunctional families even more dysfunctional. Sir Toby Belch, Twelfth Night’s “quaffing and drinking” freeloader, upsets his depressed niece by throwing wild parties at her house and calling her a killjoy. And the future King Richard III unleashes a lifetime of sibling hostility by hiring two guys to drown his older brother in a barrel of Malmsey wine.

But drinking in Shakespeare’s plays, as in life, doesn’t always end in tragedy. Sometimes it’s about bringing people together. Building community. Being there for each other through good times and bad. And the timeless power of partying.

We hope that Shakespeare, Not Stirred brings you all sorts of pleasure: fun drinks, good food, and the deep satisfaction of knowing that Shakespeare validates all of your feelings—no matter how socially inappropriate they may be. So get out your cocktail shaker and lend him your ears. Has he got a story to tell you.


A Little More Than Gin

Dysfunctional Family Gatherings

You may think you’ve outgrown your childhood insecurities, but just one family encounter can send you right back to the kids’ table. Like when King Lear reignites the sibling rivalry between his adult daughters, Goneril and Regan. After he makes them compete for their inheritance in a “Who Loves Me Most?” contest, they’re reduced to their old eyeball-clawing, boyfriend-stealing ways. Meanwhile, over in the rotten state of Denmark, Uncle Claudius rubs salt in Hamlet’s Oedipal wounds by calling him “son” at his wedding to Hamlet’s mother. The newly fatherless prince mutters: “A little more than kin and less than kind.” Loose translation: “You may be sleeping with Mommy, but you are not my daddy.” Booze is the perfect way to numb the pain of fraught family moments like these. It’s not that a stiff drink is the healthiest way to deal with your kin. But it’s a lot more enjoyable than hearing about how oversensitive, underachieving, and selfish you are.



Does your family fail to appreciate how special you are? Have you defamed or killed any of them to get what you deserve? Then this drink, mixed in honor of the chronically misunderstood Richard, Duke of Gloucester, is for you. In Henry VI, Part 3, Richard scores big for his clan, the Yorks, in the ongoing Wars of the Roses. But at the start of the sequel, Richard III, no one cares about any of that. Sure, they all remember his martyr of a dead little brother, Rutland. And everyone’s basking in the beams of his newly crowned oldest brother, King Edward. But do they remember one lousy thing Richard ever did? Noooooo. He’s just an uneven-legged hunchback with a withered arm and no girlfriend. What’s an undervalued son to do but take down some relatives to get his turn in the Big Chair? Richard spreads a rumor that Edward’s a bastard; gets his other brother, George, murdered; and puts a hit out on his little prince nephews just to be safe. And then he gets to be King Richard! Too bad his mother’s the only one left to celebrate the big moment. Which she does by crashing his royal procession, announcing he was a monster-baby born “to make the earth my hell,” and hitting him with a death curse. At the end of the play, Richard finds himself alone, unloved, and horseless on the Bosworth battlefield, about to be killed by God’s gift to England, the future King Henry VII. Face it, Dick, you’re a middle child with shoe lifts. This was never going to go your way.

2 ounces gin

1/2 ounce simple syrup

1 ounce fresh lime juice

Very thin crosswise slice of habañero pepper

Shake the gin, simple syrup, and lime juice with ice and strain into a martini glass. Drop in a vicious bite of pepper. And in the spirit of Richard’s power-grabbing . . . Gimme that drink!

The historical Richard was actually the youngest York son, but Shakespeare puts him in the middle—which is a great way to play up his status as the overlooked sibling. Other characters get a significant makeover, too. Shakespeare wrote Richard III while Elizabeth I was on the throne, so her grandfather Henry VII lands a starring role as the God-anointed hero sent to save England from evil Richard and found the Tudor line. But even if Richard’s life and afterlife were full of haters, he has an army of supporters now in the Richard III Society. Founded in 1924, they’re a group committed to exposing factual distortions about Richard’s life and reign—including his allegedly misshapen body. Congenital disabilities and “unnatural” births were often considered the marks of a damned soul and twisted mind. Sir Thomas More, working under the Tudor regime, knew this when he wrote his 1513 account of Richard’s feet-first delivery, hunchback, and villainous behavior. X-ray machines have revealed that a hump was added on to one of Richard’s portraits, which lends support to the pro-Richard conspiracy theorists, but the 2012 discovery of his skeleton under a parking lot in Leicester confirms that he had a severely curved spine. After this find, even the Richard III Society publicly acknowledged that “there is a germ of truth behind the Tudor descriptions.” Still, as one long-time Society member maintains, “There is no evidence for the hunchback, the withered arm and the limp—they are merely inventions of those trying to blacken Richard’s image.” To be continued . . .


In Measure for Measure, Isabella is a type A nun-in-training, dedicated to “strict restraint” and fasting, when—Bam!—she’s forced into a sadistic game of Would You Rather: Would you rather see your brother, Claudio, get executed for illegally fornicating with his girlfriend or . . . save his life by having sex with the corrupt autocrat who sentenced him? Isabella, it turns out, would rather not sacrifice her body, her career, and her relationship with God for her “faithless coward” of a brother. Not that anyone could possibly understand that. Hey, loosen up. It’s only your virginity. What’s the big deal? You can always get a job waiting tables at the tavern. Jesus! Does the responsible, “together” sibling always have to clean up after the screw-up? Ultimately Claudio gets to keep his life, and Isabella gets to keep her virginity—for the moment—thanks to an undercover duke, a bed-trick, and a pirate head. (There’s a reason this is considered a “problem play.”) But that doesn’t mean she’s clear of the whole sordid affair: at the end of the play, everyone expects her to marry the duke, like she’s some kind of Edible Arrangements “Thank You” bouquet. Isabella—girlfriend—listen to us: Run, don’t walk, back to the Sisters of Saint Clare. Then lock yourself in your cell, wait for the evening vespers service, and pray to God that He reincarnates you as an only child. Then treat yourself to one of these vespers.

Isabella likes following the rules, so we’re sticking to James Bond’s classic vesper recipe. But we’re adding our own fun garnish of rosary beads and a cross.

10 black tapioca pearls (boba)

3 ounces gin

1 ounce vodka

1/2 ounce Lillet

Lemon peel cut in shape of a cross

Prepare the boba by placing them in boiling water. Cook, covered, for 5 minutes. Drain and cool. Place the cooked pearls in the bottom of a martini glass. Shake (don’t stir) the gin, vodka, and Lillet with ice until very cold. Strain into the glass over pearls. Float the lemon peel cross on top.


Every adolescent girl needs someone to rebel against, and in Shakespeare’s plays, it’s usually Daddy. Okay, so maybe his fathers aren’t always super supportive of their little girls’ hopes and dreams, but do they deserve to be humiliated by their ungrateful daughters? That’s what Shylock, Jessica’s tormented Jewish father in The Merchant of Venice, wants to know. It’s one thing when your daughter sneaks out on a few secret dates—but eloping? With a goy? And what kind of cruel child takes your wedding ring, along with all your gold and ducats, so she can bankroll her honeymoon to Genoa and her taste for exotic pet monkeys? This drink (made with Goldschläger, a liqueur with actual gold flakes) is for all you heartbroken—and broke—fathers out there. We know you can’t afford it, so this one’s on us.

Lemon wedge

Edible gold dust

1 ounce Goldschläger schnapps

3 ounces sparkling cider

1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice

Rim a chilled martini glass with the lemon wedge and dip the rim in gold dust (unless your daughter got to it first). Fill a shaker with ice. Add the Goldschläger, cider, and lemon juice. Shake like you’re in Vegas and Daddy needs a new pair of shoes. Strain into the martini glass.

Beaten-down dads make frequent appearances in Shakespeare’s plays. So it’s too bad Shylock’s dietary laws prevent him from sharing a consolation drink and some loaded potato skins with all of his equally miserable Christian counterparts. Like Baptista, whose shrewish daughter Kate yells at him for trying to find her a husband, and then embarrasses him by beating up her lute instructor; and Brabantio, whose daughter, Desdemona, breaks his heart when she elopes with Othello, the only non-white guy in all of Venice; and Lord Capulet, who pays for a lavish wedding that Juliet knows she’s going to crap out on . . . by pretending to die. Even with their bad tempers, racism, and abusive defense mechanisms, Shakespeare’s dads can be downright sympathetic at times. They also make us look like great parents by comparison.


You knew you weren’t the Brady Bunch, but life in your new blended family has been a total pain in the ass. Especially (if you’re like Hamlet’s stepfather, Claudius) when you have to worry about that moody nephew/stepson of yours and his Big Unmedicated Thoughts, hanging around looking like he wants to kill you. You can’t seem to do anything right with that nut-job. First, he thinks you should stop drinking so much, because it’s a vulgar Danish custom “more honoured in the breach than the observance” . . . even though you’re at your own freaking—hello—Danish wedding. Then he’s convinced you’re breaching some biblical incest command because your new wife also happens to be your sister-in-law. What’s next? No more reading on the can? It’s time to tune out all the random bitching in your new household and break whatever rules you want. In fact, go ahead and make this Sex in the Breach a double: one for you, and one for your hot “sometime sister, now our queen.”

2 ounces vodka

1/2 ounce aquavit

11/2 ounces Orangina

1 ounce cranberry juice

1 ounce pomegranate juice

Slice of star fruit

Add the vodka and aquavit (the Danish booze of choice) to a highball glass over ice. Fill with Orangina, cranberry juice, and pomegranate juice and stir. Garnish with star fruit and enjoy the hell out of this mixture.



You know that crazy family who lives down the block? The one with the dad who wanders around the neighborhood naked, yelling at the mailboxes? And the daughters screaming over whose turn it is to give him a sponge bath? Well, take a cue from King Lear’s most mangled Good Samaritan, the Earl of Gloucester: Do not—we repeat—do not go over there and try to help. If you do, someone might lose an eye. Possibly two. After King Lear makes a mess of his family by disowning his one honest, well-adjusted daughter, Cordelia, and dividing his kingdom up between her devious sisters, Goneril and Regan, he insists they still treat him like he’s king. Goneril and Regan shut their doors on him instead, leaving him to wander into a raging storm, where he loses his mind and most of his clothes. That’s when Gloucester decides to protect Lear from his daughters’ “cruel nails” and “boarish fangs.” When Goneril finds out about Gloucester’s interference, she decides they should blind him. Regan’s on board—in fact, she’s practically drooling with excitement as she and her husband, Cornwall, bind Gloucester’s “corky arms” to a chair and pluck out one of his eyes. When Cornwall goes for eyeball number two and yells “Out, vile jelly!” it’s like a multiple family orgasm. Too bad Gloucester didn’t keep his distance from the whole dysfunctional Lear clan. That’s what lucky Cordelia got to do. Who wouldn’t prefer disinheritance to spending one more holiday meal with these sociopaths?

• 40 hors d’oeuvres

20 small new potatoes, halved crosswise

1/4 cup beet juice

1 cup sour cream

1/4 teaspoon salt

4 ounces caviar

Boil the potatoes for 15 minutes or until tender. Drain and set aside to cool. Cut a small slice off the rounded bottom of each half so that they can sit flat on a plate. Pour the beet juice into shallow bowl and dab the open face of each potato half in the juice until it takes on a pink hue. Arrange the potato halves on a platter. In another bowl, combine the sour cream with the salt. Spoon a small dollop of sour cream in the middle of each potato. Top the sour cream on each potato with 1/4 teaspoon caviar to make the pupils. Continue until all the eyes are staring at you, completely horrified.

Warning: Consuming food that resembles body parts in King Lear may evoke negative feelings about your own siblings, favoritism, and the cost of elder care.


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