Watercolor Cocktail Class

Ink Your Drink! A new class on painting cocktails


When Andy Warhol worked in advertising in the 1950s, he used an ink transfer technique to make charming images of shoes, cats, and other objects that he then hand-colored with watercolor.

I’m taking his method and applying it to an ever-popular subject, cocktails!

To find out more about the class, and to get a free trial on Skillshare, use this link. Skillshare is a membership-style platform like Netflix where you can take all the classes you want for one low monthly fee.

I’m also teaching this class on Udemy, where you can pay just for the classes you want to take. Also, I added a bunch of bonus material to the Udemy version, featuring Paul Klee’s oil paint resist method, and some ideas about using wax crayons for resist techniques! Go here to see this class on Udemy.

These techniques are really entertaining and inventive ways to approach any subject you want to paint—not just cocktails but florals, animals, and anything that inspires you.

With these methods, you can make paintings in series, create greeting cards or party invitations, make placeholders or gift tags, or create beautiful wall art that is truly unique.

Because we’ll be tracing in this class, no drawing experience is necessary, and we’re going to be splashing watercolor around in a loose, expressive way. There is truly no experience required. This class is for everyone!


A Cocktail for the New Novel!

In Chapter 23 of Miss Kopp Just Won’t Quit, divorce attorney John Ward makes a joke about a drink make with ginger ale, and then later suggests a cocktail called The Willful Deserter, which describes some of his clients. I put those two ideas together to offer up this delightful variation on a Moscow Mule.

The Willful Deserter
Juice of ½ lime
2 oz pineapple juice
2 oz vodka
4 oz ginger beer (such as Reed’s Ginger Beer)
Sprig of mint for garnish
Pineapple slice or lime slice for garnish

Combine the first three ingredients in a cocktail shaker and shake well with ice. Pour into a glass filled with crushed ice, top with ginger beer, and garnish.

And…there’s a cocktail for every book in the Kopp Sisters series! You can find them all here.

Now All We Need is a Cocktail!

We’ve only just begun to plan the book tour for Girl Waits with Gun, but I’m already working on a cocktail I can serve. (Book tour planned for Sept/Oct 2015; dates to be posted here.) After weeks of historical research and multiple trips to the liquor store, I think I’ve got it. The significance of the automobile might not be obvious to you until you’ve read the book, but I have to say that I am quite pleased with myself for coming up with a drink made entirely with ingredients that would have been available in 1914, based on a cocktail of the era whose name actually ties in with the book.

After much taste-testing last night (thanks to the six brave friends who turned out for this effort), I give you:

The New Jersey Automobile (Serves two)

½ oz applejack

½ oz gin

½ oz sweet vermouth

½ oz blackberry jam

4 oz sparkling wine

Combine the first four ingredients in a cocktail shaker and shake well over ice. Use a fine mesh sieve to strain the mixture, dividing it equally between two champagne coupes. Top each glass with two ounces of sparkling wine.

A historical  and literary perspective: The Automobile is a cocktail dating to the 1910s that combines equal parts Scotch, gin, and sweet vermouth. Honestly, it’s a bit hard to take, as were most automobiles in the 1910s, judging from the Kopps’ experience with them. I swapped the Scotch for applejack to give it a New Jersey attitude, added jam for a little sweetness (see p. 30 for Norma’s opinion of jam), and topped it off with Champagne, which I believe Fleurette would have been very much in favor of if only Constance would’ve allowed it.

This drink is easy to mix for a crowd. Just combine equal parts of the first four ingredients ahead of time and stir vigorously with ice, then strain through a fine sieve to remove the ice and bits of jam. When guests arrive, pour one ounce of the mixture into each glass and top with two ounces sparkling wine.

To make the math easy, here’s a batch that serves 100, with suggested brands that are tasty and easy to find. Scale it up or down from here.

1 750 ml bottle Laird’s applejack
1 750 ml bottle Hendrick’s gin
1 750 ml bottle Dolin or Noilly Prat sweet vermouth
3 eight-ounce jars of jam (by volume, not weight. In other words, 3 cups of jam.)
8 bottles Segura Viudas Spanish cava


New Jersey Automobile ingredients



Boozy Review: Just Add Hammock

Harriet the Spy (Harriet the Spy #1)Harriet the Spy by Louise Fitzhugh

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Is it wrong to do a boozy review of a children’s book? Well, this review is not for children, and as it turns out, the book is a delightful read for adults as well as kids.

I hadn’t read it in a few decades, but somebody just mentioned it to me and I picked it up again. Let me tell you: Reading Harriet the Spy as an adult is like watching Rocky and Bullwinkle as an adult. You realize that 90 percent of it got right past you when you were a kid.

This book is smart, funny, sarcastic, dark, weird, and so very brave. Also, it’s set in a New York of the not-so-distant past that I am so fascinated with. As a kid, I missed just about all of that–or I forgot it. I’m so glad I read it again. I am now forcing it on every kid I know.

But enough about the kids. As an adult reading Harriet the Spy, what shall we have to drink?

I’m going to recommend something fun, lighthearted, easy, and yet surprisingly satisfying, with the most tenuous connection to spies.

I speak, my friends, of the Moscow Mule. (Moscow makes you think of spies, doesn’t it? Sort of?)

It’s the easiest drink in the world to make. Just fill a glass with ice, squeeze a good-sized wedge of lime into the glass, and either drop that lime in the glass or garnish with another, better-looking slice of lime if you wish.

Now add 1.5 ounces of vodka. Don’t get cheap, rotgut vodka, but don’t pay a fortune for a fancy bottle and an expensive ad campaign, either. I like Tito’s from Austin quite a bit.

Now top it off with a good (non-alcoholic) ginger beer like Reed’s. Not ginger ale. Give it a good, vigorous stir to get the vodka moving.

That’s it! That’s the whole drink. It’s bubbly, it’s refreshing, it goes down easy. Put a bendy straw in it. Drink it in a hammock while you read Harriet in paperback and laugh out loud.

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Nobody’s Perfect. Especially This Drink.

Nobody's PerfectNobody’s Perfect by Donald E. Westlake

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Donald Westlake’s Dortmunder novels are really all equally funny and surprising. if you haven’t read them, you have many hours of smart, witty, lighthearted reading ahead.

But what to drink with them, you ask? Well, here’s the thing: the characters in the Dortmunder series (a bunch of sometimes-bumbling, sometimes-competent criminals, much like you’d find in any workplace, only this is a New York-based crime ring), always meet in a bar to plan their next scheme. One trademark of the bar scenes is that the other patrons are always having inane bar-like conversations. (“The idea behind the flat tax is that everybody pays one month’s rent,” for instance) and the bartender knows all the members of the crime ring by their drink orders. “Beer and salt” is one, and “red wine and vodka” is another.

That’s right. Red wine and vodka. The drink of choice of Tiny Bulcher, the thug of the group. He calls himself the “smash and carry man.” In this novel he even explains why he drinks such a thing: “Why not? Gives the vodka a little taste, gives the wine a little body.”

So, dear reader. In the name of research, I made myself a wine and vodka tonight. I bought a bottle of pretty decent screw top red (Our Daily Red, a California table wine) and got out whatever vodka was nearest (Elemental, made from Oregon wheat).

Now, before I started this experiment, I’d only thought of Tiny’s wine and vodka as a funny, lowbrow drink. But once I was standing over my wine glass and pouring in vodka, I thought, “Oh, no. This is a drink for alcoholics. This is what you drink when you don’t want anyone to know how much you’re drinking.”

Because in spite of Westlake’s description of the drink as looking like flat cherry soda, it just looks like red wine–no matter how much vodka you add.

And the correct ratio, I determined, after much experimenting, is 4 to 1 in favor of the wine. Any less than that and the vodka does no good, any more than that and it starts to taste weird.

My husband suggested that I point out that this 4 to 1 ratio works out to 1 six-ounce glass of wine and a 1.5 oz shot of vodka. “If people are going to order it in a bar, that’s how they’d order it,” he explained. “A glass of wine and a shot of vodka.”

But no one is going to order this in a bar. You are not going to order this in a bar. Promise me you won’t.

Drink it if you must, but if you’d like a better combination of wine and spirits, try one of these:

4 oz Lillet Blanc (a delightful French aperitif wine laced with orange liqueur and quinine)

A splash (decide for yourself what that means) of gin.

Pour both into a glass over ice and stir vigorously.

An alternative: Lillet Rouge (the red version) and a dollop of bourbon.

Seriously. Those are good. Red wine and vodka is not. I’m going to worry about you if you sit around at home and drink red wine and vodka.

Wait, here’s another wine and spirits recipe–a French 75! Why didn’t I think of that one first? Here’s the proper old-fashioned version of this drink:

1.5 oz gin
1 tsp sugar or simple syrup
Juice of half a lemon

Shake over ice and strain into a Collins glass filled with cracked ice. Top with Champagne.

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Latest Goodreads review: Cocktail for a Lady Killer

Lady KillerLady Killer by Elisabeth Sanxay Holding

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This is a delightful fast read and such a glorious period piece. It seems like every noir writer working in the 40s had to write a twisted thriller set on board a cruise ship, which leads me to believe that they all let themselves get talked into cruising out of New York and down to the tropics in the winter, found themselves bored and in a bit of a constant dark drunk stupor, and invented bizarre murder plots set on cruise ships and tropical islands to keep themselves amused.

This book mentions a cocktail called the Carlito in Chapter 15. It was invented by one of the characters, which is fantastic, but we don’t find out what’s in the drink, which is not so fantastic. But you know what they do drink an awful lot of in this book? Champagne cocktails.

So here’s what you’re gonna do:

Sugar cube
Angostura bitters

Get a bottle of nice French champagne. I don’t think Honey would have been drinking California champagne in those days. Don’t spend a fortune–something in the $15 price range will do. Failing that, get a good Spanish cava for $10-15 and you’re good.

Get a champagne goblet if you can (the wide, shallow kind of champagne glass) but failing that, a flute will do.

Drop in a sugar cube and douse it with about six drops of Angostura bitters. (Angostura is most certainly the brand the ship would have served.)

Give the bitters a minute to soak in, then top with Champagne.

Drink a toast to Honey and Weaver. They’re going to need it.

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Margaritas in Denver, and a Contest

Hey folks!  I’m headed back to Denver this weekend for the Douglas County Library’s Books, Bites, and Brews event. I’m going to give a little botany lesson on margaritas and you’ll get to drink a very well-made specimen.  Don’t you feel smarter already?

And in other news–The Drunken Botanist is up for an award over at Goodreads.  If you’re at all interested in voting, here’s the link.

October road trip!

Hey people!  It’s just about time for the last farmers market cocktails of the year–and it’s time for me to hit the road.  I’ll be all over the country this month.   Here’s what’s coming up– see you there?


October 03 2013 06:00 PM — Conservatory of Flowers, San Francisco, CA
An evening of botanical cocktail wonderfulness. Advance registration required.

October 08 2013 07:30 PM — Rae Dorough Speakers Series, Livermore, CA
The Drunken Botanist. Bankhead Theater, 2400 First Street, Livermore, CA.

October 09 2013 06:00 PM — Denver Botanic Gardens, Denver, CO
Drunken Botanist lecture

October 10 2013 06:00 PM — The Bookworm, Edwards, CO
The Drunken Botanist. Stay tuned for details.

October 11 2013 09:00 AM — Denver Botanic Gardens, Denver, CO
Drunken Botanist hands-on garden-to-glass workshop

October 15 2013 06:30 PM — United States Botanic Garden, Washington, DC
The Drunken Botanist talk and cocktails NOTE NEW LOCATION! Casey Trees at 3030 12th St NE, Washington DC. Note that this event is with the nonprofit National Fund for the USBG.  Pre-registration online required.

October 16 2013 06:00 PM — Cylburn Arboretum, Baltimore, MD
The Drunken Botanist talk and reception, with food and drink! Ticket purchase required.

October 17 2013 06:30 PM — Brookside Gardens, Wheaton, MD
The Drunken Botanist. Details to come.

October 20 2013 01:00 PM — Green Spring Gardens, Alexandria, VA
The Drunken Botanist

October 21 2013 — Georgia Center for the Book, Atlanta, GA
The Drunken Botanist

October 22 2013 12:00 AM — Atlanta Botanical Garden, Atlanta, GA
The Drunken Botanist

October 23 2013 — Wing Haven Gardens, Charlotte, NC
Cocktail-themed events Oct 23 & 24!  The Drunken Botanist at the Wing Haven Symposium

October 25 2013 05:30 PM — Birmingham Botanical Gardens, Birmingham, AL
The Drunken Botanist.

October 26 2013 04:00 PM — Catawba Science Center, Hickory, NC
A talk on Wicked Plants in conjunction with the Wicked Plants exhibit.

November 09 2013 — Douglas County Library, Highlands Ranch, CO
Books, Bites, and Brews.  Ticket purchase required.

December 09 2013 06:00 PM — San Diego Horticultural Society, San Diego, CA
The Drunken Botanist This event is open to the public, but please check the website for details.

More Drunken Botanist Tour Dates, and Two Plants You Should Totally Grow.

Okay! A few more tour dates for you. See you out there? Go here if you want to see everything that’s coming up. And as always, check these venues for full details.


April 24 2013 — Culinary Arts & Letters, Chapel Hill, NC
Special cocktail event with The Crunkleton and Fearrington Inn. Details coming soon.

April 27 2013 02:00 PM — Indianapolis Museum of Art, Indianapolis, IN
Flower Confidential


And now, I’ve got just a couple more drink/plant recommendations for you. Plants you probably aren’t growing but totally should.



Black Currant, the magic ingredient in cassis.

Why don’t we grow black currants in this country? Because it was banned in the 1920s for its role in spreading white pine blister rust. By 1966, the USDA realized that the ban was unnecessary and lifted it. Spores of the disease can only travel a thousand feet from black currant bush to pine tree, so keeping them out of pine forests is really pretty easy. Besides, many new varieties are disease-resistant. The ban remains in place in ten states on the east coast, but agricultural scientists at Cornell are working with those states to educate them about black currant and persuade them to lift the ban.

So you can certainly grow them. Read more about that here, and remember that the fine people at Clear Creek Distillery make an excellent American version of cassis if you don’t want to bother growing your own.

Sloes! Are you growing sloes? Also known as the blackthorn bush or by its Latin name, Prunus spinosa, this large European hedgerow plant produces the small, tart fruit used to make sloe gin. It’s hard to find in these parts, but try Forest Farm nursery in Oregon or Lincoln Oakes nursery in North Dakota. Last I heard, Forest Farm was growing a grand total of 20 of these per year, demand was so light. I am determined to change that! Let’s freak them out and all order sloes! Read about sloes, and about sloe gin, here as well.

Okay! Thus concludes news from the road and garden-y cocktails. For now. First, I’m going away for a nice long rest….


Drunken Botanist Tour Dates: Southwest, East Coast, and Where is the Gin?

Yes, I am still on the road! It’s hard to believe, I know. I can hardly believe it myself.

So here are some tour dates, and the complete list, if you’d like to see it, is here. As always, check details with the venue before heading out.

April 17 2013 07:00 PM — Changing Hands Books, Tempe, AZ
Join us for a talk about The Drunken Botanist–and a fabulous cocktail made with Dripping Springs Vodka.

April 18 2013 06:00 PM — Arizona Science Center, Phoenix, AZ
This is a private event for Director’s Circle Members only.

April 19 2013 07:00 PM — ArtBar with Bookworks, Albuquerque, NM
This event will be at ArtBar, 119 Gold Ave SW. Albuquerque, where we will drink some fabulous cocktails. Bookworks is sponsoring the event.

April 22 2013 06:30 PM — Science of Distillation, Boston, MA
A special Museum of Science event held at Grand Ten Distilling.  Talk, tour, and tasting included in ticket price, and fabulous food available for purchase from The Dining Car food truck.  Advance ticket purchase required.

April 23 2013 08:00 PM — 92nd Street Y, New York City, NY
The Drunken Botanist at Warburg Lounge. Ticket purchase required.

April 24 2013 — Culinary Arts & Letters, Chapel Hill, NC
Special cocktail event with The Crunkleton and Fearrington Inn.

April 27 2013 02:00 PM — Indianapolis Museum of Art, Indianapolis, IN
Flower Confidential


And I have one last plant collection for you. I think I’ve saved the best for last, because really, what spirit goes best with just about any herb, fruit, or vegetable than gin? So this is the Old Tom Gin Garden, named after a sweeter style of gin that was popular in the 19th century. But to be honest, we just liked the name.

It was incredibly easy to come up with plants to pair with gin. If anything, we had a hard time figuring out what not to include. But in the end, we settled on two kinds of cucumber, borage, basil, and lemon thyme.

sour gherkin cucumber

I want to tell you about one of these cucumbers. It’s not actually a cucumber at all. ‘Mexican Sour Gherkin’ is a close relative, Melothria scabra, native to Central America and Mexico, with a bright, tart flavor a bit bolder than a cucumber—but the flavor isn’t the only reason to grow this one. The fruits themselves are only the size of a grape, but they resemble miniature watermelons, with a mottled green and white skin. They’re the perfect size for a drink garnish, and the plants are surprisingly prolific. Well worth growing. (get them here)



Anyway, those are the plants, all available from Territorial and also through West Coast garden centers supplied by Log House Plants. And your cocktail for the week? How about this?


The Herbarium Cocktail


The Herbarium
1.5 oz Hendrick’s Gin

.5 oz St-Germain elderflower liqueur

3-4 chunks lemon cucumber

2-3 sprigs basil

¼ lemon

Club soda

Borage blossom or basil leaf for garnish

Squeeze lemon into cocktail shaker and combine all ingredients except the club soda. Muddle cucumber and basil, then add ice, shake, and strain into a tall, skinny Collins glass filled with ice. Top with club soda and add garnish.