Friday, July 13, 2018

Art Taylor: Drinks with Reads "English 398: Fiction Workshop" and The Brittany

Art Taylor joins us today for Drinks with Reads. Art has won several of the mystery world's top awards for fiction, including four Agathas, one Anthony, two Macavitys, and three Derringers. His story "A Necessary Ingredient," in Coast to Coast: Private Eyes From Sea to Shining Sea, was a finalist for this year's Agatha Award and is now a finalist for both the Anthony and the Macavity Award for Best Short Story. You can read the full story free here and see the drink to match here

To celebrate the publication of his latest story in Ellery Queen's Mystery Magazine: "English 398: Fiction Workshop," Art offers us another inspired cocktail. Welcome Art!

The full title of my new story for Ellery Queen's Mystery Magazine is "English 398: Fiction Workshop - Notes from Class & A Partial Draft by Brittany Wallace, Plus Feedback, Conference & More" -- a mouthful, I know, but because of the story's fairly layered structure, I wanted to lay out from the start several of the elements that would be included in the tale. (You can read more about that structure in an essay for the First Two Pages blog series, and get an excerpt of the story.)

The story's main characters are a professor of creative writing and one of his students, Brittany Wallace of that subtitle, with whom he is having an affair. Brittany is a bright student, sharp, attentive, imaginative, hard-working -- in short, exactly what the professor has always asked for in a student, even without romantic entanglement. But that entanglement satisfies other of the professor's wants, of course, and also adds to the conflicts at the heart of the story -- exciting moments turned inciting moments, complicating plot points ahead.

I reached out to my friend Brandon Wicks, also a writer and fellow fan of cocktails, for some help concocting a drink to pair with this story. As I told, I wanted a drink that was brightly colored, vibrant, something that looked as sweet as could be - until you sipped it, when you tasted the bitterness at its core. Some variation of a Negroni jumped to mind for both of us, one of my own favorite drinks, and I suggested adding a bubbly component to the mix -- because isn't the young woman in the story bubbly in her own way? A Negroni Sbagliato is the name for a Negroni that substitutes prosecco for the gin but I suggested keeping the gin (some backbone to this drink, as with the character herself!) and adding prosecco on top. Given the extra sweetness, a bit of extra bitters was called for at that point -- and I like the name of some bitters we recently got from Crude Small-Batch Bitters in Raleigh, NC: "Bitterless Marriage," which also gave the briefest nod toward the professor's wife in the story. 

After trying out several possible cocktail titles (The Conniving Coed, anyone?), I settled simply on The Brittany -- and added a subtitle here too, echoing the story's own subtitle and satisfying my sudden thirst for alliteration. 

I hope you enjoy both the story and the cocktail. 

The Brittany
Bubbly, But Bitter
1 oz. gin
1 oz Campari
1 oz sweet vermouth
2 dashes bitters -- preferable "Bitterless Marriage" bitters from Crude Bitters

Stir first four ingredients in a mixing glass with ice and strain into a champagne flute. Top with Prosecco. Orange twist garnish optional.  


  1. Thank you for a great post, Art. I loved this story and can't wait to get some Crude Bitters.

  2. A fascinating post about one of the best short stories I have read so far this year.

  3. Interesting post, Art. And a terrific story! And the drink sounds good, too. Anything with Campari can't be bad.