Friday, May 3, 2019

Tara Laskowski, “The Case of the Vanishing Professor” and The Lady Detective

Tara Laskowski joins us today on Drinks with Reads to pair her Agatha nominated story, "The Case of the Vanishing Professor" with the perfect drink. Her published works include the short story collection, Bystanders, which won the Balcones Fiction Prize and was hailed by Jennifer Egan in The Guardian as one of the best books of 2017 and Modern Manners for Your Inner Demons, tales of dark etiquette. Her debut novel, One Night Gone, will be published by Graydon House Books in October 2019.

I’ve always been fascinated by people who go through the world with names they share with uber-famous people. Case in point: just recently, I was working on my computer when a Facebook notification popped up that said, “Stephen King just commented on a post you were tagged in.” I nearly had a heart attack—until I realized it was my cousin’s boyfriend’s relative who was talking about my book cover, not the Horror King himself.

The character in my story “The Case of the Vanishing Professor” shares a name with perhaps the most famous girl detective of all time: Nancy Drew. But after a lifetime of wisecracks (“Boy, do I have a mystery for you to solve!” or “Where’s Ned?”), she has really, really come to hate that her name is Nancy Drew. 

As the story opens, Nancy is on her fourth date with a new guy. He’s surprised her with tickets to a murder mystery dinner at a local college, and Nancy is less-than-thrilled about his choice. Of course, as the dinner theater progresses, real-life mysteries start thickening—and Nancy finds herself pulled into the plot. Will her new boyfriend’s theater date choice make or break their relationship? Is something sinister going on off-stage at this local college? Will Nancy continue to snub the legacy of her namesake—or will she discover that she, too, can be a detective—and maybe even enjoy it?

It took me 12 years from the time I first had the idea for this story until I was finally able to write it the way I wanted to and see it published in the May/June 2018 Alfred Hitchcock’s Mystery Magazine. Therefore, I knew I needed a very special drink to go with it, one that would stand the test of time.

Because when the famous girl detective grows up, she needs an adult drink, right?

Therefore, I’m pairing my story with a drink called “The Lady Detective” (with an emphasis on “lady” and not “girl”), a delightfully complex cocktail I found on the web site Post Prohibition. While the coconut foam spread on top of the drink is dessert-like, the cocktail takes a turn from sweet to sassy with the addition of mint, lime, ginger, and creole bitters—delicate but at the same time solid and sure of itself. Just like our Nancy Drew.

Here’s a slightly altered recipe that my husband and I tried at home. (If you don’t have creole bitters, I’m betting you could substitute other bitters and experiment with how it changes the taste.)

The Lady Detective
  • 2 oz El Dorado 12 year rum
  • 3/4 oz fresh lime juice
  • 1 oz ginger syrup (1:1)
  • 6 to 8 mint leaves
  • Egg white
  • Few spoonfuls of coconut cream (to taste)
  • ½ cup whipping cream
  • dash creole bitters
Add the rum to your shaker tin and lightly muddle 6–8 mint leaves. Add the lime juice, ginger syrup, a little egg white, and shake with ice. Double strain into a chilled cocktail glass. Combine whipping cream and coconut cream in a mixer and whip until peaks form. Top the cocktail with a thin layer of the coconut foam. Add four dashes of creole bitters in a circular pattern and then drag a toothpick through the drops to create a nice design.

You can find Tara on Twitter @TaraLWrites and on 
Instagram: @beanglish.

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