Andre Darlington: Books and Booze and Gotham Too
Written by Richard Beach on March 28, 2021
Andre Darlington is the product of the cocktail party. He and his sister, Tenaya, would flip records while his parents entertained. Together they wrote Booze and Vinyl, among others. Andre’s latest works (coming soon) are Booze Cruise – A Tour of The World’s Essential Mixed Drinks and Batman: The Official Gotham City Cocktail Book. Get your shakers ready.
RRX: We’re speaking with Andre AD. He has a new book coming out called Booze Cruise, a number of other cocktail and lifestyle, as well as a couple of volumes of poetry and ramblings that we’ll get to, as well. First, Andre, thank you very much for joining us.
AD: Thanks for having me. Great to be here.
RRX: We were gifted your Booze and Vinyl book for Christmas.
AD: Perfect. Perfect gift.
RRX: Booze and Vinyl was done with your sister. What hit me was that as a family, there would be cocktail parties, and you and your sister would flip the records on the Thorens turntable.
AD: Yeah. It was the centerpiece of our house.
RRX: How did the cocktail party influence your family, you and your sister in particular, and ultimately your writing?
AD: Good question. My father was a musician, but he was also a gearhead. He had the Thorens turntable. He had a console, a hand-built walnut console, that everything was in. He was running a Dynaco System that he had built by hand.
Then, after college, I would throw these cocktail parties. When Tenaya, my sister, and I got together, we would also compare notes and have parties. Entertaining and entertaining with a theme was part of how we grew up in our crazy post-’60s musician household. We were surprised when a lot of people don’t necessarily have that background.
The Booze and Vinyl book really grew out of us having written two other cocktail books prior. We wrote a cocktail bible called The New Cocktail Hour, which tells the story of the cocktail in historical order.
We thought oh, no one’s ever gonna bite on this idea. Alibris, I believe, called us back within the next couple days and were like, “We love the idea of booze and vinyl.”
RRX: How does one choose between Miles’ Kind of Blue and not Bitches Brew?
AD: It’s not entirely clear, although we side on the side of listenability, in particular for Miles Davis. It’s like, okay. This album is baby’s first Miles Davis album. Let’s put that on there.
RRX: Of course, if you’re my age and you don’t love Leonard Cohen, then you’re dead.
AD: Right. I got lucky to see him before he passed. He was unbelievable. Putting all of us to shame at 80 years old. He came out in the dark wearing his suit, and slid out on the stage like he was 20-something. It was unbelievable.
RRX: There is a cocktail that is half an ounce of 151, half an ounce of whisky, and half an ounce of vodka Our fearless leader, Art, used to tend bar and owned a number of bars in the area. He just looked at me and went, oh shit.
AD: Yeah, that is a cocktail called The End of the World. We had to put it with London Calling, which is this apocalyptic –
RRX: It’s a great record. It’s a brilliant record.
AD: Yeah, that was fun. Yeah, that one will kill ya. We had a few… The New Cocktail Hour is this book that really tracks really close to the craft cocktail movement in the United States.
RRX: There are 500 cocktails?
RRX: Did you guys drink all of them?
AD: Yeah, we got on Google Hang. We were living 1,000 miles apart at the time, and we would get on Google Hang and fly to each other’s houses, and drink. Whenever I do one of these books, man, it is pretty funny. I’ll be making five, six drinks a day recipe testing, and just load them in the refrigerator. Hopefully somebody comes over to drink them.
RRX: Booze Cruise looks, to the average American, or the average hipster as the coolest life to live ever. It looks that way. Is it, and if not, what’s the worst part about it?
AD: That’s a great question. That book was the brainchild of my editor, who I’ve worked with now on 6 books – 4 of which are published.
So, I circumnavigated the globe through 11 cities in 2019. Took me about 65 days. I could have called the book, Around the World in 60 Hangovers.
RRX: There are two books that you’ve written, one is poetry, and the second is about traveling between the Philly and New York City Chinatowns.
First, tell me a bit about the poetry, and about what the motivation to not simply put it on paper, but then to publish it.
AD: Great question. Thank you for asking. I don’t talk about those books a lot, although they were reviewed really well. Nobody buys poetry, essentially. They were never billed as the commercial career option. I had come out to Philadelphia and I was actually going to New York very often, I was in the writing program at NYU.
AD: Yeah. For one, I’ve always been interested in fiction. For two, my fiction writing makes my work that I’m known for so much better. I wanted to write this little chap book and it just poured out of me while I was on the bus. It’s kind of a travel book I credit the China Bus book really with being the ghost book behind me getting this other travel book of Booze Cruise. I have another book that I worked on with an illustrator from DC Comics that I think is why I got chosen – we’ll talk about this a little bit later – to write the book for Batman. I do these side projects all the time between my big projects, and they really do inform the cocktail books, or whatever book I’m working on. Now, The Prettiest Star is a collection of all interwoven “poems” – I put poems in quotes because often, they’re narrative poetry. I was really influenced by this pop poetry movement, where poetry is sort of back. Poetry, you’ll find it on the shelf of Urban Outfitters. People are reading this stuff.
RRX: The logistics. I have to say, the logistics of this whole Booze Cruise
AD: Yeah, intense. The worst logistics ever.
RRX: I imagine that Janine made a lot of this possible for you. And I don’t mean from a logistical standpoint or anything else, but psychologically. That was a huge undertaking.
AD: Yeah, a huge undertaking. She was actually able to meet me – Janine’s my partner – in Asia before New Year’s, so that was fantastic. As fun as it is, the work gets really lonely. Really being more than a month away from home, it gets introspective, let’s say. To be in one hotel room after another, it… I wouldn’t say a psychological toll, but it definitely changes you to travel that long on your own.
Our kitchen is always in some state of disrepair. There are bottles of liquors everywhere. There’s books everywhere. It’s a special partner who can put up with this lifestyle.
RRX: Obviously, we have Booze Cruise coming out in April. That’s a big undertaking. A really big travel undertaking, hard. But then, I have to admit, I have never thought about Gotham City having cocktails.
AD: Yeah, what a crazy… I get back to the United States, I’m finishing this book, COVID happens. As I mentioned a little bit earlier, I was working with this illustrator. I wanted to make a cocktail book that was a story and during the story, you actually get recipes for cocktails. So, it’s a cocktail book inside of a comic book. I had been working on this, and I had put a little bit of it out on the Internet. Right when I handed in Booze Cruise, I get a call from a publisher who’s working with DC Comics. Do I want to write the Batman cocktail book? And I thought for one second – My agent is like, “Are you sure you want to do this?”
I jumped at the chance because here is a book in a city that’s a cocktail city. You know that people drink hard and that these characters drink hard. And what was interesting is, I said to DC, I want to do this, but on the condition that we go really hard with the realism. I want it to be a book that you could pull off the shelf in Gotham City. Nothing inspired, no BS.
RRX: I would like to end the official part of this. I like to ask people if you have words to say to everyone, not just my audience, but the world, what would it be? What would you like the world to listen to?
AD: That’s a good way of segueing into it, which is listen and pay attention. I was a restaurant reviewer originally. I really was influenced by what’s been called the whole foods revolution.
The cocktails, for me, are the same. At one point, we had mixes, margarita mixes. We didn’t really think of our ice. Really, it’s a matter of paying attention or listening, and improving, and your life becomes so much better. Luckily, we’re living in an amazing age where that’s possible.
Excerpted from BOOZE AND VINYL: A Spirited Guide to Great Music & Mixed Drinks by André Darlington & Tenaya Darlington. Copyright © 2018. Available from Running Press, an imprint of Hachette Book Group, Inc.
License to Ill
Producers: Rick Rubin Label: Def Jam
No sleep till . . . ! Not as well-known as its neighboring burrow’s signature libation, the Manhattan, this cocktail is a forgotten classic in its own right. It’s been a bit hard for the drink to come into full revival since the original recipe calls for Amer Picon, a French orange liqueur that is no longer readily available in the United States. But, by substituting an amaro like Torani Amer and adding a few dashes of orange bitters, you can approximate the flavor.
2 ounces rye whiskey
3/4 ounce dry vermouth
1/4 ounce Maraschino liqueur
1/4 ounce Torani Amer
4 dashes orange bitters
Stir ingredients with ice and strain into a chilled cocktail glass.