Texas Book Festival authors explore historical, scientific sides of booze

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"Of All the Gin Joints" features illustrations of Hollywood celebrities by Edward Hemingway, who chose to draw them in a style that he wanted to look a little tipsy, in keeping with the subject of the book.
"Of All the Gin Joints" features illustrations of Hollywood celebrities by Edward Hemingway, who chose to draw them in a style that he wanted to look a little tipsy, in keeping with the subject of the book.

“Of All the Gin Joints” features illustrations of Hollywood celebrities by Edward Hemingway, who chose to draw them in a style that he wanted to look a little tipsy, in keeping with the subject of the book.

Among all the fiction and nonfiction authors coming to the Texas Book Festival this weekend are a variety of food writers, making the festival a big draw for anyone who loves to cook and eat — and drink. Three of these writers have penned books centering around booze: Mark Bailey and Edward Hemingway collaborated on “Of All the Gin Joints: Stumbling Through Hollywood History,” and Adam Rogers published “Proof: The Science of Booze.”

Bailey and Hemingway’s compulsively readable book, which I wrote about for today’s food section, explores old Hollywood’s dependence on alcohol through bite-sized biographies, anecdotes and cocktail recipes (including the one below) that often originated in the very bars where the boozed-up stars engaged in their anecdote-worthy antics.

The authors will be at the festival on Saturday for two events surrounding “Of All the Gin Joints.” First up is the 11 a.m. “Drinks and a Movie” panel with Anne Helen Peterson, who wrote “Scandals of Classic Hollywood”; then, at 9:30 p.m., they’ll participate in a “Lit Crawl” event at Clayworks with other Algonquin Books writers.

Rogers’ time at the festival is on Sunday, when he’ll talk about fermentation and other scientific processes that produce the beer, wine and spirits that we love in an accessible, easy-to-follow manner.

“Some archaeologists and anthropologists have argued that the production of beer induced human beings to settle down and develop permanent agriculture — to literally put down roots and cultivate grains instead of roam nomadically,” he writes in “Proof.” “The manufacture of alcohol was, arguably, the social and economic revolution that allowed Homo sapiens to become civilized human beings. It’s the apotheosis of human life on earth. It’s a miracle.”

The Brown Derby

The origin story of many cocktails has gotten blurred over the years as myths take over — for example, did author Ernest Hemingway really invent the Bloody Mary after his doctors told him to stay away from alcohol? (The tomato juice and other ingredients helped to mask the taste of the vodka, the story goes.) Probably not, but that hasn’t stopped people from giving him credit.

Similarly, the Brown Derby cocktail has a murky backstory surrounding it, one that “Of All the Gin Joints” touches on briefly. Was it created at the now-defunct Los Angeles restaurant of the same name, both of which were wildly popular in the 1930s? Or did another nearby restaurant christen the cocktail after its neighbor? Or is it called the Brown Derby simply because it looks like a brown hat? Wherever it came from, the bourbon drink remains a staple in classic cocktail repertoires.

2 oz. bourbon

1 oz. freshly squeezed grapefruit juice

1/2 oz. of honey

Pour all ingredients into a cocktail shaker filled with ice cubes. Shake well. Strain into a chilled cocktail glass.

— “Of All the Gin Joints”


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