Food & Drink | July 8, 2022 6:31 am

This Cocktail List Is Inspired by Your AP English Reading List

If you’ve ever wondered about Jay Gatsby’s perfect drink, Emmanuel Pressley’s got you covered

Adam and Eve painting, Eve holding a green drink
The question on everyone's minds: what drink would Eve want?
Heritage Images

Writers from Ernest Hemingway to William Faulkner were known for their love of a good tipple — but have you ever thought about what your favorite literary characters might have drunk? Emmanuel Pressley, lead bartender at Morrison House’s The Study, certainly has: Following experience crafting drinks for such spots as Alexandria’s Brabo, Cleveland’s Society Lounge and Washington’s Zentan, Pressley has curated a whole cocktail list inspired by great works of literature from Paradise Lost to childhood classic The Giving Tree at this Old Town Alexandria boutique hotel. 

We asked him what cocktails he’d shake, stir or pour for some of literature’s most illustrious characters, and Pressley was more than up to the task.

Jay Gatsby from The Great Gatsby

“Jay Gatsby, one of my favorite characters, is a man who built an entire life all in the pursuit of one goal. Once I heard about the literary theme of The Study, I knew I had to feature a cocktail about Gatsby. To me, his story was all about the realization of a man who built an entire image on a lie. He built so many things on the surface, while at his core, he wanted the most basic human desire. I dedicated my cocktail Beautiful Little Fool to this summary. For this cocktail, I take a simple sour recipe and add dazzle and jazz with enhanced background flavors, wine and burnt rosemary. While the cocktail itself is quite simple, the show is quite theatrical and quite like Gatsby at its core.”

Jane Eyre from Jane Eyre

“During her plight, she considers traveling to India with her cousin and potential marriage partner. My signature cocktail, The Giving Tree, would be very representative of the life she could have had. The Giving Tree itself was inspired by and uses the classic Indian lassi, with basil-infused gin and chartreuse. It’s a hearty drink full of culture, nourishment and a sense of home, and I’ve always believed that this story was about finding a piece of home without compromise.”

Eve from The Bible

“The story of Adam and Eve is such a timeless tale that we often oversimplify it. The story we are often told is that Eve bites the apple because she was tricked, but to me, Eve was always tempted. Imagine being put on an island with unlimited freedom except one condition: There’s one fruit you can’t touch or eat. Just as a human, would you not be slightly curious? It seems like the warning would only provoke more intrigue. Then imagine the ultimate salesman telling you that the fruit you are forbidden to taste is the most delicious fruit in the entire garden, the fruit that will give you knowledge far and above, the fruit that will give you understanding and fulfillment…. How long could you hold out? How long until you bite that sweet green apple, how long until the sweet juices turn into spice? How long until that spice triggers your senses and releases thoughts and feelings that you never imagined? I tried to recreate that depth of that feeling in my cocktail Eve’s Mistake. I wanted to start with a sweet green apple puree with lemon juice and cane sugar, and I wanted to layer a spicy infused Scotch to bring the cocktail to life. To me this encapsulates the temptation with the sweet apple, the knowledge with the hint of smoke and the danger with the spicy scotch infusion.”

Holden Caulfield from The Catcher in the Rye

“The main character in Catcher in the Rye is Holden Caulfield, who to me is just an angsty teenager trying to navigate the transition from childhood to adulthood. Holden’s character is sensitive yet rebellious as he seeks answers and tries to find a place for himself in his home of New York. I created the Fire & Ice cocktail to be a combination of sweet and spicy flavors that triggers the same internal clash. This cocktail is made with vodka, pineapple-infused chartreuse, lemon juice, simple syrup, and a bit of ghost pepper tincture, which I think would be the ideal drink for Holden’s rebellious nature, cynicism and teenage woes.”

Elizabeth Bennet from Pride and Prejudice 

“We all know Elizabeth Bennet’s character in Pride and Prejudice is clever, self-assured and outspoken, so if I had the chance to sit down with her in The Study and serve her ideal cocktail, I would go with Lucid Dreams. Made with tequila, ginger syrup, lime juice, beet juice and a cocoa nib foam on top, this cocktail is on the sweeter side, and I would hope that it would spark what Elizabeth does best — witty conversations, and maybe some gossip on the latest romantic adventures with good ol’ Mr. Darcy.”