Ladies’ Night: Book and Cocktail Pairings for a Night In

A drink order says a lot about a person—that’s maybe why there are approximately a zillion online quizzes promising to reveal the secret of our personalities based on our drink of choice. And in mystery novels, a character’s favorite drink is equally as telling. A fun way to get into a protagonist’s head is to match her drink for drink while you’re reading about her exploits. Here are some standout female characters in classic and contemporary mystery fiction and what they are drinking throughout the novels they star in. 

(Note: a good whisk(e)y goes with any mystery novel, in my opinion.)

Nora Charles

Nick and Nora are martini drinkers through and through—gin and dry vermouth, light on the latter one. Charming cocktail banter isn’t an ingredient, but feel free to throw that in. 

Pair Dashiell Hammett’s The Thin Man with a classic dry martini.

Dry Martini


1 1/2 oz. gin
1/2 oz. dry vermouth
1 olive without pimiento for garnish


Pour gin and vermouth in an ice-filled cocktail shaker. Shake thoroughly, then strain and pour into chilled martini glass. Add olive.

Fun fact: the 1934 movie version of The Thin Man predates James Bond’s “shaken, not stirred” martini order on film, and it even specifies how to shake it:

“The important thing is the rhythm. Always have rhythm in your shaking. Now a Manhattan you shake to fox-trot time. A Bronx to two-step time. A dry Martini you always shake to waltz time.”

Phryne Fisher

Star of Kerry Greenwood’s books and a thoroughly enjoyable BBC show, the glamorous, gutsy Miss Fisher solves crimes in 1920s Melbourne, Australia—where they were wise enough to avoid something like Prohibition—and she’ll have a Scotch or, occasionally, champagne. 

Pair Cocaine Blues with the ‘20s-era cocktail Scotch Royale, and combine both of her preferred drinks.

Scotch Royale


1 sugar cube
1 1/2 oz. Scotch 
Dash of bitters 
Champagne (chilled)


Place sugar cube in a champagne flute and add Scotch and bitters. Fill with champagne.

Kinsey Millhone

Private investigator Kinsey isn’t picky when it comes to food or drink. On any given day, you might find her enjoying dinner at Rosie’s Tavern and drinking whatever wine Rosie—the owner and Santa Teresa’s resident Hungarian—herself serves her. 

Pair Sue Grafton’s A Is for Alibi with a Hungarian cocktail, Kalte Muschi.

Kalte Muschi


8 oz. Hungarian red wine (such as Bikaver)
8 oz. Coca Cola
Lemon slices


Pour red wine and Coca Cola into highball glasses filled with ice. Garnish with lemon slices and serve.

Darlene O’Hara

Peter de Jonge’s troubled but determined NYPD detective Darlene O’Hara likes to start the day off right—with a morning vodka and grapefruit juice at Milano’s.

Pair de Jonge’s Buried on Avenue B with a Greyhound cocktail.



1 oz. vodka
2 1/2 oz. grapefruit juice
1 slice grapefruit for garnish
Simple syrup (optional)


Fill a chilled old-fashioned glass halfway with ice cubes. Add the vodka and grapefruit juice and stir. Add simple syrup if it’s too tart for your taste.

Fun fact: if you salt the rim of the glass, this puppy is known as a Salty Dog.

Rachel Watson

Rachel spends most of The Girl on the Train drunk on “gin in a tin,” a decidedly British-sounding invention: a canned, premixed cocktail apparently available in London train stations. (In the movie version, Rachel’s drink of choice is swapped out for easier-to-find vodka.)

Pair Paula Hawkins’s The Girl on the Train with a classic G & T if a canned version is not available to you.

Gin & Tonic


2 oz. gin 
4-5 oz. tonic
Lime wedge


Pour the gin and the tonic into a chilled highball glass almost filled with ice. Stir. Garnish with lime wedge.

Lou Norton

At the end of a long shift, LAPD homicide detective Elouise “Lou” Norton has been known to enjoy a glass of Riesling. It’s a fitting choice for her, since she too can be sweet or bone-dry, depending on the situation.

Pair Rachel Howzell Hall’s Land of Shadows with a Chateau St. Michelle Riesling, or if a regular old glass of wine is not your speed, mix it up an easy wine spritzer.

Riesling Spritzer


3 parts Riesling
1 part club soda
Dash of bitters, if you please


Pour into a wine glass filled with ice. Top with soda. Add bitters (optional).


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Kristen Lepionka's Roxane Weary, the detective in The Last Place You Look (out June 13), orders Crown Royal on the rocks whenever she has a chance.

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