Summer Reads with Drinks, Part One

It’s summertime and what could be better than getting a great summer read? A festive drink to go with it!

We've reassembled the team that brought you Halloween crime cocktails to bring you a fabulous list of books for summer and matching beverages. We went for a wide range (in fact, so many that Part Two's coming up on Wednesday), and there’s a little something for everyone here. So read and drink up!

The Buzzard’s Table by Margaret Maron

This novel, from MWA Grand Master Margaret Maron, is a mélange of suspicious murders and family secrets. It's set in Colleton County, North Carolina, where it’s all charm on the outside and festering emotions under the seething underbelly. Our matching drink is an adult float, pairing sweetness with that little kick you didn’t expect.

The Adult Float

Because of the sorbet, these drinks are best made right before you serve them.

Fill a festive glass 1/2 the way full with hard cider and add a small scoop of lemon sorbet (any fruit sorbet will do).


The Expats by Chris PavoneThe Expats, by Chris Pavone

Pavone’s thriller won the Edgar award for best first novel from the Mystery Writers of America this year, and after reading it, it’s easy to see why. This fast-paced thriller takes us through many twists and turns as a former CIA agent finds herself in Luxemborg wondering why exactly her husband wanted to move there and what exactly he’s into. Since most of the story is set in the European Grand Dutchy of Luxemborg, our suggested drink pairing is one of the light white wines grown and developed near the Mosel river.

Expat Sangria:

1 bottle of white wine from Luxemborg

2 cups of fresh fruit – grapes, peaches and raspberries work nicely

1 cup of Elderflower liquor

Pour wine into a carafe, and elderflower liquor and chill. Add fresh fruit right before serving.


The Labors of Hercules by Agatha Christie

This book is a short story collection marking the semi-retirement of Hercule Poirot. Each short story has him solving a case that mirrors one of the Twelve Labors of Hercules. Christie actually named Poirot after Hercules. The short stories are ideal if you only have small blocks of time for reading and want to get a whole story in one sitting.  Since you need as much fuel as possible for those little grey cells, why not enjoy a smoothie with your Agatha Christie?

Labors of Hercules Smoothie:

One banana, frozen

One large handful of spinach (you read that right, Popeye)

One half apple peeled

Two cups apple cider, chilled

Put all ingredients in a blender and mix until smooth. Pour into a glass and get yourself a straw.  Serves one. If anyone else is around they are going to want one of these.  Full disclosure: we adapted this recipe from a blender demo at Costco. They don’t include the apple, but we liked it better with it.


The President and the Assassin by Scott MillerThe President and the Assassin by Scott Miller

Written by seasoned journalist Scott Miller, The President and the Assassin is a beautifully written non-fictional account of the 1901 assassination of President William McKinley.  When McKinley was campaigning in 1896, the Prohibition movement was starting to grow, so he campaigned on a teetotal platform with the slogan: McKinley drinks soda water, Bryan drinks rum; McKinley is a gentleman, Bryan is a bum.

Since plain old soda water isn’t very interesting, the matching drink for The President and the Assassin is …

Strawberry Water:

from the Whitehouse Cookbook, 1901 edition, with our update:

1 pound strawberries, de-stemmed

Juice of one-half lemon

1 cup sugar

Soda water

Place strawberries in a blender and pulse until smooth. Strain out seeds and pulp.  Pour remaining juice in a saucepan with lemon juice and sugar. Heat until boiling.  Simmer for 5 minutes, stirring frequently.

Remove from heat and let cool. Strain again. Mix 2 tablespoons of syrup with 6oz of soda water to taste.

Garnish with a sprig of basil.


Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore by Robin Sloan

This book is about an ancient bookstore with a deep mystery behind it and the quest to solve it.  The action moves from San Francisco to New York and then to the Silicon Valley.

Since most of this book takes place in wonderful old bookstores and libraries, we think the perfect matching drink is:


You don’t need to mix anything, just open the bottle! That will give you more time to figure out what is behind the mystery.


I’d like to thank everyone on our drink and reads team.  You don’t think I do all of this by myself, do you?

What books and drinks do you recommend? Also, if you try any of these, we’d love to hear about it.

 Pairing images courtesy of the author.

Deborah Lacy blogs at Mystery Playground, where all summer long guest bloggers are matching book recommendations with fabulous drinks. 

See all posts by Deborah Lacy for Criminal Element.


  1. Kim Hammond

    What fun. I want to be invited to the next tasting party please! I’ll pass on anything w/ spinach though!

  2. Kerry

    What a great idea, a good book AND a good drink. Thanks for all the recipes!

  3. Rebecca L.

    The spinach one sounds bizarre but interesting. How many of one of these drinks did it take you to finish one book?

  4. Deborah Lacy

    @Kimhammond – the beauty of the spinach smoothie is that you don’t taste the spinach.

    @kerryhammond – you are welcome.

    @RebeccaL – Wouldn’t you like to know?

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