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‘Book Lush’: A New Guide Matches Literature with the Perfect Cocktail

Author Kelsye Nelson’s new project is seven years in the making and will help readers of age pick the perfect boozy drinks to pair with their favorite books.

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Courtesy of Kelsye Nelson

Last week, Nelson launched a Kickstarter campaign to fund her latest project, "Book Lush," a guide that matches books with cocktails that correspond to the text. The matched cocktails may be inspired by the main character's drink of choice, feature liquor popular during the period in which the book was written, or be based on the book's theme or the author's persona. The idea is to create a fun way for readers of age to fully immerse themselves in the experience.

For example, there is a recipe for Apple Cider Margaritas inspired by Judith L. Gille's "The View from Casa Chepitos" made with Grand Marnier, gold tequila, apple cider, cane sugar, orange and apple pieces, and garnished with cinnamon sticks. The pairing's description reads "Love across borders. Washington state apples mingle with classic south-of-the-border liquor."

Nelson, who is also the CEO and founder of the, a site that helps writers create their own publishing teams by connecting them with book vendors and freelancers, used Kickstarter to both fund her work and gauge interest in the project before she began writing.

So far, the response has been positive. By the final day of her crowd funding campaign, she'd exceeded her $8,000 goal. She has already begun hosting "Book Lush" events, has teamed up with a publishing partner and is in talks with an agent. She had originally planned to self-publish the guide.

In a phone interview, Nelson described the project and her plans for the future.

Kelsye Nelson

Where did you come up with idea for "Book Lush?"

Kelsye Nelson: The idea came seven years ago, and has kind of been in the back of my brain for a long time. It happened when I was living in Japan. I was having a great evening, listening to Miles Davis' "Some Kind of Blue," drinking whiskey and reading a Murakami book. A character goes to a bar and he's listening to a record of the CD that I'm listening to, and then he drinks same thing that I'm drinking. It was really creepy, actually, but also awesome. It was a whole other way to enter the world of the book and experience what the character is experiencing, and dare I even say, feel empathy. It was a really cool experience.

After that, I've always been thinking, "What's the right drink to drink with this book?" It's kind of a tongue-in-cheek question because, obviously, there can't be a "wrong" answer, but there are better answers than others. Different things bring out different qualities of the book or the mood or even the author.

Why did you go ahead and create the Kickstarter?

KN: I kept thinking about it and the Kickstarter was just a fun way to see if anyone else was interested in this idea, and if it was actually a good idea. People love it. We actually started a meet-up group where people get together and everyone brings a random book. Then, bartenders try to match the book on the spot. I would love to do that in other cities. A whole bunch of people now have gotten me to come do "Book Lush" parties. I'm even going up to Anchorage, Alaska soon to do a "Book Lush" party for a group. I would love to do the books that read in college and call it "Required Drinking" instead of "Required Reading." I want to do it for contemporary authors who are all still living and do it the same way, except get a rebuttal.

At one of our "Book Lush" events, I had the [bartender match a cocktail to] Chuck Palahniuk's "Choke." The bartender did a great job – a whiskey drink with really hot peppers. I actually met Chuck Palahniuk a few weeks later at an event for AWP, the writing conference in Seattle. I told him about "Book Lush" and how I had the bartender match his book to a drink. I told him what the drink was and asked "What do you think?" and he was so serious and he said, "No, that's wrong." I asked him, "Oh, what is the drink that matches your book?" He thought very hard for about 10 minutes. He took this very seriously and said he'd have to think about it.

Why do you think people were so interested in this idea? The Kickstarter got a lot of attention in a couple of days.

KN: I think there are two things: One, there's always the myth of the alcoholic writer. We, especially aspiring writers, do look up to the big icons like Hemingway and we study their lives, thinking if we live our lives like they lived theirs we can be as good at writing. I think part of it is the culture of being a writer – the writer myth, a very romantic, artiste thing that people like.

Another thing is that it's just fun. There's The Dinner Party [Download] where they match cocktails to a day in history. They'll tell a bartender about an event that happened at some point] in history and the bartender will come up with a drink. It's an interesting way to hear about history and pull out some trivia that otherwise, you might not hear or you might not care about.

We're going back to the classics and looking at old books in a very fresh way. It's a way to look at a book that you may have read in school, but might not have a good connection to, and see it in a new light. Find a new reason to go back and enjoy it and enjoy the experience of reading.

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