📖The Taste of Sugar: 🍸strawberry girl & 🍸 coffee farmer

📖: Marisel Vera’s The Taste of Sugar (2020)
🍸: strawberry girl
🍸: coffee farmer

Why this book?

The Taste of Sugar is an exquisite novel that spans three generations of a coffee farming family in Puerto Rico, from 1825 to 1902. It reminded me a bit of Min Jin Lee’s Pachinko, in the way that the story is multi-generational in scope, with a focus on the themes of emigration, inequality, war, exile, exploitation, and family.

At the heart of the novel is a love story between Valentina Sanchez and her husband Vicente Vega. We follow them through the joys and challenges of raising a family and cultivating a coffee farm in the mountains. Soon, the Spanish-American War, US invasion of Puerto Rico, and the San Ciriaco Hurricane bring major changes, prompting them to emigrate – along with over five thousand other Puerto Ricans – to work on the cane sugar plantations of Hawaii where they hope to gain greater economic opportunity.

In telling this story, Marisel Vera interrupts the flow of her third-person narrative with passages told in the first-person POV, keeping the story fresh and engaging. She includes letters that Valentina exchanges with her sister, along with short monologues from a handful of characters. I sped through the pages, and was sad when I got to the last one! I was deeply moved by the love and resilience of the Vegas’ relationship, and wanted to continue following the story of their family’s life in Hawaii. I highly recommend this book if you want to learn more about Puerto Rican history, which I did not know very much about until I began reading this novel.

Why this drink?

For The Taste of Sugar, I made two drinks: one for Vicente, the coffee farmer, and Valentina, who he affectionately calls his “strawberry girl” (because of the strawberry-scented powder she wore on the night they met). I used cane sugar and rum as a common ingredient in both cocktails, since both prominently appear throughout the novel. Vicente’s drink is adapted from Cafe Correcto con Coco recipe on Liquor.com.

strawberry girl

0.75 oz white rum
0.75 oz black spiced rum
1 oz lime juice
0.5 oz demerara cane sugar syrup
1 – 2 oz seltzer water to top off 
3 strawberries
fresh mint

for garnish:
fresh mint & strawberries

  1. muddle the mint and strawberries in a shaker with a pinch of cane sugar
  2. combine all other ingredients in a shaker, and shake with ice
  3. serve with ice
  4. garnish with strawberry and mint

coffee farmer

0.75 oz black spiced rum
0.75 oz whiskey
1 oz black coffee
0.5 oz demerara cane sugar syrup
1 oz coconut milk

for garnish:
demerara cane sugar

  1. combine all ingredients, except for coconut milk, into a mixing glass, and stir with ice
  2. rim glass with cane sugar
  3. serve mixture in the glass with ice
  4. top off with coconut milk

Another round, please! 🥂

You might also like:
Min Jin Lee’s Pachinko (2017)

Let’s discuss!

Finished the book? What did you think about it? Share your thoughts in the comments section below!

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