📖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

ingredients:
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

ingredients:
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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