📖Friday Black: 🍸bubble jacket

📖: Nana Kwame Adjei-Brenyah’s Friday Black (2018)
🍸: bubble jacket

Why this book?

Today is Black Friday, and if there’s only one book you buy today, it should be Friday Black. This is one of the most daring and moving short story collections I have read.

Reading Adjei-Brenyah’s collection is like walking through a funhouse full of mirrors where you might feel amused, surprised, confused, then terrified. He uses satire, dark humor, dystopia, magical realism, and sci-fi to distort the details of our reality to reflect the gruesome racist and capitalist systems that shape it.

Each surreal story has sharp observations of human behavior and motivations, which kept me hooked throughout the book. There are tales about a world where genetically modified children are raised, a girl who lives in a time loop with nuclear explosions, and a West World-like theme park where people can pay to commit racial crimes on actors. Topic-wise, it’s not a light read, but I raced through the entire book because I was so captivated by the writer’s craft and creativity. I cannot wait to see what Adjei-Brenyah publishes next!

Why this drink?

I’m pairing this book with a spiked brown sugar boba tea recipe as a reference to the titular story, in which Black Friday shoppers trample over each other to buy branded jackets — a too-real depiction of the destructive side of consumerism. 

🛒📚 Speaking of shopping…if you are buying books this weekend, check out my newly launched Bookshop page at bookshop.org/shop/mixaphoria (link in bio), where you can support independent bookstores AND get FREE SHIPPING through Cyber Monday, 11/30. I curated my lists based on cocktail flavor profile and moods, so you can pick out your next read based on your drink preferences 🤓 Happy weekend 🥂

bubble jacket

1 oz black spiced rum
1 cup strongly brewed black tea
milk, to taste
1/3 cup store-bought boba pearls 
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/3 cup water

  1. cook boba pearls based on packaging instructions. 
  2. in a separate small pot, bring sugar and water to a boil. add boba, and let the mixture simmer over low heat, until it turns into a thick syrup.
  3. in your glass, add the pearls, then ice, rum, tea, and as much milk as you’d like. stir well and serve with a straw.

Another round, please! 🥂
You might also like:
Charles Yu’s Sorry Please Thank You (2012)

Let’s discuss!

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

And check out these reviews to learn more about the book:

📖Her Body and Other Parties: 🍸the green ribbon

📖: Carmen Maria Machado’s Her Body and Other Parties (2017)
🍸: the green ribbon

Why this book?

Today is the last day of Latinx Heritage Month, and since it’s also spooky season 👻, I’m featuring Carmen Maria Machado’s debut collection of eight short stories that portray female sexuality, desire, power, and passion through a mix of both real and surreal horrors.

From an isolated artist residency colony in the woods to a remote island during a global pandemic (TOO real 😰), the varied settings for these stories alone make them creepy — not to mention the appearances of ghosts, a hook-handed killer, and faded women who reside in the seams of prom dresses! What could make these tales even scarier? So much of this collection seems to be about what can haunt us — whether it’s shame, guilt, self-hate, or trauma — and how much of these experiences are tied to the control, stigmatization, and erasure of women’s bodies in contemporary culture.

What I liked most about this book is Machado’s bold experimentation with different forms of storytelling. She weaves together pop culture horror tropes, folk tales, Gothic literary styles, and satire with unconventional narrative structures to create dark and erotic stories, sometimes with a cheeky edge. For example, one story is told completely through a series of episode synopses from a LAW & ORDER: SVU-like show, and in another, she adds stage directions, instructing readers to use specific voices for each character’s dialogue. In another instance, she even asks you, the reader, to “give a paring knife to the listeners and ask them to cut the tender flap of skin between your index finger and thumb” to recreate the sound and feeling of an obstetric procedure mentioned in the story. Yikes, that gave me chills!

Why this drink?

There was something intriguing and surprising about each story, so I gobbled up the entire collection like Halloween treats 🎃 This pairing is a reference to the opening story “The Husband Stitch”  — a clever retelling of “The Green Ribbon,” which comes from a scary old French tale that was later popularized by Washington Irving in 1824 and adapted for children by Alvin Schwartz in 1984. 😱 If you haven’t heard “The Green Ribbon” yet, I’d recommend reading Machado’s version first!

the green ribbon

1.5 oz mezcal
1 oz lime juice
0.5 oz triple sec
0.25 oz demerara sugar syrup
0.25 tsp matcha

for garnish:
black lava salt and lime wheel

  1. combine all other ingredients in a shaker, and shake with ice
  2. rim glass with black salt
  3. serve with ice, if desired
  4. garnish with lime wheel

Another round, please! 🥂

You might also like:
Roxane Gay’s Difficult Women (2017)

Let’s discuss!

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

📖How to Love a Jamaican: 🍸mermaid

📖: Alexia Arthurs’ How to Love a Jamaican (2018)
🍸: mermaid

Why this book?

June is Pride Month, so I will be highlighting works that feature Black LGBTQ+ stories for the rest of this month.

Alexia Arthurs’ How to Love a Jamaican is a brilliant collection of eleven short stories about Jamaicans and Jamaican Americans.

Through the lens of having lived in both Jamaica and America, Arthurs’ fiction explores the complications of the immigrant experience, belonging, identity, globalization, gender roles, and sexuality in both countries. Her stories portray how the choice to leave Jamaica for America not only has a profound effect on those who leave the island, but also on those who remain.

Female relationships (between college friends, grandmothers, mothers, and daughters) also serve as a central theme throughout the book. These relationships are portrayed in beautiful and nuanced ways, especially when Arthurs makes space for queer identities to take center stage in her stories. Some of my favorite stories in her collection are the ones that include queer perspectives, such as in “Island,” “We Eat Our Daughters,” and “Shirley from a Small Place.”

Why this drink?

Mermaids appear as a recurring symbol throughout the book. In an interview with The Paris Review, Arthurs notes that the mermaids in her stories “are an evolving metaphor,” as a reference to young female sexuality or transgressive sex. “But in a larger way,” she states, “I think of mermaids throughout the collection as challenging what people believe to be true about Jamaica. People tend to see Jamaica in such polarizing ways. Some think of Jamaica as being this paradise, and others think only of the high murder rates. I think of mermaids as being revelatory in this reckoning.”

The drink’s name and flavor profile also serve as a specific reference to one of the stories, “Mermaid River,” about a man and his childhood memories of his grandmother, who made and sold coconut drops by a river in their Jamaican hometown. For garnish, I added a couple of basil leaves to imitate mermaid emerging from the water.


1.5 oz white rum
4 oz coconut cream (unsweetened)
2 tsp sugar (granulated white, cane, or coconut sugar – omit sugar if you are using sweetened coco cream)
1/3 tsp vanilla extract

for garnish:
whipped cream
caramelized ginger syrup*
2 basil leaves

  1. heat coconut cream, sugar, and vanilla extract in a sauce pan just until it begins to bubble
  2. remove the mixture from heat and let cool
  3. once cool, add rum to the mixture in a shaker and shake with ice
  4. serve in a chilled glass with ice. top the drink with whipped cream and a drizzle of caramelized syrup.

*how to make caramelized ginger syrup: Pour sugar and water into a pan (using a 2:1 sugar-to-water ratio), with a sprinkle of ground ginger, and heat the mixture on the stove until it starts to bubble. When the sugar begins to thicken into a caramel texture, immediately remove from stove and drizzle on the drink. I used brown sugar, but you can use granulated white sugar as well.

quarantine substitutes:
If you don’t have whipped cream, you can make whipped cream out of the coconut cream or coconut milk by whisking it in a mixing bowl with a pinch of (powdered) sugar, until it begins to fluff.
If you only have sweetened coconut cream, omit the sugar in this recipe.
If you only have coconut milk, you may use that instead of coconut cream.
Garnishes are just garnishes! So if you don’t have any herbs, omit the garnish!

This recipe was inspired by Shanna Schad’s Rum and Coconut Milk Cocktail.

Another round, please! 🥂

You might also like:
Roxane Gay’s Ayiti (2011)

Let’s discuss!

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

And check out these reviews and conversations with the author to learn more about the book, and the process behind the writing:

📖Sightseeing: 🍸priscilla’s gold

📖: Rattawut Lapcharoensap’s Sightseeing (2012)
🍸: priscilla’s gold

Why this book?

As part of Asian American Pacific Islander Heritage month, I wanted to read more works by underrepresented AAPI authors, particularly by writers of Southeast Asian heritage. So I asked a fellow Asian American friend – who’s a writer – for some recommendations, and Rattawut Lapcharoensap’s Sightseeing was one of them. Lapcharoensap’s book was published when he was 25 (talk about life goals)!

This collection of seven short stories is such a gem, with its vibrant observations of young people in Thailand, where Lapcharoensap spent his childhood. While straightforward and easy to read, it is full of feeling — wistfulness, regret, curiosity, and hope — from a perspective that is not often represented in mainstream publishing. It is the first work I’ve read from a Thai-American writer, and I would not have found this one on my own without my friend’s help — thank you, V!

Why this drink?

This drink was inspired by one of my favorite stories in the collection, “Priscilla the Cambodian,” which is about an unlikely friendship that forms between two local Thai boys and a girl who arrives in their town as a Cambodian refugee. One of the most memorable things about Priscilla is her gold-plated teeth, which represent one of the few valuable assets that her family was able to take with them after they fled from their home country. As a nod to Priscilla’s gold, I’m pairing a daiquiri-inspired cocktail made with the yellow juice of passion fruit, which is used in Thailand for refreshing drinks.

priscilla’s gold

2 oz gold rum
2 oz passion fruit juice
0.75 oz lime juice
0.5 oz ginger and lemongrass infused demerara syrup

for garnish:
lemon peel twist

  1. combine all ingredients in a shaker and shake with ice.
  2. serve in a chilled glass.
  3. garnish with a lemon twist.

This recipe was inspired by Difford’s Guide’s passion fruit daiquiri.

*how to make ginger and lemongrass infused demerara syrup: Pour demerara sugar and water into a pan (using a 1:1 sugar-to-water ratio) and heat the mixture on the stove until it starts to bubble. Once tiny bubbles start to appear, immediately take the boiling syrup off the stove and pour it into the into a glass jar with slices of fresh ginger and lemongrass. Cover the jar with airtight lid until cool.

*how to make a lemon twist garnish: Use a paring knife to peel off a strip of lemon rind. Remove most of the white pith from the zest to reduce the bitter taste. Trim the edges of your strip to make it look like a ribbon. I made my peel a little less than 1 inch wide. Twist into a spiral and add to your drink.

quarantine substitutes:
–I didn’t have any fresh passion fruit lying around, but I managed to find a carton of passion fruit juice at a local deli shop (who knew the convenience store around the corner would have more of a niche item selection than our local Whole Foods these days!). I’ve seen Ceres, Welch’s, and Goya passion fruit juice sold in some local grocery stores as well.
–Still can’t find any passion fruit juice around? Go ahead and make a plain ol’ daiquiri with lime, rum, and simple syrup. Or you can try swapping out the passion fruit juice for something more common like orange juice.
–No demerara sugar? Simply replace with regular white, granulated sugar.
–No fresh ginger? You can try using ground ginger instead.
–No lemongrass and no ginger? No problem! Just omit these ingredients and make a simple syrup.

Another round, please! 🥂

You might also like:
Lysley Tenorio’s Monstress (2012)

📖Monstress: 🍸squid mother

📖: Lysley Tenorio’s Monstress (2012)
🍸: squid mother

Why this book?

Monstress is Lysley Tenorio’s debut book, which includes a collection of eight short stories that follow Filipino characters in both the Philippines and California. All stories except for one, are told in the first person, welcoming us into the perspectives of diverse characters like an actress, faith healer, first-gen immigrants, and a young girl in a leper colony, among others. These stories are colorful vignettes of the dreams and aspirations of characters who all desire something beyond their current circumstances. In reading these stories, Tenorio’s tales leaves us with the questions like: What do we lose when we reach for something more? How do we change when we reach for these desires, and is getting what we want worth what we might lose?

Why this drink?

The drink’s name is a reference to the title story “Monstress,” about a Filipina actress who formerly starred as a squid monster in a horror film produced by her partner. Like “Monstress,” the other short stories in Tenorio’s book takes us between the Philippines and California, so this drink intends to do the same. I combined ingredients that are grown in the stories’ settings — coconuts (Philippines) and jalapeno peppers (California). To make this cocktail even more thematic, I carved a squid-shaped garnish out of a whole jalapeno pepper and submerged the tentacles in the cocktail for an extra spicy kick.

Also, Lysley Tenorio’s new book, The Son of Good Fortune, is coming out this July, and I can’t wait to read it! So if you liked his short stories, there’s more to come, YAY!

squid mother

2 oz white rum
4 oz Goya coconut water
1 oz jalapeno infused simple syrup
0.5 oz lime juice

for garnish:
jalapeno pepper

  1. Combine all ingredients in a shaker and shake with ice.
  2. Serve in a chilled glass with ice.
  3. Garnish with a whole jalapeno pepper, carved into the shape of a squid. If you prefer to not have a “squid” in your drink you can simply add slices of jalepeno pepper instead.

This recipe was inspired by Liquor.com’s caribeno.

*how to make jalapeno infused simple syrup: Pour sugar and water into a pan (using a 1:1 sugar-to-water ratio) and heat the mixture on the stove until it starts to bubble. Once tiny bubbles start to appear, immediately take the boiling syrup off the stove and pour it into the into a glass jar with slices of jalapeno pepper. Cover the jar with airtight lid until cool.

Another round, please! 🥂

You might also like:
Rattawut Lapcharoensap’s Sightseeing (2004)

📖The Refugees: 🍸at home

📖: Viet Thanh Nguyen’s The Refugees (2006)
🍸: at home

Why this book?

The Refugees is Viet Thanh Nguyen’s first collection of eight short stories about people who have left Vietnam after the fall of Saigon. Today, April 30th, is the 45th anniversary of the fall of Saigon, which spurred a mass exodus of South Vietnamese people, many of whom relocated in the US.

Based on Nguyen’s academic research and cultural critique, he presents the idea that war never dies because its memory continues to live on through its survivors, who then pass it down to their descendants.

For this reason, Nguyen’s fiction broaden the definition of what it means to be a refugee. Refugees are not just the individuals who fled from their home countries. Anyone whose life is still haunted by the memory and trauma of war and displacement is a refugee — even if they are generations away from the original emigres.

This is a provocative reframing of what it means to be a refugee, and an evocative reminder that more empathy and compassion are needed now — especially when the rhetoric of our leaders are rooted in xenophobia and closed border policies. The Refugees is a deeply human book, that give us a snapshot into the lives and memories of Vietnamese refugees, and how they continue to grapple with issues of identity, belonging, family, and loss in a new place that they need to now call home.

Why this drink?

This drink was inspired by chanh muối, an intensely salty, carbonated Vietnamese limeade made with preserved, salted limes and soda water (the crisp carbonation amps up the piquant flavors of salt, sugar, and fermented zest). Because it takes two months to fully pickle the salted limes, I developed this easy-to-make bubbly, salty, lime margarita to evoke the essence of a traditional chanh muối.

I am pairing this chanh muối inspired cocktail with The Refugees because this is a book about memory and displacement, and I associate the limeade with nostalgia and remembrance of a home that’s long gone. My mom grew up in Vietnam during the war, and when I shared my first chanh muối with her, she told me that it reminded her of her childhood in Saigon.

at home

1.5 oz gold tequila 
0.5 oz hot water at 160F 
0.5 triple sec
0.5 oz lemongrass ginger demerara syrup*
half a lime, cut into wedges
1-2 small pinches of smoked sea salt flakes, to taste
1-2 oz club soda, as desired

for garnish:
lime wedge, mint, & smoked sea salt flakes

  1. muddle 4 wedges of lime (~half of a lime)
  2. combine all ingredients (except for club soda) & shake with ice
  3. pour over ice, top off with club soda, add a few flakes of sea salt, to taste
  4. garnish with lime wedge and mint

*Pour demerara sugar and water into a pan (using a 2:1 sugar-to-water ratio) and heat the mixture on the stove until it starts to bubble. Once tiny bubbles start to appear, immediately take the boiling syrup off the stove and pour it into the into a glass jar with thinly sliced pieces of lemongrass and freshly grated ginger. Cover the jar with airtight lid until cool.

quarantine substitutions:
No lemongrass? No problem – just omit it. No fresh ginger? Use ground ginger as a substitute. If you don’t have any kind of ginger, add a bit of ground black pepper to your simple syrup to give it a subtle kick – don’t go overboard as you don’t want the drink to taste too peppery.

No smoked sea salt? Regular salt will do!

Another round, please! 🥂

You might also like:
Aimee Phan’s We Should Never Meet (2004)

📖East of the West:🍸crabapple mash

📖: Miroslav Penkov’s East of the West (2011)
🍸: crabapple mash

Why this book?

This month, we will be reading books about crossing boundaries. We will explore stories about individuals who leave their homes — to flee from the political instability and/or to seek more opportunities abroad.

Our first pick for April is Miroslav Penkov’s East of the West, a collection of short stories steeped in the Bulgarian writer’s longing for and memory of home. Each story is a refreshing (and often quirky) surprise, giving the reader a glimpse into the lives of individuals throughout the country’s history of political upheavals — from the era of Ottoman rule, the Balkan Wars, the rise and fall of communism, to the present day, when many young people (like Penkov) leave home for a better life abroad.

Penkov’s tales can be eccentric, funny, absurd, and dark all at the same time. For example, one of the stories is about a grandson in America who tries to order Lenin’s corpse from eBay for his communist grandfather in Bulgaria. After seeing that, how could I not pick up the book?

Why this drink?

This drink is inspired by that story I mentioned above, called “Buying Lenin.” In this tale, a Communist grandfather warns his grandson that reading too many books in English will turn his brains into “crabapple mash.” He tells his grandson to consume communist literature instead, lest he turn into a “rotten, capitalist pig.”

The drink’s apple-infused ingredients is a nod to this nugget of grandfatherly wisdom, and its red color is a reference to the grandfather’s political leaning. The cocktail is also a mashup of an Old Fashioned and Negroni — just like how Penkov’s short story collection is an unexpected mix of folklore, history, and intergenerational narratives.

crabapple mash

1.5 oz mulled bourbon with apple, cinnamon, nutmeg, & black peppercorn*
1.5 oz Campari
0.5 oz dry vermouth 
0.5 oz mashed apple simple syrup**
1-2 dashes orange bitters 

for garnish:
apple slices 

  1. combine all ingredients in a mixing glass with ice, and stir
  2. pour into a bourbon glass, straining out the ice
  3. add ice
  4. garnish with apple slices

*how to make mulled bourbon: Combine apple peels and chunks in a pot with bourbon. Add ground cinnamon, nutmeg, and black peppercorn, to taste. Simmer the mixture until almost boiling. Strain out the apple bits.

**how to make mashed apple simple syrup: Take the apple bits that were used to mull the bourbon. Muddle them until they turn into a pulpy mash. Pour white granulated sugar and water into a pan (using a 1:1 sugar-to-water ratio), add the apple mash, and heat the mixture on the stove until it starts to bubble. Once tiny bubbles start to appear, immediately take the boiling syrup off the stove and pour it into the into a glass jar, straining out the apple mash. Cover the jar with airtight lid until cool.

Another round, please! 🥂
You might also like:
Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s The Thing Around Your Neck (2009)

📖Difficult Women:🍸glass heart

📖: Roxane Gay’s Difficult Women (2017)
🍸: glass heart

Why this book?

To kick off Women’s History Month this March, I’m recommending one of my all-time favorite books, Roxane Gay’s Difficult Women, a collection of witty, poignant, and quirky short stories that feature a diverse group of women who are often deemed difficult by mainstream culture. The stories are as surprising and varied as the women they are about.

What makes this book such a rich reading experience is Gay’s use of language and storytelling. Her super sharp and funny observations can make you laugh out loud in one story, while her simple, unassuming details can evoke a deep sense of loss and vulnerability in another. As always, Gay’s writing is so sharp in its concision and precision, that upon finishing her short stories, I wish we had more words to read, and more women to meet.

Why this drink?

This drink takes its name from one of the stories in the book, “Requiem for a Glass Heart,” about a glass woman born from thunder striking on a sandy beach. Smoky, spicy, and salty, this cocktail is bold and uncompromising, like all the daring and “difficult” women in Gay’s short story collection. With a black salted rim and a rich pink hue from the blood orange, this drink is a perfect match for the book’s cover.

glass heart

2 oz mezcal
3 oz fresh blood orange juice
1 oz pureed dragonfruit
0.5 oz lime juice
0.5 oz Thai chili pepper infused demerara simple syrup*

for garnish:
Thai chili peppers
blood orange wheel
black lava salt
ground cayenne pepper

  1. rim glass with black lava salt & cayenne pepper**
  2. shake all ingredients with ice & pour into a coupe glass
  3. garnish with blood orange wheel & 2 thin slices of Thai chili pepper

*how to make chili-infused syrup: Pour demerara sugar and water into a pan (using a 2:1 sugar-to-water ratio) and heat the mixture on the stove until it starts to bubble. Once tiny bubbles start to appear, immediately take the boiling syrup off the stove and pour it into the into a glass jar with 2 chopped Thai chili peppers. Cover the jar with airtight lid until cool.

**how to rim a glass: Dip the rim of the glass in lime juice. On a plate, mix the salt & ground cayenne. Roll the rim of the glass in the salt/pepper mixture until the rim is fully coated.

if you do not like your drinks as spicy: Add fewer chili peppers to the infused syrup, or make it with no peppers at all. Go easy on the cayenne on the rim (it’s hotter than you think!) and omit the chili garnish if needed.

Another round, please! 🥂

You might also like:
Roxane Gay’s Bad Feminist (2014)