With all of the very serious attention paid to very serious cocktails in the past few years by very serious bartenders, it can be easy to forget that drinking is meant to be fun.
Not that there’s anything wrong with stroking your chin and musing over the unfolding complexity of an obscure bitter (we’re as guilty as the next Instagram cocktail photo addict in that regard), but the purpose of going to a bar or having a cocktail party is to socialize with friends, right? And, ideally, that leads to a different sort of socializing with one special friend.
Kirsten Amann, herself a cocktail nerd, hasn’t lost track of the fun. Her new book, “The Screaming Orgasm, 69 X-Rated Cocktails” (Running Press), is a trip through an array of sexy tipples. You may not see them ordered regularly in Boston’s craft cocktail bars, but their names, and easily-drinkable recipes, make them well-suited to romance.
Many we can’t mention by name here (these are X-rated, after all), but Amann’s selections range from old classics like the Hanky Panky to “less respectable” cocktails like Sex on the Beach. The recipes are divvied up into five stages of the courting process, from Flirting, to Hooking Up, Hot and Heavy, All the Way, One-Night Stand, and the inevitable follow-up, The Walk of Shame.
‘I think it’s for anyone who is just looking for a laugh. But I’m happy to say that while there are some funny-named cocktails, there are some that are really good.’
It’s a somewhat surprising project for Amann, she admits. “You can imagine how excited my parents were when I told them the title” of this, her first book.
The Boston resident and New Hampshire native is a founder of the history-minded Ladies United for the Preservation of Endangered Cocktails group, a member of the United States Bartender’s Guild chapter in Boston, and the Greater Beverage Society, as well as a brand ambassador for Fernet Branca. It’s safe to say most of these flirtatious cocktails won’t show up in one of her columns in the Weekly Dig or the Massachusetts Beverage Business Journal.
When Amann, 32, was approached with the idea by Hollan Publishing, a book packaging company based out of Beverly, she balked. “At first I was like no, no, no, I write about classic cocktails, serious classic cocktails, I couldn’t possibly,” she said.
After letting her guard down, she realized it could be a lot of fun to explore the saucier side of getting sauced.
To flesh out the book with recipes she wasn’t already familiar with — her industry experience at places in the South End like Toro and Tremont 647 didn’t exactly prepare her — she leaned on friends who’d been bartending since the ’80s, when drinks with naughty names were more commonplace.
Some others — like the French Kiss cocktail, made with gin, mint, lime juice, and Pernod — she sourced from well-regarded bartenders. “This drink is sweet, soft, and subtle,” she writes. “Mint and Pernod add complexity, much like the kisses that follow . . . ”
One of her favorites, she says, is the Walk of Shame/March of Glory, made with vodka, blackberry syrup, lime juice, blackberries, and raspberries, and topped with ginger ale or champagne, depending on whether you’re still feeling festive about the previous night’s activities.
Those who’ve known Amann for years, like Adam Lantheaume of The Boston Shaker cocktail supply shop in Somerville, who will carry the book, say its blend of fun flirtatiousness and attention to quality show that she was the ideal candidate for the job.
“I think the book is a hoot. When she told me she was doing it, it just felt perfect. I couldn’t have picked a better person,” he said. “Having Kitty do it tells me thought has gone not just into the names and art but the ingredients and proportions, too. For me, it’s like, let’s not take ourselves so seriously, let’s have a little fun.”
Having fun is a big part of Amann’s job description working for Fernet Branca, where she sets up tasting parties for the increasingly popular spirit and travels around to introduce bars to its complex mysteries.
“At night I’m out trying to get people excited about it, buying shots,” she says. “Basically it’s a party. It sounds like a fake job. On one hand it’s easy, because the industry loves it so much. But on the other hand a lot of people haven’t heard of it. ‘All the cool kids are drinking it,’ that’s my sales pitch.”
The intricacies of educating cocktail lovers about a particular spirit mirror overall drinking trends. “I’m surprised on the one hand how many people still have a lot to learn,” she says. “But also that there are so many people that are so super-educated, and I’m thrilled to see that as well.”
Traveling to far-flung bars around the state, she’s happy to see all kinds of places catching the cocktail bug. “When you live in an urban city center with a cocktail culture and enough people to care and read a column about classic cocktails, who knows what happens outside that? To see really great cocktail programs trickling out [from Boston] is really cool.”
Her book may not win over any new converts to Negronis or Old Fashioneds, but that’s not the point.
“It’s a fun read for bachelorette parties, for girls, or for anyone really,” Amann said, adding that she tried to make it as gender neutral as possible. “I think it’s for anyone who is just looking for a laugh. But I’m happy to say that while there are some funny-named cocktails, there are some that are really good. The cocktail scene that I’m in can be really pretentious, it has the potential to be really snooty, and I wondered when I first took the project on would I still be taken seriously, would people want to read my writing for the other stuff I do? But after I decided I wanted to write the book I said I don’t care.”
“There’s a line in the intro about how this book is not meant to be taken seriously,” she continued. “Screaming Orgasms are never very serious, so have as much fun with this as you would with one of those.”
Luke O’Neil can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.