SAN DIEGO — You can’t dress like them, even if you were willing to don the required undergarments. You can’t dine like them, unless you have a generous staffing budget and an over-achieving metabolism. (So! Many! Cakes!) And you can’t duel like them, no matter how much you loathe your neighbor and their infernal leaf-blower.
As much as you may love a day of lounging and plotting and an evening of quadrilles and bodice-ripping, you cannot live like the mansion-dwelling le bon ton aristocrats of Netflix’s delightful, binge-worthy series”Bridgerton.”
But thanks to a new book from former San Diego writer Amy Finley, you can drink like them.
Using the cheeky nom de quill of Lady Thornwood, Finley has written “The Regency Book of Drinks: Quaffs, Quips, Tipples, and Tales from Grosvenor Square,” a new collection of deeply researched, eminently quaffable cocktail recipes shaped by the Regency period of 1811 to 1820 that provided the historical framing for “Bridgerton.” The series is now in its second season.
Adapted from Julia Quinn’s novels, “Bridgerton” debuted during the shut-in Christmas of 2020. It quickly became one of Netflix’s most-watched shows, as pandemic-weary viewers swooned over the Regency romances, the Jane Austen-worthy social machinations, and the dishy narration by the mysterious scandal-sheet writer known as Lady Whistledown.
One of those viewers was Finley.
It was early 2021, and the cook, food writer and early winner of “The Next Food Network Star” had just finished writing a 500-page in-house book on bartending and bar operations for Consortium Holdings, the San Diego-based hospitality group behind such high-impact dining and drinking spots as Born & Raised, Craft & Commerce, and Raised by Wolves.
A longtime lover of the novels of Austen and Charlotte Bronte, as well as an expert in cocktails and cocktail history, Finley came up with the idea of writing a book that combined the “Bridgerton” sensibility with her now-encyclopedic knowledge of all things boozy.
“That era was a really fruitful period for cocktails and a really amazing period in history,” Finley said from Burlington, Vt., where she moved to last year to work on her master’s in Food Systems at the University of Vermont.
“The trade routes were growing and the British Empire was growing, and that gave people access to spices and sugar and other commodities that they didn’t have before. And all of that was trickling into society and becoming currency. I thought this would be such a fun way to explore that historical moment and make some great drinks, too.”
The spirited result is “The Regency Book of Drinks,” which features more than 75 cocktail recipes, most of them original Finley creations. The book is divided into chapters inspired by “Bridgerton”-era society and the ladies and gentlemen who make that dizzy world spin.
In “The Evening Soiree” chapter, Finley — in the all-knowing voice of Lady Thornwood — extols the party-friendly power of “deceptively potent” Champagne-forward sparkling cocktails. The “Social Graces” chapter celebrates the crowd-pleasing charms of the punchbowl, where dancing couples can refresh themselves (and perhaps spark a marriage match) over glasses of the “Accomplished Swoon,” featuring gin, raspberry syrup, lemon juice, rose water and seltzer.
There are low-alcohol options in the “Delicate Daytime Drinks” chapter and more potent “muscular” cocktails in the “For Members Only” section. There is even a chapter devoted to non-alcoholic beverages, many of them featuring fresh fruit juices and homemade simple syrups.
“I definitely wanted to include people who are not drinking,” said Finley, who also includes a section on parlor games, along with a chapter on the spirits, tools and glassware you’ll need to set up your Regency bar.
“During the pandemic, some of us were drinking too much, and some of us were swearing it off. There are so many lovely ways to use infusions and flavored syrups. We really wanted to have something for every type of drinker and every situation.”
Whether she is guiding her gentle readers through the making of a “cunning garnish,” or cautioning them about the dangers of underestimating a “sharp-tongued woman,” Finley’s science-loving, patriarchy-fighting, quip-loving Lady Thornwood is a gimlet-eyed narrator fit for Queen Charlotte.
And if you play your mixology cards right, perhaps the queen herself will drop in on your soiree for a sustaining snack. If Finley has her way, Queen Charlotte might even bring her own recipes.
“I love imagining a sequel to this book that would be told from Queen Charlotte’s point of view, because she is an absolutely fascinating character to me,” Finley said. “I have this idea in my mind of calling it something like, ‘Comfort Me with Canapes: How to Live, Love and Eat Like a Regency Royal.’
“I can totally imagine another book with that Regency voice. I could use her as a character to get into food and drink. And houseplants, maybe.”
Here’s a lovely and delightfully straightforward drink with which to toast the very mundaneness of a marriage that boasts no spectral patriarchs. Reader, before accepting a suitor’s ring, one should thoroughly exhaust the subject of their intended’s father— particularly if the relationship seems ... complicated.
1 ounce Salers aperitif liqueur
1 ounce dry vermouth
1 ounce lime juice
3/4 ounce simple syrup
Fill a highball glass nearly to the top with rocks cracked from a solid ice block, or 1-inch ice cubes, or a frozen spear of ice. Combine the aperitif, vermouth, lime juice and syrup in the base of a cocktail shaker. Add a medium-sized ice shard, lightly smashed into bits, or one or two cubes of ice; close the shaker and whip until the ice is nearly all melted. Add about 2 ounces seltzer to the shaker, then empty its contents, including any lingering ice, into the glass. If the cocktail doesn’t rise nearly to the glass rim, add no more than about an ounce additional seltzer. Garnish with a pert bloom (or a lime wedge) and well-founded relief.
From “The Regency Book of Drinks: Quaffs, Quips, Tipples, and Tales from Grosvenor Square” by Amy Finley