If You’ve Got the Gin, We’ve Got the Tonic…

A recent Post-Gazette article by local author Sherrie Flick pondered the phenomenon of reading in bars, which has been Quite A Thing in other parts of the country, and has now made its way to Pittsburgh as a trend. The Eleventh Stackers were, of course, tickled to learn that the zeitgeist has finally arrived on our doorstep, and a few of us wanted to chime in with our own thoughts on the matter (especially since today is National Happy Hour Day). Enjoy our book/beverage pairings, and other boozy — or not-so-much — miscellanea.



One of the nicest bars for reading that I’ve ever encountered was in Toronto, Canada. While looking for a café to read in, I stumbled upon the Tequila Bookworm. The name alone clearly announces that readers are welcome! On a summer day, I imagine I’d be reading a dark mystery on their patio and sipping Sangria. Winter would call for something long or possibly Russian, with a Stout or a warming cocktail at my side.







Leigh Anne

I like the idea of drinking in bars, though I don’t frequent them much anymore. If it’s socially acceptable for me to be seen in one with a book, though, I just might go back and give it a try. Kelly’s is still my favorite Pittsburgh bar, and I would very much like to curl up in one of the booths, reading Mary Daly and drinking  whatever LUPEC (Ladies United for the Preservation of Endangered Cocktails) creation is currently featured on the drinks menu.

Image from Marye Audet at SheKnows

Image from Marye Audet at SheKnows

The most fun I’ve had actually reading a book in a bar was a cold, wintry night at The Squirrel Cage. I was waiting for a friend so I treated myself to a Baileys and coffee and snuggled up with A.S. Byatt’s Possession. I honestly don’t remember how long I had to wait, because the moment was perfect, quiet, and timeless (yes, even surrounded by bar noise — good novels will do that for you).


Evil LibrarianBecause of the book Evil Librarian, I thought the best drink would be the drink that suits that librarian. So a Gin and Tonic to toast all those librarians out there.

If you have to pick just one combination, you couldn’t go wrong with a whiskey at Dee’s Cafe, while reading Bukowski’s You Get So Alone at Times That it Just Makes Sense.



Other resources to consider:

Book Girl’s Guide to Cocktails for Book Lovers, Tessa Smith McGovern

To Have and Have Another: A Hemingway Cocktail Companion, Philip Greene

Cocktail Therapy, Leanne Shear

And a few fiction picks:

Happy Hour of the Damned, Mark Henry

Killer Cocktail, Sheryl J. Anderson

When the Sacred Ginmill Closes, Lawrence Block

Not much of a drinker? You can still celebrate happy hour – and you could argue that any hour spent with a book and a beverage is a happy one! Observe.

Melissa M.

My preferred drink/book/location combo, if I’m being safe-for-work, would be The poirotandteaMonogram Murders, the new Hercule Poirot novel by Sophie Hannah, and a cup of English Breakfast tea on my front porch. If you’re a big Agatha Christie fan and were concerned about someone else taking Poirot over, rest assured that it’s fine. Ms. Hannah did well, in my opinion, and I’ve spoken to more than a few other rabid Christie fans who agree.  I can’t think of a better way to spend a late summer Sunday morning. The only thing that I needed was a cat on my lap!


The Litigators, with napkin roll bookmark, and lunch bag in the background.

The Litigators, with napkin roll bookmark, and lunch bag in the background.

I like to have an iced tea while I’m reading John Grisham. If that iced tea is being refilled by a waitress, even better. Most of my reading happens in diners or small restaurants. I have a geographic memory, so I can tell you where I was when I read Cross Creek by Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings (Keystone Café, Monte Cello’s in Shaler). I read The Mysterious Benedict Society at the now closed Downtown location of Franctuary.

Sometimes a waitress or another customer will ask me what I’m reading. Once a mother came up and said she was so jealous that I had the time to read. At the Johnny Rocket’s in the Pittsburgh Mills mall, I wrote down the name of the Isabel Dalhousie series by Alexander McCall Smith on the back of a business card for a waitress. My bookmarks are always those pieces of paper used to wrap napkins and silverware. Now that I take my lunch to work more often, I’ll have to add “Break Room, CLP — Downtown & Business” to my list of rotating reading spots.

Your turn: what book would you read at the bar? Which bar? What would you drink?  Designated drivers, we’d love to hear your non-alcoholic alternatives, too.


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12 responses to “If You’ve Got the Gin, We’ve Got the Tonic…

  1. I didn’t know such establishments existed. I love reading at my local Barnes & Noble with a cup of coffee in hand. I might have to try this approach too.
    Thank you for sharing.
    AnnMarie :-)

  2. Since I have been able to hang out in bars I have been reading in them too. Now I have found that a certain atmosphere in an establishment can really make or break the boozy bookworm experience, but that hasn’t stopped me from at least trying. I recently finished up Smoke Gets in Your Eyes and Other Lessons from the Crematory by Caitlin Doughty, which I read a time or two at my local Hough’s, probably paired with one of their many beers on tap.

    I have to agree The Squirrel Cage is a pretty stellar bar in which to read.

  3. absolutely fantastic idea. Reading alone, together. love this. You have inspired. I think I need to start this up in a spot near me… Muah- Ret

  4. I remember when I first came to Pittsburgh I was told this is the place to be during an atomic war because everything happens here 50 years after it happens everywhere else. I’m happy to hear that something else has finally arrived here.

  5. The whole behind the curve thing – meh. We are who we are. My all time favorite bar for reading is at a hotel in Toronto – http://www.opentable.com/library-bar-the-royal-york-hotel. The bar is called The Library and it looks just like a seedy library out of a Le Carre’ novel. After a hectic drive to Toronto, I just popped into this space, grabbed a glass of wine and read a murder mystery. Loved it. I love the Squirrel Cage (had a job interview there over beer) and Dee’s. Great article. I have to say, I can’t read true crime fiction in these places. I get too scared to move.

  6. johnberk

    For me, reading is connected with coffee. It starts in the morning with a newspaper. And it continues into the night in one of my favorite coffee shops. I somehow cannot drink and read. My head starts spinning very fast, and I don’t have the power to focus on a book anymore. And then there is a pipe. I do not smoke it during the day, but it is nice to do it while reading. Great therapy that allows you to enjoy yourself even better.

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