William Faulkner was a Nobel Prize winning American author and for his September 25 birthday we’re mixing the Absalom’s Retreat cocktail. Faulkner was known for his novels and short stories set in a fictional Yoknapatawpha County in Mississippi. Faulkner published 13 novels and many short stories between the early 1920s to the outbreak of World War II. His work The Sound and the Fury is considered one of the best novels published in English. Others of note include Absalom, Absalom!, so for a Faulkner drink we’re mixing one aligning with that title.
Faulkner’s wisdom has earned our utmost respect here at The Drunkard’s Almanac. To wit:
- “Civilization begins with distillation.”
- “Pouring out liquor is like burning books.”
- “There is no such thing as bad whiskey. Some whiskeys just happen to be better than others.”
William Faulkner was born September 25, 1897 in New Albany, Mississippi. Other than a few short periods elsewhere he ended up in Oxford, Mississippi, for the rest of his life.
Faulkner did well in school when he started, but around the fourth or fifth grade he became withdrawn and indifferent to schoolwork. He ended up repeating the 11th and 12th grades and never actually graduated from high school. Somehow, he could enroll at the University of Mississippi in 1919 and attended for three semesters before dropping out. He received a D grade in English, but some of his poems were published in campus publications.
Faulkner drank to excess like other Nobel Prize winning American authors, most notably John Steinbeck (Jack Rose), F. Scott Fitzgerald (the Daisy) and Ernest Hemingway (Green Isaac Special or Death in the Afternoon).
Our protagonist was a huge binge drinker, locking himself away and drinking to the point of being non-functional. Whether his benders were between writing projects or when engaged in them is a bit unclear, but he was hospitalized innumerable times for alcoholism. He leaned toward whiskey, but without a single characteristic Faulkner drink.
Faulkner was in high demand as a Cold War goodwill ambassador after he won the Nobel Prize for Literature. At the welcome reception to a Japan visit in 1955 he got so drunk that the U.S. Ambassador ordered him put on the next plane home. But the Japanese didn’t mind that he got sloshed and Leon Picon, a consulate officer, developed “Guidelines for Handling Mr. William Faulkner on His Trips Abroad.” These guidelines were circulated through the Foreign Service. Although his drinking was a challenge for government handlers, trips to places like Greece and Venezuela were deemed unqualified successes.
Absalom’s Retreat Cocktail
We do know that Faulkner was fond of the Mint Julep that we covered for Kentucky Derby Day. But not wanting to repeat drinks we selected a Drink of the Day based upon his literary output and come to the Absalom’s Retreat cocktail.
Absalom, Absalom! along with The Sound and the Fury were instrumental in Faulkner winning the Nobel Prize. The title of the book refers to the Biblical story of Absalom, a son of David who rebelled against his father. The novel is about three families in the American South before, during and after the Civil War, and like Absalom himself the protagonist brings about his own demise.
Amusingly, the Guinness Book of World Records notes that Absalom, Absalom! contains the longest sentence in English literature at 1,238 words. That’s long. You could finish a cocktail before that sentence.
As a whiskey drink, the Absalom’s retreat cocktail fits Faulkner. Its origins are unknown, without reference to be found, but has been around at least ten years or so. This is one where the natural sweetness of Irish whisky offsets the herbal elements in the Yellow Chartreuse. It has a dose of spice and quite a kick.
Absalom's Retreat Cocktail
- Mixing glass
- Nick and Nora or coupe glass
- 1 oz Irish Whisky
- 1 oz Yellow Chartreuse
- ¼ oz honey syrup (Equal parts honey and hot water mixed together to make syrup.)
- 1 dash Angostura bitters
- Add all ingredients to your trusty mixing glass.
- Add ice and stir to chill.
- Strain into pre-chilled cocktail glass.
- Express twist over drink, rub over rim of glass and drop in.