Livin La Vida Coco. The Rossi and Rachel. The Fresh Mint of Bel-Air. These are just three of the drink-related puns you’ll find in Sam Slaughter’s new book, “Are You Afraid of the Dark Rum? And Other Cocktails for ’90s Kids.” In this nostalgic homage to the ’90s, Slaughter explores the pop culture-heavy decade by way of cocktails, providing a collection of recipes that draws on the era’s TV shows, movies, music and headlines. You’ll also find sections on bar tools, glassware, and techniques.
And, because no party is complete without a good playlist, Slaughter went ahead and created the ultimate ’90s playlist to pair with your drinks.
We sat down with the author to learn more about his entertaining pun-filled work and the decade that inspired it.
This interview has been lightly condensed and edited for clarity.
I was born in the ’80s. Is this book still for me?
Seeing as I was also born in the ’80s, yes. I made the book for anyone who lived through the ’90s. I was a kid, and while I wasn’t drinking back then, I’ve been able to go back and revisit the decade through pop culture. My sister, who is six years older than me, had a much different time in the ’90s, but the book is also for her, as she’s going to use her own nostalgic lens on what I wrote.
I see the book is dedicated to Monica. Any chance this is a nod to “Friends” star Monica Geller?
No, Monica is like my aunt, but not. She’s one of my parents’ best friends, and is an aunt in the sort of way that people like that are. I learned what a Dirty Martini was because of her.
How many cocktails are in the book?
You’re going to make me count? Ha, hold on… 46.
How many of those cocktails are originals vs. riffs on classics?
I think it’s a good mix. When you think about it, even some originals could be, if you trace them back enough, riffs on classics.
There are five to eight that are straight riffs, one such being the Gin Red Line, which is a riff on the Negroni. In that case, though, I love Negronis and didn’t want to mess too much with the original recipe.
What’s the creative process like for coming up with 46 drink puns?
A lot of time spent taking in ’90s pop culture. Outside of listening to ’90s music pretty much exclusively for a while, I tried to watch as much as I could that was both made in the ’90s and made about the ’90s. One example of that would be VH1’s “I Love the ’90s” and “I Love the ’90s Part Deux.” I rewatched both series while doing research. In my notebook, I’d write down references I wanted to play with and stare at them, hoping for something to come to me. Other times, I’d be out talking with people and something would click and I’d jot it down in my phone for later.
After all this pop culture research, did you learn anything revelatory about the ’90s that you didn’t notice at the time?
I think there was a ton that I didn’t notice at the time. You can pick just about any major event—The Gulf War, WTC bombing, Clinton Scandal—and while I may have known that they happened, they were abstract events. As an elementary school kid, I had no conception of the gravity of what occurred during the Clinton scandal, from a biological and from a political standpoint.
That’s enough to make anyone need a drink. Do you have a favorite cocktail in the book?
Yeah, the Juice Box Iced Tea is probably my favorite. It’s based on Ssips Iced Tea boxes. I love tea normally, but this let me play with my favorite drink and make it into a more grown up version.
Want to make a Juice Box Iced Tea at home? Of course you do. Here’s the recipe.