Lawrence Osborne’s Alcohol Quest in ‘The Wet and the Dry’

Dwight Garner in the New York Times:

24book-1-popupThere are three reasons Lawrence Osborne’s new book, “The Wet and the Dry,” is instantly among the best nonfiction volumes about drinking that we have, and why, if you have a bar, it should be tucked into its corner, near the bitters.

The first reason is that Mr. Osborne is a terrific writer, hardheaded and searching, and he’s getting better as he gets older. His novel from last year,“The Forgiven,” was a bite-size piece of poison candy — a persuasively creepy mix of Ian McEwan and Paul Bowles.

“The Wet and the Dry” is a book in which cocktails are said to be “entered, like bodies of water or locales.” Thus a vodka martini with its bobbing olive, imbibed while in Beirut, is to the author “salty like cold seawater at the bottom of an oyster” and “sinister and cool and satisfying.” The author gets bonus points for not being a snob about vodka martinis.

The second reason this book is so good is that Mr. Osborne, who is English, is a world citizen, a committed travel writer as well as a novelist. Like a Google map, he brings wide-angle context with simple clicks. Like a latter-day Evelyn Waugh, he can size up a locale almost at a glance. In the ancient Roman city of Baalbek, in Lebanon, he declares it “the kind of place where you might be kidnapped for an hour or two just to satisfy someone’s curiosity.”

More here.