It was a delicate dance. But having grown up as a Broadway dancer in musicals such as Gypsy and Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, Tim Federle was up to the task. On the one hand, the folks that crowded Inkwood Books on Jan. 22 were 11-year-old kids with an earnest appreciation for Federle's middle school novels Better Nate Than Ever and Five, Six, Seven, Nate! And on the other they were literature-loving drink aficionados charmed by Tequila Mockingbird: Cocktails with a Literary Twist, his new recipe guide voted the No. 1 cookbook of the year on Goodreads.
Fortified by pitchers of "Are You There God? It's Me, Margaritas," the booze hounds waited out the tweens as Federle signed their books and kibitzed quickly on this school night. While the two middle school books are autobiographical, born of his own experience as a conflicted teen who, "wanted to be a star but didn't want anybody looking at me," the cocktail book's inspiration came from elsewhere.
"My mother had a book club that would dissolve into opening wine. This was a tribute to my mom, born as a joke," he said to the crowd. "The idea was cocktail recipes that would evoke the feel of a novel. The titles were the easy part."
A Rum of One's Own, Bridget Jones's Daiquiri, the Last of the Mojitos — Federle swiftly came up with 65 hilarious tweaks on classic books, hiring cocktail consultant Victoria D'Amato-Moran to flesh out the recipes. Quick-witted commentary, drinking game ideas, book club drinks and an array of bar bite recipes complete the package that has made Tequila Mockingbird a no-brainer gift idea for the literary drinker. (His next book may be even savvier: Hickory, Daiquiri, Dock, a nursery rhyme book of cocktails for new parents — surely more fun at a baby shower than a Diaper Genie.)
Federle's three books were all published in the past year. For most new authors, a swirl of interviews and book tour gigs would be heady but disorienting. For him, it has felt like coming home.
"The thing I miss about performing is being with people."
Indeed, after the last book was signed, Federle adjourned with the Inkwood crowd to Tampa's Anise Global Gastrobar where guest bartender Kamran Mir recreated some of the book's cocktails. A longtime bartender at Czar in Ybor City, Mir worked at Inkwood while in college and met new owner Stefani Beddingfield at the bookstore.
Leafing through the book, Mir picked the drinks that sounded most intriguing to him: the Romeo and Julep, the Lime of the Ancient Mariner and yes, the Tequila Mockingbird.
Federle, for his part, stuck with water, mindful of an early flight to Pittsburgh for his next appearance. Aside from engaging with his fans, what has been the best part for this 33-year-old author?
"It forced me to read a lot of books I skipped as a kid."
Laura Reiley can be reached at email@example.com or (727) 892-2293. Follow @lreiley on Twitter.