The world of cocktails can sometimes be too wrapped up in history and nostalgia to remember to have fun, but 2019 has seen the debut of at least one book that finds a balance of nostalgia and enjoyment: Are You Afraid of the Dark Rum?: and Other Cocktails for ’90s Kids by Sam Slaughter.
Slaughter’s book is a Trapper Keeper full of fun, easy drinks, with plenty of backstory for the younger and older generations who didn’t live their childhoods in one of the most magical eras of modern history.
Are You Afraid of the Dark Rum? [Andrews McNeel Publishing; $13] reads more like a nostalgic memoir of ‘90s pop culture, complete with cocktail pairings. Some cocktails are ever-so-slightly modified takes on classics, like the simple and refreshing “Hey Arnold Palmer.” Others, like the “Saved by the Jell-O” shots, are a series of creative boozy treats. Slaughter offers several flavors, from the lime and blanco tequila “Screech” to the white whiskey and lemon “Principal Belding.”
The point of these drinks, and their presentation, is to make cocktails fun again, and Slaughter does this well with a lighthearted combination of punny references and creative serving methods. A perfect example? The Rye-U and Ken: a modified Manhattan served over a large cube, with orange bitters and, optionally, a Fruit by the Foot headband tied around the lip of the glass.
What Are You Afraid of the Dark Rum? isn’t is an authoritative volume of classics designed for beginning home bartenders. If you’re looking for a first barside companion, look elsewhere. Slaughter’s volume has all of the information on techniques and tools that you’ll need if you’re making your first cocktail, but the beauty of the drinks he has compiled is in the surprising success every drink finds despite a shoot-from-the-hip mixology style. Like a Saturday afternoon marathon of ‘90s Nickelodeon programming, Are You Afraid of the Dark Rum? Is zany, wild, often ridiculous, but always fun.
It’s unclear whether Slaughter was the kid in the neighborhood with the best toys, but he’s certainly created a drink menu that has all of us adults in the neighborhood wanting to crack open the book and play.
Looking for more lighthearted spirits reading? Click here to read our review of Reese Witherspoon’s Whiskey in a Teacup.