Books Inspire the Cocktails of Nick Petrulakis

Bookseller Nick Petrulakis has a bit of a side gig going. He likes cocktails, he likes books, and what could be a more natural pairing?


Nick Petrulakis of Books Inc. puts words and booze together for a little literary fun.

Photo by Chris Duffey

Nick Petrulakis, the manager of Alameda’s Books Inc., has a bit of a side gig going. He likes cocktails, he likes books, and what could be a more natural pairing? His blog, Drinks with Nick, was born, and now appears regularly, as well as on the Books Inc. website. Sometimes, thanks to the magic of the Internet, the recipes even go viral.

Inspired by books, characters, settings, authors, and a marvelous combination of all of those elements, Petrulakis tinkers in his living room bar until he gets the flavors just right. A lot of tasting is necessary, of course, and mistakes; well, those don’t go to waste. “Drink is taste,” he said. “It’s also scent. It’s presentation. The drink kind of rises up from the pages.” It’s important that there’s not too much information in a cocktail, he believes, but rather, the essence of a story in a few select sips.

For a glimpse at the breadth of Petrulakis’ reading and mixological tastes, John Irving’s Avenue of Mysteries begat the Avenue Flip; Jesse Eisenberg’s Bream Gives Me Hiccups inspired the Bosnian Drop (aka the Bosnian Car Bomb); and Marian Palaia’s The Given World brought about Riley’s Moon.

Lynn Cullen’s new release, Twain’s End, about the lesser-known side of Mark Twain, inspired Petrulakis to revamp a whisky old-fashioned and add a meringue-like egg whip on top, to represent Twain’s wild white mane—and attitude. And for Christian Kiefer’s majestic tour de force, The Animals, about a wildlife refuge about to be shut down by bureaucracy, Petrulakis created the Blind Bear in honor of the aging resident bear, Majer, who lives by sense of smell in his snowy enclosure. The drink is a gin and soda with absinthe and a spritz of fir essence. “It’s like you’re going Christmas tree shopping” when you drink it, Petrulakis said.

Petrulakis started blogging about cocktails in 2010; writing about adult beverages helped him ease his way through his father’s cancer and passing. A treasured few mementos from his father’s bachelor days include the Mr. Boston Cocktail Guide from 1961 and a jigger. Growing up in Modesto with his extensive Greek family, “Drinks with Greeks was a pretty big thing, a part of the culture,” he said.

He’s never been a bartender. “I’m self-taught,” he said, complete with air quotes. And although the fantasy of owning Nick’s Place sounds good, he contemplates, “My God, the hours!” With a bookstore to run, plus two growing daughters, and a pile of books to read (not to mention unpublished manuscripts under the bed), a bar called Nick’s is not likely to happen anytime soon.

Follow Drinks with Nick at or and on Instagram@DrinksWithNick.

Blind Bear

Inspired by Christian Kiefer’s The Animals, in honor of Majer.

1.5 ounce Plymouth Gin

.75 ounce absinthe

Soda water

Aftelier Perfumes Fir Needle Chef’s Essence Spray

Stir gin and absinthe with ice. Strain into a chilled cocktail glass. Top with cold soda water. Spritz once with the fir essence.