Tim Federle, the award-winning author of “Tequila Mockingbird,” has turned his penchant for mixing puns and cocktails toward the perils of parenthood.
Printed on thick cardstock in bright colors that evoke children’s picture books, Federle’s latest book, “Hickory Daiquiri Dock,” is a cheeky and, at moments, darkly humorous recasting of Mother Goose classics and nursery rhymes.
“It’s a book that takes the seriousness out of perfect parenting,” Federle said.
Entries include “John Junior Jagermeister Schmidt,” “Wee Willie Whiskey,” “Mary Had a Little Dram” and “Humpty Drunky,” each followed by a no-fuss cocktail recipe.
Perhaps even more suggestive than Federle’s stanzas are Eda Kaban’s slightly wicked, slightly 1960s-looking illustrations of the exasperated or exhausted mothers and fathers clutching at highball glasses.
Federle came up with the idea for “Hickory Daiquiri Dock” when he witnessed his brother adapt to the demands of being a first-time father. It’s a book that acknowledges that modern parenting, with its media overload and pressures, is hard.
Federle wanted to return a little ribald humor to the subject. Federle said the response, especially from new parents, has been mostly positive.
There is a movement afoot, albeit a quiet one, he said, toward resisting the plethora of advice books and Internet pressures to be a model parent.
And what better way to transition from the harried demands of diapers and bath time than with the occasional dash of liquor?
For Federle, a fan of the slow food movement, even the simple act of making a cocktail can bring its own calm. Measuring, pouring or cutting a lemon are conscious movements that ground the maker, he believes.
Federle admits he “not a mixologist.”
However, he is adamant that his recipes are not just for show, but drawn from classics that have been adapted by bartenders.
Where Federle excels is at finding clever connections between the rhymes and the vocabulary of alcohol. In Federle’s mind, “It’s Raining, It’s Pouring” becomes for “It’s Raining, I’m Pouring” and is followed by a recipe for a Dark and Stormy.
In his earlier pun and drinks combo, “Tequila Mockingbird: Cocktails with a Literary Twist,” Federle focused his acerbic wit on great works of literature.
Dubbing itself as “scholarly sips for word nerds” and “SparkNotes with a liquor license,” the short chapters of “Tequila Mockingbird” contain a synopsis of the original tome plus a cocktail to match.
Among the dozens of books profiled, readers will find “Love in the Time of Kahlua” “Are You There God, It’s Me Margarita,” “The Sound and the Slurry” and “The Last of the Mojitos.”
Federle’s iconoclastic spin earned “Tequila Mockingbird” a 2013 Goodreads Choice Award.
Both draw from the author’s own experiences and center on an awkward young teen from Pittsburg (where Federle spent his teenage years) who dreams of dancing in a Broadway musical (where Federle did dance professionally).
“Better Nate Than Ever” garnered several awards, including recognition as a New York Times Notable Book of the Year.
Indeed it was an oddball teen interested in drama in a pre-Glee world when “theater just wasn’t in,” that Federle first began using humor as a coping mechanism.
“School was hard,” he admits. As he approached his 30s, Federle drew on that same sharp tongue when he made the shift from dancer to writer.
“Everything that got me sent to the principal’s office as a kid now gets me paid,” he said.
Federle, who recently visited New Orleans, calls the city “magical” and confesses that he’s “fallen head over heels for the city.”
With several visits for book events in the last few years, Federle has had a chance to walk the streets, get a feel for New Orleans as a town of neighborhoods and witness their recent growth.
For Federle, what most appeals is New Orleans’ uniqueness. “I’m going to go out on a limb here and say it’s the only American city left that can’t be anyplace else,” he said.
And its cocktail culture? Federle notes that while New Orleans has always been known as a drinking town, it deserves a much wider representation than go-cups on Bourbon.
He’s a fan of the city’s current trend toward rediscovering and remastering “throw-back cocktails,” like the Sazerac and the Old Fashioned. Even a week later, he’s still impressed by the Gnome’s Cup he ordered at Coquette.
For those who live here or visit, the author says, “New Orleans offers a flavor education.”