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Jennifer Croll’s Free the Tipple celebrates female icons with personalized cocktails

When Vancouver author and editor Jennifer Croll launched her 2016 YA non-fiction title, Bad Girls of Fashion: Style Rebels from Cleopatra to Lady Gaga, she concocted a few special drinks for the event in honour of the women profiled in her book. Croll observed how much her guests enjoyed imbibing cocktails like “the Coco Chanel.” Inspired, she pitched her editor at Prestel Publishing a book of drink recipes named after influential women in history.

Free the Tipple: Kickass Cocktails Inspired by Iconic Women features profiles of 60 women with drinks matched to their personality, style, or achievements. Croll says it was a challenge narrowing the final selection of subjects, which includes Canadian authors Rupi Kaur, Naomi Klein, and Margaret Atwood, alongside icons like musician Patti Smith, actress Laverne Cox, and architect Zaha Hadid.

Croll started the process with a lengthy spreadsheet capturing each woman’s attributes. “I would compare it to when people are coming up with their dream dinner party and trying to figure out what the right mix of guests is,” she says.

Once her list was whittled down, Croll began the fun task of determining what kind of cocktail would match each profile, while ensuring that the overall book had a balance of flavours and alcohol types. “I would write about the woman’s life first and then think about the sort of dominant character traits or something that just really stood out about them – the way they dressed or something about their personality or their career,” says Croll, who got a little mixology advice from a bartender friend but came up with the recipes on her own. Some were no-brainers, like the bourbon lemonade for Beyoncé and the Scotch-based cocktail for chain-smoking actress Bette Davis.

After Croll finished the time-consuming task of writing 10 profiles and recipes, she would send the batch off to her illustrator, Kelly Shami. The New York artist did plenty of her own research to develop the colourful artwork that captures the essence of the subjects in a playful way. Croll says, “I would compile some instructions for her along with the recipe. For instance, we want to picture Gloria Steinem today, not when she was younger. But it was definitely a collaborative process.”

And who did Croll decide to serve at the Free the Tipple launch party? Fruity libations inspired by Yoko Ono, Vivienne Westwood, and Sofia Coppola.