Recipe: The Celeste Ng cocktail

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      The following is excerpted from Buzzworthy: Cocktails Inspired by Female Literary Greats, written by Jennifer Croll, illustrated by Rachelle Baker, and published by Prestel. This recipe is inspired by Celeste Ng, who will be in Vancouver for the Vancouver Writers Fest on October 19.

      By Jennifer Croll

      Complex family relationships and racial dynamics in America set the stage for drama in Celeste Ng’s novels. Exploring themes of class, race, and privilege, her writing reveals truths about the world while delivering an emotional payoff.

      Ng was born in Pittsburgh and, when she was 10, her family moved to the wealthy suburb of Shaker Heights outside Cleveland, Ohio. As a teen, she was co-editor of her high school’s literary magazine, and later studied English at Harvard. It wasn’t until after she graduated that she seriously considered writing as a career, which prompted her to get an MFA from the University of Michigan. Success didn’t come until Ng won the Pushcart Prize for her story “Girls, at Play.” Soon after that, she sold her first book, Everything I Never Told You, a breakthrough debut chosen as Amazon’s novel of the year. It unravels the story of a mixed-race family whose daughter drowns, revealing the forces that led to her death.

      Ng’s second novel, Little Fires Everywhere, was a huge bestseller that was adapted into a television series of the same name, starring Reese Witherspoon and Kerry Washington. Set in Ng’s hometown of Shaker Heights, the book explores motherhood, transracial adoption, racism, and classism within a privileged community. (The fires in the title refer to multiple blazes an unidentified arsonist sets in the family home of the main protagonists.) Ng’s third novel, Our Missing Hearts, is her foray into dystopia, creating a world much like our own where laws intended to “preserve American culture” permit the seizing of dissidents’ children and censorship of “unpatriotic” books.

      Illustration by Rachelle Baker.

      Outside of writing, Ng is a fierce advocate for other authors and generously blurbs books, especially those of Asian American women, whose voices are underrepresented in publishing. As she told The New York Times in 2018, “There are lots of other Asian women, even Chinese-American women, who are doing all kinds of stuff that I’m not doing.”

      Ng’s cocktail packs a powerful punch and comes garnished with a little fire.

      The Celeste Ng


      • 1 shot white rum
      • 1 shot golden rum
      • 1 shot fresh lime juice
      • ¾ shot lychee liqueur
      • ½ shot orgeat syrup
      • Garnish: flaming lime


      1. Add all ingredients to a shaker filled with ice.
      2. Shake vigorously and strain into a rocks glass filled with crushed ice.
      3. Garnish with a flaming lime by placing a 151-proof-rum-soaked sugar cube inside half a spent lime, and lighting the sugar cube on fire.