Drinking With the Saints
The Sinner’s Guide to a Holy Happy Hour
By Michael P. Foley
Regnery History, 2015
487 pages, $26.99
To order: ignatius.com
In September 2015, Pope Francis canonized Father Junípero Serra for his extraordinary missionary efforts in bringing the Gospel to present-day California. Wine enthusiasts, however, can also celebrate the fact that it was Serra, and his fellow Franciscans, that brought the first wine grapes to the region. This is one of many fun-filled facts in Michael Foley’s Drinking With the Saints: The Sinner’s Guide to a Holy Happy Hour.
Foley’s book tells the storied past of wine, beer and spirits, and it also serves as an actual recipe guide — a fine blend of theology, Church history and practical application. Filled with almost 350 classic recipes and new creations, Drinking With the Saints reminds us that all good things come from above, while also providing a tutorial on how to better enjoy these blessings in the here and now.
Lest readers be concerned that such a book only serves to encourage the abuse of alcohol, Foley begins by urging the reader to pursue temperance and moderation. Drawing from G.K. Chesterton, he reminds us, “We should thank God for beer and burgundy by not drinking too much of them.”
But enjoy them we should — and preferably with the communion of saints! For example, on the Visitation of the Blessed Virgin Mary (July 2), the faithful are encouraged to mix a “Godmother” — a simple combination of vodka and amaretto. On the feast of the Holy Innocents in December, drink a “Kiddie Car,” complete with apple brandy, lime juice and triple sec. You get the point.
Perhaps you may already consider yourself to be an experienced bartender, but don’t dismiss this book as irrelevant. Who wouldn’t want to know the drinking habits of Adam and Eve or Pope John Paul II — or discover the fact that whiskey, tequila and sparkling wine all have Catholic origins, not to mention the fact that there are hundreds of wines around the world named after the Blessed Virgin Mary and other saints?
Drinking, as Foley reminds us in this book, is not about drinking. It’s actually about conviviality — friends, family members and strangers who may become friends or family sharing in the good things in life that ultimately point us to a greater good. Let’s not forget that Christ’s first miracle was turning water into wine at the Wedding Feast at Cana — not for the sake of drinking, but for the purpose of celebration.
Along with its fine mix of stories, recipes, advice and prayers, Drinking With the Saints is a remarkably beautiful and well-designed book that serves as a fine edition to any kitchen recipe shelf, coffee table or library. Wherever you keep it, I’d recommend keeping it within arm’s reach, so that you may refer to it often. And not because I’m encouraging drinking, but simply because it’s a book about joy. The saints provide the most joyful and happiest witnesses to the faith, and any opportunity to further reflect on that witness is reason enough for a toast. Cheers!
Christopher White writes from New York.