Banned Books Week: Reading (And Drinking) The Catcher in the Rye

Posted by Paul Krueger

If you really want to hear about it, the first thing you’ll probably want to know is why I think The Catcher in the Rye is so damn important anyway.  Big deal, we all read it in high school.  Except I didn’t.

Well, I did.  But that wasn’t my first time slipping into Holden Caulfield’s shoes.

My dad’s a great guy for a lot of reasons, but a big one is his support of my reading habit.  When I was growing up, he and my mom all but shoveled books in my general direction, and I devoured them like a furnace.  They knew I had a big imagination, so they gave me things in kind: stories about epic battles, or shadowy mysteries, or an average boy enrolled in a very un-average school.

So when my dad dropped a library copy of Catcher into my lap and I asked what it was about, I was surprised when he said, “It’s about a kid who wanders around New York.”

I stared at the cover, with its yellow text and sketchy rendering of a red carousel horse.  Surely, robots or aliens would figure into his explanation any second.  When they didn’t, I said, “And…?”

“And he’s very unhappy with the world,” said my dad.

“Because it’s full of velociraptors?” I asked.

(Not really.  This is the shape of that conversation, but fourteen years after the fact I can’t help writer-ing it up a bit.)

My dad chuckled.  “Read it, Paul.”

So I read it.

I took two big things away from my first dip into Holden’s head.  The first was something along the lines of: oh my god there’s swearing I’m eleven does dad even know what’s in this book

(He totally did.  My dad is cool.)

The second thing, I understood but didn’t really appreciate until a few years later.  A book doesn’t have to be a voyage aboard the Dawn Treader for it to be a journey.  Sometimes, a story can just be about someone trying to figure out who they are and why their world is how it is.  Understanding that made me a better reader.  And once I’d figured out who I was, being a better reader made me a better writer.

Catcher broadened my reading, but it didn’t cure my magic-and-mysteries habit.  And now that I’m older, I’ve picked up a few other habits to go with my reading.  One of which led me to create…


For thematic reasons, I opted to do a slight variation on the Manhattan.  Not only does it resonate with the text, but rye is actually the recommended whiskey to make it with.  That said, we’re making a drink for Holden Caulfield here, and Holden’s not like any other bargoer.  He had distinctive experiences in Manhattan, so his Manhattan should be distinctive in turn.

You’ll need:

-2 ounces of rye whiskey

-⅔ ounce of sweet red vermouth

-3 dashes of angostura bitters

-Soda water

-A lemon twist, as garnish

Combine the first three ingredients in a glass or shaker over ice.  Stir gently, until well-mixed.

Strain the results into a martini glass or a champagne goblet.  It should look translucent, not cloudy.

Top it off with a splash of soda water.  Rub the lemon twist around the rim of the glass, then garnish and serve.

One last word of advice: drink the Catcher in the Rye in good company.  Drink it alone, and you start missing everybody.