Book Review ‘Drinking with Your Patron Saints’

(Book cover via Amazon; background art: Pixabay)

A book on cocktail-making gives Catholics a new hobby for time stuck indoors.

As the coronavirus outbreak forces many of us to spend most of our time indoors and much of our time worrying, author Michael P. Foley has a new book to bring a little cheer to our homes. Drinking with Your Patron Saints: The Sinner’s Guide to Honoring Namesakes and Protectors is his latest book on the topic of cocktail-making with a Catholic twist.

Foley, a theology professor at Baylor University, has written several books about Christianity, but his first offering related to religiously inspired cocktails was Drinking with the Saints: The Sinner’s Guide to a Holy Happy Hour, which instructed readers in “the appropriate libations for the seasons, feasts, and saints’ days of the Church year.” Following the success of that book, Foley wrote Drinking with Saint Nick: Christmas Cocktails for Sinners and Saints.

His third venture, Drinking with Your Patron Saints, focuses on the Catholic Church’s lengthy catalogue of saints and draws on a rich tradition of using their stories to assign particular patronage to each of them. “There’s a patron saint for everything,” the book’s back cover reads, “and Michael Foley has a drink for every saint.”

Though Foley’s book might not in fact cover every saint — an understandable omission, considering that Alban Butler’s famous Lives of the Saints compendium comes in a four-volume set, covering more than 2,500 saints, each one in about a page — he includes several that even the most devoted Catholics might not know. St. Drausinius, for example, was a French bishop in the seventh century, whom Foley pairs with a “champion cocktail” to represent the legend that spending the night outside the saint’s tomb would render one invincible.

The book’s first section dedicates about 60 pages to “patronages from the sublime to the ridiculous,” a list of common and highly uncommon subjects, along with the saint who represents them. Some might be fairly obvious to long-time Catholics: St. Francis of Assisi for animals or St. Andrew and St. Peter for fishermen.

But Foley includes many less obvious patronages as well, including some he invented himself and lists in italics, such as St. Jude for help finding a parking spot when you’re running late and Adam, patron saint of “massive screw-ups” after getting humanity ejected from Eden.

The second part of the book lists “patron saints from Adam to Zita,” pairing each featured saint with a themed cocktail recipe related to the saint’s patronage. Many of the entries come with a suggested toast that includes a prayer or a joke based on the saint’s life. For instance, before serving a “salty dog” or a “gimlet” to honor the patron saint of naval officers, try this toast: “With the help of St. Francis of Paola, may our lives and the lives of those at sea be smooth sailing.”

If you need an idea of which saints and cocktails to turn to when you first open the book, Foley has some options that are particularly fitting for the moment in which we find ourselves. As we pray for those suffering during this pandemic, and for the essential workers on the front lines, Drinking with Your Patron Saints offers drinks for St. Blaise, patron saint of those suffering from coughs and throat ailments, and St. Catejan, patron saint of workers, job seekers, and the unemployed.

While Foley’s book would be a fun read any time of year and no matter what might be happening in the world, it offers something useful for Catholics at a time of global pandemic. In most states, liquor stores have been designated essential businesses and remain open, so you can collect whatever ingredients you might need to celebrate your favorite saint in style. Another idea might be to find your favorite local restaurants that are still serving alcohol and support them even while stay-at-home orders remain in place.

Most of us can’t gather with friends or family in person to try our hand at these cocktails, but hosting a happy hour inspired by the saints could give us another reason to gather for video calls. And this book gives us not only a reminder to ask for the intercession of the saints but also something to look forward to: a way to celebrate together when this national crisis is over.

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