Boozy Books: Are You Afraid of the Dark Rum?

photo by Maggie Kimberl

photo by Maggie Kimberl

‘90s pop culture and cocktails mix in this new book by Sam Slaughter

What if you could take all the best things about your childhood—your favorite shows, clothes, and songs—and turn them into a cocktail party? A new book with ‘90s themed cocktail recipes, trivia, and playlists may soon help you do just that. Submitted for the approval of the Midnight Society, Are You Afraid Of The Dark Rum? by Sam Slaughter.

“Having grown up in the ‘90s, I was always around all of these things, but as I got older, I still always went back to the music that I grew up with because, I don’t know, it felt safe,” says Slaughter. “So when I knew I wanted to do a cocktail book, I knew I wanted to play around with what I knew and what I loved, and that was ‘90s culture.”

Page after page is filled with punny reminders of bygone days when you’d wake up on Saturday morning, crush a Sunny-D, and watch Ren & Stimpy until Snick —Saturday Night Nickelodeon—came on in the evening. There’s tons of trivia throughout the book—did you know that the movie Titanic cost more to make than the actual Titanic cost to build? Maybe they should have spent some more money on lifeboats, just saying.

“I watched a lot of reruns, wherever I could find them. YouTube was great, but there was this Nick network I found, too, that played Nick shows 24/7. The biggest/weirdest thing was rewatching I Love the ‘90s, the series from VH1. Watching it and seeing so many people who are dead was a shock, or if not a shock a stark reminder of the how fast things move. I loved watching Are You Afraid of the Dark again, and seeing that it wasn’t scary anymore, and I spent a lot of time trying to figure out why I found it so scary then. I also spent a lot of time watching collections of ‘90s commercials on YouTube, of which there are plenty, which also made me do the ‘oh man I remember that’ thing that I hope my book does [justice to].”

The cocktails in this book are all named for various bits of 90s pop culture. The title cocktail, named for Nickelodeon's smash hit Are You Afraid of the Dark? involves a smoke gun and a brandy snifter to create a ghoulish-looking concoction, reminiscent of the scary, but not-too-scary, show my entire family actually watched together. Kids from the ‘90s basically only know the definition of the word “sardonic” because of the character Sardo, no mister, accent on the ‘do.’

The photos throughout the book, by Amy Ellis, are vibrant and playful. Each cocktail is photographed against a plain, bright background, and many feature an artistic touch reminiscent of the ‘90s—a Fruit Roll-Ups Street Fighter-style headband on the “Rye-U And Ken” cocktail, or the Barrel of Monkeys toys hanging, arms interlocked, from the “I’m the Cocktail, Gotta Love Me”.

There are stories with each cocktail about how the author ties the recipe with the pop culture reference, and these stories are entertaining and full of puns as well as bits of personal history from Slaughter’s childhood that are, like, totally tubular. But what would ‘90s Sam think of Sam today?

“I’m not sure. ‘90s Sam wasn’t a writer yet, so he probably wouldn’t care what I’m doing. When I was a kid I wanted to be a marine biologist, so I guess, if anything, he’d be disappointed I didn’t turn into a biologist. Little did ‘90s Sam know that math/science wasn’t his thing... other than fermentation science.”

Though I’m pretty sure mixology counts as a science?

There are playlists throughout the book broken up by genre, so if you want to plan a boy band themed party there’s a playlist for that and several coordinating cocktails. Conversely, if you want to plan a one-hit-wonders themed ‘90s party, there’s a playlist and coordinating cocktails for that, as well. There are even ‘90s themed drinking games for the ultimate homage to the decade that brought us Hammer Pants, Hypercolor shirts, and Steve Urkel’s popular refrain, “Did I do that?

“I grew up trying to pretend I was a basketball star (I wasn’t),” says Slaughter, “so I wore a lot of neon colored sweatsuits. And while I want to say I looked the part, we all know that a little white kid wearing a matching sweat suit does NOT look like the next Kobe.”

There’s a handy section in the front all about bar tools and what they do, as well as tips for building a well-stocked and versatile home bar. This is great for the home bartenders who don’t know a Hawthorne strainer from a jigger but need a simple explanation of both. In the back of the book there are directions for all of the syrups and infusions used throughout. “I want my book to be accessible even if you’ve never made a drink,” says Slaughter.

As I read through some of the recipes I thought about variations I might like to try, such as subbing black tea bitters in the “Juice Box Iced Tea”, or an Argentinian Malbec in the “I Saw The Wine”. There are cocktails made from every spirit imaginable, so there’s truly something for everyone.

So basically, you could pick a couple of signature cocktails from the recipes, spike your bangs up really high and tease out your hair, don your neon fanny pack, and invite all your ‘90s grown-up-kid friends to party like it’s 1999.

“My book release is June 6, and we’ll have cheese balls, bagel bites, and a lot of great nineties candy. Also, we’re hoping people show up in ‘90s gear,” says Slaughter.

Breaking out my neon green and purple tracksuit now.

Are You Afraid Of The Dark Rum? will be available June 4, 2019 from Andrew McMeels Publishing.