Latin Quarter Cocktail and a Literary Landmark


Sylvia Beach with James Joyce in front of her Shakespeare and Company bookstore

The Latin Quarter, la Quartier Latin, home of the Sorbonne, Place St. Michel, and Shakespeare and Company, a bookstore at the center (literally) of the City of Light.

Sylvia Beach, an expat from New Jersey, opened her lending library/bookstore in 1919, first at rue Dupuytren then rue de l’Odeon and it quickly became a center for modern art and literature in Paris. Ernest Hemingway, Ezra Pound, Man Ray, spent much time there and Sylvia saw to it that James Joyces’ Ulysses got published (it was banned in the U.S. and Great Britain) and one could find a copy of D.H. Lawrence’s Lady Chatterley’s Lover (which was also banned), and Hemingway’s first book, Three Stories and Ten Poems. This golden artistic age ended in 1941 on the heels of German occupation, and Sylvia closed her shop, taking her books with her.


George Whitman

In 1964, George Whitman, another American in Paris, renamed his bookstore on rue de la Bûcherie (at Kilometer Zero) “Shakespeare and Company” for Sylvia Beach, whom he admired. George did for the Beat Generation what Sylvia had done for the Lost Generation. The reincarnated store became a focal point for writers: William Styron, William Burroughs, Henry Miller, Anais Nin all visited the little shop under the shadow of Notre Dame. His “socialist utopia masquerading as a bookstore” was the stopping place of many an itinerant writer, who were allowed to sleep among the books so long as they helped out for a few hours in the store, read a book each day, and wrote a one-page autobiography. It is estimated that more than 30,000 “Tumbleweeds,” as George called them, have stayed at the store.

In celebration, on offer is a simple libation from Jean Lupoiu’s 1948 Cocktails. Another equal parts recipe, you can make this one as large or small as you like, adjusting the curaçao or Cointreau to taste.

Le Quartier Latin Cocktail

One part Dubonnet

One part Campari

2 dashes Curaçao or Cointreau

Stir with ice until cold and strain into a chilled cocktail or highball glass. A splash of soda water is optional (but recommended). Garnish with an orange peel and/or slice.

Sadly, George Whitman passed away in 2011 at the age of 98, but the bookstore (with added cafe) thrives under the benevolent hand of George’s daughter, Sylvia Beach Whitman, who still welcomes tumbleweeds to the literary oasis.


Sylvia and George Whitman                Photo from Vanity Fair