Covers & Cocktails: Ambition

I’m cutting right to the chase and skipping the chit chat because man I want to tell you about this book and this drink. A longer review will come eventually, but if I can pique your interest NOW, that’s even better.

This is Julie C. Dao’s Goodreads summary of her book, Forest of a Thousand Lanterns.

The story combines everything I love: strong women and the complex relationships that shape them; the struggle between choice and destiny; a lush palace setting and handsome, brooding men; and a powerful, dark, tortured heroine I think of as a combination of Wu Zetian (the first and ONLY *ruling* Empress of China), Anne Boleyn, and Scarlett O’Hara.

Hi, yes, hello. I’ll take two, please.

It also has such a striking cover and I instantly knew I wanted to do some sort of play on one of my very favorite drinks: a Midori sour. Midori is a bright green melon liqueur and I would mix it with Mountain Dew in my baby days of drinking. And let’s not forget that green, if we’re living our lives according to Disney films, is the “harbinger of evil.”

The sour mix adds an extra layer of tartness and I wanted a more sour than sweet drink because the anti-heroine Xifeng has so much bite in this book. Since the book is also a retelling of the Evil Queen (think Snow White) and her origins, I really wanted to add some kind of apple flavor. I didn’t want to go with artificial green apple, since that would add to some of the sourness. Instead, I used some sparkling cider (nonalcoholic) to add a more natural flavoring and to give it some bubbles. I used my favorite Luxardo cherries as a garnish for the bottom of the glass to give a hint to the underlying darkness in the book.

I want to say that if you love richly imagined worlds and complex characters, please read this. Dao did an amazing job building the setting and I go bananas for characters who inhabit this moral gray area. It always feels a bit wicked and naughty to root for them. The heroine is unapologetically ambitious and even though she’s an anti-heroine, I love seeing her reclaim her agency.

Ingredients for the Ambition cocktail: sparkling cider, midori, whisky sour mix

Shopping list:
Midori melon liqueur
Sparkling apple cider
Sour mix
Luxardo cherries

3 oz of Midori
1 oz of sour mix
Top with cider (about 2 oz)


  1. In a shaker full of ice, pour Midori and sour mix.
  2. Shake, shake, shake, Señora. Shake your body line.
  3. Pour over ice into a glass.
  4. Fill the rest of the glass up with cider.

Modifications and notes:

  • Okay, let me tell you about this sour mix. I went to four different stores to find it. No one had it. Normally, sour mix is liquid. As you can see, the one I finally found was not. I did not know that it’s best to “rehydrate” said sour powder with water beforehand and my first drink had a very strange aftertaste. So if you get sour mix in a powder form, mix with an ounce of water first. Also, screw all the people at the stores who told me to make my own. If possible, though, go for the liquid sour mix.
  • Midori is the only melon liqueur I know of. If you have another that you like, use that instead.
  • Same goes for sparkling cider. Use whatever you’d like in terms of brands.
  • The cherries are totally not necessary and do nothing for the taste. They just look cool. However, I do love using them whenever I get the chance.

A copy of Forest of a Thousand Lanterns with a bright green drink. The cover is bright green with a snake curling around a light pink flower.


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