Whiskey in a Teacup is the new lifestyle guide by actress and entrepreneur Reese Witherspoon, who writes, “It’s become sort of an obsession of mine, spreading the gospel of southern living. My southern heritage informs my whole life.”
Born in New Orleans and raised in Nashville, Witherspoon playfully celebrates a culture famous for being traditional, hospitable, and a bit oddball—often all at the same time. Chapter titles such as “The Magic of Sweet Tea,” “If It’s Not Moving, Monogram It,” and “Hot Rollers, Red Lipstick & Steel Magnolias” set the tone for a relaxed and entertaining reading experience. Inspired both by her beloved grandmother, Dorothea, whom she calls “the epitome of southern womanhood,” and by Dolly Parton, her “ultimate southern icon,” Witherspoon shares her experience and advice on everything from country music to wallpaper, biscuits to book clubs, table settings to fashion faux pas. (“Only wear sweatpants when you’re supposed to be sweating,” Dorothea advised her.)
As a bonus, fans will discover all kinds of trivia about their favorite actress: Witherspoon enjoys gardening and needlepoint, is a practicing Episcopalian, included the University of Tennessee’s fight song, “Rocky Top,” in her wedding music, and loves catching frogs by hand, much to her husband’s dismay. They will also discover her “only slightly insane hot-roller technique” for a foolproof casual hairstyle. (A skeptical reader may have trouble believing that a famous Hollywood movie star resorts to this particular technique very often, but it’s Reese Witherspoon, so just go with it.) In fact, the principal charm of Whiskey in a Teacup lies in its author’s narrative voice, which is sincere, un-fussy, and personable. It’s like you’re sharing a casual chat with an old friend over a Moon Pie and an RC Cola, y’all.
The book is beautifully photographed and includes dozens of shots of Witherspoon with family and friends, enjoying various themed get-togethers, for which she also provides musical playlists, menus, serving suggestions, and recipes. Dishes range from down-home heartiness—including ingredients like Cool Whip, Rice Krispies, and Jiffy Corn Muffin Mix—to the black-tie, dinner-party elegance of champagne cocktails and crab-puff hors d’oeuvres.
There are no guilt-trips here. “If you are looking for a how-to, self-help bible,” Witherspoon writes, “this ain’t it. I love a good party, but I don’t have a ton of free time, so when it comes to shortcuts and good-enough-ing, I have been there and store-bought that.”
Despite Witherspoon’s celebration of southern womanhood and the comforts of home and family, Whiskey in a Teacup leaves no doubt that this charming debut author is also a savvy businesswoman and accomplished artist. And yet, on occasion she still needs to summon the Southern grit she learned from Dolly. Nervous about the singing scenes in Walk the Line, she confesses, “I just drank a beer and did it anyway. And it all worked out okay. A lot of key moments in life are like that: You can be nervous as all get out. Just drink a beer and do it anyway.” (Actually, it all worked out better than OK: Witherspoon won an Oscar for best actress for Walk the Line.)
For this author, “whiskey in a teacup” is an apt metaphor for determination undergirded with beauty, and she challenges her readers to take advantage of both as they “go out into the world and do incredible things.” Just don’t do them in sweatpants unless… well, you know.
A graduate of Auburn University, Tina Chambers has worked as a technical editor at an engineering firm and as an editorial assistant at Peachtree Publishers, where she worked on books by Erskine Caldwell, Will Campbell, and Ferrol Sams, to name a few. She lives in Chattanooga.