The Hemingway (and Fitzgerald) Whisky Sour

Whisky Sour

1 teaspoon sugar or simple syrup

Juice of half a lemon

1 ½ oz whisky

Shake well, strain into a chilled cocktail glass.  Add a dash of seltzer water if desired.  Garnish with lemon peel.

Suggested reading:  A Moveable Feast – Scott Fitzgerald

             The recipe shown above is the traditional whisky sour, and you’re free to use bourbon, sour mash, rye, blended or Canadian whiskey, or even Irish, as Hemingway did in Islands in the Stream.  Here, Hemingway refers to a drink as a “whisky sour,” but it’s more likely he was drinking a mixture of lemonade (in French, called a citron pressé), Scotch whisky, and perhaps a little Perrier water.  In other words, Hemingway likely didn’t shake the drink as you would a true whisky sour, just built it in the glass, but that’s what he called it nevertheless.

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Shown above, the Dingo, Montparnasse, Paris, where Hemingway and Fitzgerald met for the first time in April, 1925.            

In his Paris memoir, A Moveable Feast, Hemingway writes at length about his relationship with F. Scott Fitzgerald.  In this particular chapter, he tells of their first meeting, at the Dingo Bar, where Hemingway was “sitting with some completely worthless characters.”  One of them happened to be Duff Twysden, on whom Lady Brett Ashley in The Sun Also Rises was based (see the Jack Rose).  In walks Scott.  Hemingway knew of him; after all, he was already a successful writer.  Hemingway described him as looking “like a boy with a face between handsome and pretty.  He had very fair wavy hair, a high forehead, excited and friendly eyes and a delicate long-lipped Irish mouth that, on a girl, would have been the mouth of a beauty.” 

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F. Scott Fitzgerald

Scott was drinking champagne, and then:

“the strange thing happened.  As he sat there at the bar holding the glass of champagne the skin seemed to tighten over his face until all the puffiness was gone and then it drew tighter until the face was like a death’s head.  The eyes sank and began to look dead and the lips were drawn tight and the color left his face so that it was the color of used candle wax.  This was not my imagination.  His face became a true death’s head, or death mask, in front of my eyes.”

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Hemingway in Paris, around the time of this escapade

Hemingway wanted to get him to a hospital, but Scott’s friend said it was a normal reaction, it happened sometimes when he drank.  So they put him in a taxi home.  A few days later, Scott met Hemingway at the Closerie des Lilas, and they each had two whisky and sodas.  Nothing odd happened.  It was during that encounter that Scott asked a favor of Hem.  It seems that his wife Zelda had been “compelled to abandon their small Renault motor car in Lyon because of bad weather,” and would Hem be good enough to accompany Scott to Lyon to retrieve it.  They could ride down together on the train, get the car, and then drive it back to Paris.  Hemingway was enthusiastic about the trip, as it would give him a chance to spend time with an older and more accomplished writer.  So he accepted. 

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The trip was nothing short of a disaster, something to laugh about years later, perhaps.  Or write about.  First off, Scott failed to meet Hemingway at the train station, so he had to foot the bill for his ticket.  Once in Lyon, he couldn’t find Scott, so he had to pay for that first night in the hotel.  This was not what had been planned, especially for the young, starving writer.  But Hemingway made the most of it and ate a cheap dinner in an Algerian restaurant, engaging in conversation with a toothless fire-eater.  He then returned to his hotel and read Turgenev.  Good times.  Finally, Scott showed up next morning, but his words and manner made it appear that it was Hemingway who’d stood up Scott.  Hemingway was increasingly wondering why he’d said yes.  But they had a nice big American breakfast, then a whisky and Perrier, and felt much better.  The plan was to hit the road after the hotel packed up a lunch for them to go.

When they got to the garage, Hemingway was “astonished to find that the small Renault had no top.”  See, the reason why Zelda had been “compelled” to ditch the car in Lyon was because she’d ordered the top to be cut off, because of some minor accident in Marseilles, and she refused to have it replaced.  She liked convertibles, anyway, even if they had no top.  So, off they started on their drive back to Paris in their topless French car.  Then the rains came.

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They “were halted by rain about an hour north of Lyon.  In that day we were halted by rain possibly ten times.”  Along the way, during breaks in the squalls or under the shelter of trees, they ate an excellent lunch of truffled roast chicken, washed down with white Mâcon wine.  They bought several bottles which Hemingway “uncorked as we needed them.”  Drinking wine straight from the bottle was particularly exciting for Scott, “as though he were slumming or as a girl might be excited by going swimming for the first time without a bathing suit.” 

And then the hypochondria set in.  Scott became convinced that he’d contracted congestion of the lungs (he’d read about it), and he begged Hemingway to stop over at the next big town before “the onset of the fever and delirium.”  They stopped at a hotel, and Hemingway had to become doctor and nurse to Fitzgerald.  Scott took to the bed, and while their rain-soaked clothing dried, Hemingway ordered lemonade and whiskey, which Scott referred to as one of “those old wives’ remedies.”  It didn’t stop him from drinking it, though.  Scott demanded that he have his temperature taken, in spite of Hemingway’s assurances that his forehead felt cool.

When the waiter arrived with the two glasses with the pressed lemon juice and ice, the whiskies, and the bottle of Perrier water, he told me that the pharmacy was closed and he could not get a thermometer.  He had borrowed some aspirin.  I asked him to see if he could borrow a thermometer.  Scott opened his eyes and gave a baleful Irish look at the waiter.

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Scott, giving his best “baleful Irish look.”

The waiter finally brought them a thermometer.  Sort of.  It was a huge affair with a wooden back, designed for measuring bathtub water.  Nevertheless, Hemingway shook it down like a doctor would, and commented that it was lucky it wasn’t a rectal thermometer.  He placed it under Scott’s arm, and whatever the temperature ended up being (it was in Centigrade, of course), Hemingway managed to convince Fitzgerald that it was normal.  Scott remained convinced he was dying, and all the while the waiter kept bringing double Whisky Sours.  Eventually, the drinks worked their magic, and Scott felt good enough to go downstairs for dinner.  There, they had a carafe of Fleurie with their snails, followed by a bottle of Montagny, “a light, pleasant white wine of the neighborhood” with their poularde de Bresse.

Scott ate very little and took one sip of the wine.  He passed out at the table with his head on his hands.  It was natural and there was no theater about it and it even looked as though he were careful not to spill or break things. 

Hemingway and the waiter got him back upstairs to bed, and Hemingway went back down and finished the dinner (and the wine).

The next day they drove back to Paris, the weather was beautiful, “the air freshly washed and the hills and the field and the vineyards all new.”  He said his goodbyes to Scott, and Hemingway took a taxi back to his apartment.  He was never so happy to be back home, and he and Hadley celebrated with a drink at the Closerie des Lilas.  He told Hadley that he’d learned one thing, “Never to go on trips with anyone you do not love.”

For the rest of their friendship, Hemingway not only worried about Fitzgerald’s drinking, but also over Zelda’s negative influence.  He was convinced she was mentally ill (he was probably right), and further believed that she encouraged his drinking so as to diminish his abilities as a writer, so jealous of his success was she.  Hemingway was quoted as saying, “I told Scott that being a rummy made him very vulnerable – I mean, a rummy married to a crazy is not the kind of pari-mutuel that aids a writer.”[i]  Can’t argue with that. 

 

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Scott and Zelda, shown above.

In addition to the Dingo and Closerie des Lilas, apparently both Hemingway and Fitzgerald spent a bit of time at Harry’s New York Bar, a Paris landmark located at 5 Rue Danou, famously pronounced ‘“Sank Roo Doe Noo.”  It was even part of their advertising, like a jingle; visiting Americans were encouraged to “just tell the taxi driver Sank Roo Doe Noo.”   Speaking of the Whisky Sour and Harry’s, owner Harry MacElhone was quoted in 1951 as saying he missed the good old days when Hemingway and Fitzgerald were customers, and that “Hemingway could down 20 whiskey sours at one sitting and then go back to his hotel to work.”[i]   Hmmm….

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According to Harry’s lore, Hemingway served as a most unusual bouncer back in the day, when an “ex-pug” (a former boxer, as in pugilist) would visit the bar with an unwelcomed pet.

“Back in the old days, Harry’s New York Bar on rue Daunou was one of the few good, solid bars, and there was an ex-pug used to come in with a pet lion.  He’d stand at the bar here and the lion would stand here beside him.  He was a very nice lion with good manners – no growls or roars – but, as lions will, he occasionally shit on the floor.  This, of course, had a rather adverse effect on the trade and, as politely as he could, Harry asked the ex-pug not to being the lion around any more.  But the next day the pug was back with lion, lion dropped another load, drinkers dispersed, Harry again made request.  The third day, same thing.  Realizing it was do or die for poor Harry’s business, this time when lion let go, I went over, picked up the pug, who had been a welterweight, carried him outside, and threw him in the street.  Then I came back and grabbed the lion’s mane and hustled him out of there.  Out on the sidewalk the lion gave me a look, but he went quietly.”[i] 

I’m not sure which tale is taller, the one about the 20 whisky sours or the one about the lion.  It’s just my job to pass them along to you, dear reader.  Cheers.


[i]  Hotchner, Good Life, 106


[i] St. Petersburg Times, June 24, 1951


[i]  Hotchner, Good Life,  85

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The Rum Collins

Rum Collins

2 oz rum

1 oz fresh lemon or lime juice

1 teaspoon sugar (though Hemingway likely went without)

4 oz sparkling water

 

Add all ingredients to a tall Collins glass filled with ice.  Garnish with a wedge of whichever citrus fruit you’re using.  Stir and serve.

            For more about the Collins style of drink, see the Tom Collins, below.  This is an excellent refresher, perfect for hot summer days.  You can use a lighter rum, a darker aged rum, or a combination of both.  Add a splash of Angostura or Fee Brothers Aromatic Bitters for an extra bit of spice.

            After several years of chartering fishing boats in Key West, such as “Sloppy” Joe Russell’s Anita, in the winter of 1933-34 Hemingway purchased a sleek 38-foot cruiser from the Wheeler Shipyard in Brooklyn, and outfitted her for fishing in the Gulf Stream.  He christened her Pilar, in part for the shrine and feria in Zaragoza, Spain, and partly to honor his wife Pauline; it was one of her pet names when they fell in love in Paris in 1926.  She bore him two sons, Patrick and Gregory, but always wanted to give him “a little Pilar.” 

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Shown above, Hemingway on board Pilar, circa 1934.

By April Hemingway was ready to take Pilar over to the Bahamian isle of Bimini, nestled on the east side of the Gulf Stream just 45 miles out from Miami.  He’d heard that it was a fisherman’s paradise, where the marlin and tuna were legendary.  On April 7th he and a group of friends (including his Paris friends John Dos Passos and Mike Strater) left Key West for Bimini.

            They decided to fish along the way, and in short order Strater had hooked into a dolphin fish (known as mahi mahi nowadays), while Hemingway and Dos had sharks on their lines.  Hemingway was the first to bring his fish alongside and, as was his custom with the hated shark, he gaffed the shark with one hand, while trying to shoot it with his Colt pistol with the other.  Suddenly, the thrashing shark caused the gaff to break.  Part of it struck Hemingway’s pistol hand, the gun went off, and the bullet went through one of Hemingway’s legs and into another (!).  Humiliated, he turned back to Key West to seek medical treatment.  The wounds were slight, and he carried the bullet in his leg the rest of his days.

 

 

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Wonderful map from inside cover of Islands in the Stream

The incident caused him to hate sharks all the more, as they were always a threat to his deep-sea fishing.  Far too many prized catches were mauled by sharks before they could be boated.  After they finally reached Bimini a few weeks later, Hemingway hooked into a trophy tuna, and an epic battle raged throughout the afternoon between Papa and the big fish.  Soon, a party of onlooker boats circled the Pilar, as Hemingway fought the tuna into the dusk.  It was now dark, and a storm was approaching, and many of the onlookers (including Hemingway’s crew) sought shelter on the largest of the yachts circling the scene, the Moana, owned by multi-millionaire William B. Leeds.  Finally, it looked as if Hemingway had won, he was reeling in the great fish.  But then, the sharks came.  As told by John Dos Passos:

“In the light of the searchlight, we could see the sharks streaking in across the dark water.  Like torpedos.  Like speedboats.  One struck.  Another.  Another.  The water was murky with blood.  By the time we hauled in the tuna over the stern, there was nothing left but his head and his backbone and his tail.  For once, Hemingway didn’t curse – not aloud anyway.  He just muttered a few unheard remarks to himself, stowed his gear and joined his friends aboard Leeds’ yacht for drinks, just as the threatened squall attacked.”[i]

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Rum Collins recipe and rum ad, from Sloppy Joe’s 1939 Cocktail Manual, from collection of author
 

“Now, if I’d had that machine gun,” Hemingway said to Leeds, “I could have taken care of those goddam sharks.”  See, the evening before, Hemingway had been over on Leeds’ boat, having a few Rum Collinses, all the while coveting Leeds’ Thompson submachine gun.  He tried everything, offered to buy it for $1,000, roll dice for it, target shoot for it, every kind of challenge, but Leeds said no.  But somehow that night, he managed to wheedle it away from Leeds, no one knew how, and Hemingway now had a new weapon in his arsenal to fight the hated sharks.  Fast forward 20 years, if only ‘ol Santiago had’ve had it when he took on the big fish and those sharks, well ….  But I hardly think they’d award a Nobel Prize to The Old Man and the Thompson Gun, I reckon.

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Hemingway and eldest son Jack “Bumby” Hemingway, possibly on the stern of the Moana, circa 1935.  And there’s that Tommy gun!  Photo courtesy JFK Library, Boston.

 
Bill Leeds’ Yacht, the Moana

William B. Leeds was a multi-millionaire, heir to a tin-plate empire, certainly one of the “haves” among Hemingway’s acquaintances.  He was a regular on the Gulf Stream circuit from Bimini to Miami to Havana to Key West.  Hemingway didn’t just drink Rum Collinses on Leeds’ boat; in a 1939 letter written to his second son Patrick, he wrote:

“I was getting awfully stale from working so hard and then Mr. Ben Finney . . . turned up on Mr. Leed’s yacht the Moana.  We stayed up late and I drank a few highly frozen Daiquiris just to see what their effect would be (it was moderately terrific and made me feel a friend of all mankind).”

In addition to serving as the venue for a couple of Hemingway drinking stories, the Moana had quite a history of its own.  It was built in 1931 at the Bath Iron Works in Maine, and was christened the Caroline.  After Leeds purchased it, he renamed her Moana.  In the summer of 1937, Leeds considered outfitting her as a hospital ship to be stationed in the Galapagos Islands, where medical services were lacking.  Although that plan never came to pass, in 1941 Leeds sold the Moana to the U.S. Navy, which re-fitted her to become a PT boat tender, and was renamed yet again, the U.S.S. Hilo.  She had an illustrious service record, and earned four battle stars during campaigns across the South Pacific.

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The Moana, shown above.  Note the striking similarity between this yacht and the one shown below, in a 1930s Gilbey’s Gin ad.

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[i][i]  Milt Machlin, The Private Hell of Hemingway (New York?: The Paperback Library, 1962), 116-117

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The Hemingway Daiquiri(s)

The Daiquiri

In honor of its 195th birthday, I’m writing today about the “Cradle of the Daiquiri,” the Bar Floridita in Havana, affectionately known as the Floridita.  There are two versions of the Daiquiri associated with Hemingway, as follows.

Two versions from which to choose:

E. Henmiway Special (circa 1937)

  • 2 oz white rum
  • 1 teaspoon grapefruit juice
  • 1 teaspoon maraschino liqueur
  • ½ oz fresh lime juice

“Frappe” (chip or crush) some ice, add to shaker, then add remaining ingredients.  Shake well, then pour contents of shaker into a chilled cocktail glass.

 Papa Doble, aka the Wild Daiquiri (circa 1947)

  • 3 ¾ oz White Rum
  • 2 oz fresh lime juice
  • 2 oz fresh grapefruit juice
  • 6 drops of maraschino liqueur

Blend well with ice.  Serve in a large chilled goblet.

 Suggested reading:  Islands in the Stream, Cuba

As I reached the drinking age in the early 1980s, I thought there were two types of Daiquiri:  banana and strawberry, and both required a blender.  Not only that, Daiquiris required bottled, canned, or worse, powdered mixes; at least, that’s what I saw around my parents’ suburban home.  After making a lot of bad store-bought atrocities, or merely drinkable alcoholic Slurpees, I’ve since learned that the Daiquiri is a very simple but elegant cocktail made with rum, lime juice and sugar.  That’s it.  Hemingway was a bit luckier, he moved to the Gulf Stream just as the King of the Daiquiri was just getting his start, behind the bar of the Floridita in Havana.  We’ll come back to him in a moment.

Cocktail historians (yes, there are such things) tell us that the Daiquiri was invented around 1900.  It seems that an American mining engineer by the name of Jennings Cox, stationed in the southeastern Cuban beach town of Daiquiri, was preparing to entertain some visiting friends from the States.  To his horror, he discovered that he’d run out of gin.  Just as so many cocktail origin stories are based on the “what do I do with these seemingly surplus and incongruous ingredients?” theme, Cox did have a goodly amount of rum, sugar, and limes.  This was, after all, Cuba.  Cox rolled up his sleeves, and the Daiquiri was born.  Or so the story goes…

Presumed inventor of the Daiquiri, American mining engineer Jennings Cox

Jennings Cox’s handwritten recipe.  Image courtesy University of Miami.

Another version of the story finds our Horatio Alger-esque hero Jennings Cox in a Santiago saloon known as the Venus Bar, tossin’ ‘em back with some co-workers.  The following is an excerpt from the Miami Herald of March 14, 1937:

“One day a group of American engineers who had come into town from the Daiquiri mines were imbibing their favorite drink in this restful spot.  It was one of those wonderful rum concoctions made from Ron Bacardi.  A jovial fellow by the name of Cox spoke up.  ‘Caballeros y amigos, we have been enjoying this delicious mixture for some time, but strange to admit the drink has no name.  Don’t you think it is about time something was done to extricate us from this sad predicament?’  It was unanimously agreed that the drink should be named, without further procrastination.  There was silence for several minutes as each man became immersed in deep thought.  Suddenly, Cox’s voice was heard again.  ‘I have it, men!  Let’s call it the “Daiquiri!”’  And so it was christened.” 

Miami Herald, March 14, 1937

As an aside, based on the preponderance of lofty praise for the fine products of Ron Bacardi, mentioned no fewer than 10 times, the author strongly suspects that this news story was planted by their PR department (!).

New York Times, June 23, 1898

Yet another Daiquiri origin theory is also tied to this same Cuban coastal town, not as a mining town, but as the landing zone for an American invasion.  In his excellent book And a Bottle of Rum, author Wayne Curtis tells also of a U.S. Army general by the name of William Shafter, who:

“came ashore during the Spanish-American War in 1898 near Santiago.  He was not shy of girth and in poor health, and he liked food and drink more than the tedious chore of battle.  When he sampled the drink of the Cuban patriot – rum, lime juice, and sugar muddled together – he found it to his liking and declared, ‘only one ingredient is missing – ice.’  He set about remedying that omission, and, lo, the daiquiri was born.”[i]

In both stories, you’re left with something of an imperialistic tale, a wise American, coming to a foreign land, assessing the local ingredients, and figuring out what the noble savages were too ignorant to see for themselves, that this holy trinity of rum, sugar and lime juice taste pretty damned good together!  Didn’t Rudyard Kipling mention the Daiquiri in his politically incorrect poem The White Man’s Burden?  Please.  Rum, sugar and lime juice had been around in the Caribbean since the 17th century.  I rather doubt that some Yanqui engineer or general was the one to get it sorted.  Perhaps the name was coined in this manner, but I suspect that the drink had been around for quite awhile.

Witness the classic Ti’ Punch in Martinique (rhum agricole, lime wedge, cane syrup), or the Caipirinha in Brazil (cachaca, lime wedges, and sugar/cane syrup), or even the alleged prototype of the Mojito, El Draque; all have rum, sugar and lime.  Look also to the British Royal Navy, which had been serving the trinity to its sailors going back over 250 years!  Indeed, as early as 1740, British Admiral William Vernon ordered that lemon or lime juice be added to his sailors’ daily ration of rum, to dilute the strength of the spirit and improve the taste.  It was later learned that the citrus juice contained Vitamin C, as a preventive to scurvy.  In Vernon’s honor, the men came to call this daily cocktail “grog,” and the name stuck (“Old Grog” was Vernon’s nickname, as he was said to wear a coat made of grogram cloth).

Vernon directed that the daily half-pint of rum be diluted with a quart of water, “to be mixed in a scuttled butt for that purpose and to be done upon the deck, and in the presence of the Lieutenant of the Watch. Who is to take particular care to see that the men are not defrauded of their full allowance of rum … and let those that are good husbandmen receive extra lime juice and sugar that it be made more palatable to them.”[ii]

The “scuttled butt” referred to a cask that had a hole drilled in it, to allow the grog to be served to each man.  The inevitable gossip that accompanied this ritual became known as scuttlebutt.  So, if you wondered about that term, or where “grog” came from, or why Brits are called limeys, now you know.  If you’re still in the mood for trivia, in 1741 Vernon led a successful British attack on the Spanish garrison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.  Among the members of his crew was a young Royal Marine named Lawrence Washington, who later named his estate, Mount Vernon, in his honor.  You might have heard of his kid brother, George….

Well, let’s leave aside how the Daiquiri was invented, and focus on the man who perfected it, none other than Constantino Ribalaigua, bartender and owner of Havana’s Bar La Florida, affectionately known to locals as the Floridita.[1]  That’s where Hemingway comes in.  Often.

VIntage Floridita postcard

Hemingway began frequenting the Floridita during visits to Havana from his home in Key West, circa 1932.  He would stay at the Hotel Ambos Mundos, just down Obispo Street (where he is said to have written much of Green Hills of Africa, The Short Happy Life of Francis Macomber, and For Whom the Bell Tolls).  He would often find himself at the Floridita in the late afternoon, after a morning spent writing and afternoons fishing in the Gulf Stream.  He became such a regular that the 1937 edition of the Floridita’s cocktail manual featured a special version of the Daiquiri named for him.  Well, sort of.  The spelling’s a bit off; it was christened the “E. Henmiway Special.”  The typo wasn’t the only mistake; note the loss in translation that occurs when limes become lemons.  You see, in Cuba, a lime was referred to as a limon verde, i.e., a green lemon.  The translator forgot the verde, and a great many faulty Daiquiri recipes were launched.

Excerpt from 1937 Floridita menu. Note how “lemons” get lost in translation.

Prohibition-era Bacardi ad. Image courtesy Bacardi.

As a result of Prohibition, and the allure of nearby Cuba for thirsty Americans, Havana had already become an internationally known destination.  This was particularly true at the Floridita, where Constante held court.  As was noted by David Embury in his 1948 classic, The Fine Art of Mixing Drinks:

“For approximately 40 years prior to his death in early December 1952, Constante Ribalaigua presided over the bar at La Florida.  … He is said to have squeezed over 80 million limes and to have made over 10 million daiquiris.  …  His limes were gently squeezed with his fingers lest even a drop of the bitter oil from the peel get into the drink.  The cocktails were mixed (but not overmixed) in a Waring Blendor; the stinging cold drink was strained through a fine sieve into the glass so that not one tiny piece of the ice remained in it.  No smallest detail was overlooked in achieving the flawless perfection of the drink.”

Indeed, while many folks today might think of the blender to be a modern contraption, it was a staple behind the bar at the Floridita in the 1930s.  The Waring Blendor was the state of the art, perfected by none other than Fred Waring, leader of the big band Fred Waring and the Pennsylvanians.  From the 1937 Floridita cocktail guide, a description of Constante’s “ace in the hole,” his Daiquiri No. 4:

You take two ounces of Bacardi and toss it into a cocktail shaker.  Add one teaspoon of finely granulate sugar.  Do not use powdered sugar which Constantino insists has starch in it.  Then add one teaspoon of Marraschino (sic) – - a cordial which is made from wild cherries grown in Dalmatia.  Squeeze in the juice of half a lime.  Next toss in finely shaved ice until the shaker is nearly full.  This ice must be shaved so fine that it’s almost snow.  Do not use scracked (sic) ice.  Then place the shaker under an electric mizer one of those malted milk stirrers in American drug stores.  Let it stir for about three minutes.  If you haven’t an electric mixer, shake it rapidly in a regular cocktail shaker for about four minutes.  Meanwhile chill your glasses by pouring in cracked ice and a bit of water.  Now – - toss out the cracked ice and water, and strain your  Daiquiri from the shaker into the glasses through a half-strainer – - one that is not too fine.

Caricature of Constantino Ribalaigua, from 1937 Floridita cocktail menu, from the author’s collection.

Daiquiri versions from 1937 Floridita cocktail book, from the author’s collection, above and below.


Between 1937 and the late 40’s, the “E. Henmiway Special” appears to have evolved, and not just to correct the spelling.  Indeed, by 1947 we see a marked increase in the amount of grapefruit juice and the overall size of the drink.  From Papa Hemingway, by A.E. Hotchner:

Requested by most tourists, a Papa Doble was compounded of two and a half jiggers of Bacardi White Label Rum, the juice of two limes and half a grapefruit, and six drops of maraschino, all placed in an electric mixer over shaved ice, whirled vigorously and served foaming in large goblets.[i]

He grew to love the drink, and likely supervised in the making of Daiquiris wherever he had the capability.  In a letter he sent to his son Patrick from Havana in 1939, he noted:

“I was getting awfully stale from working so hard and then Mr. Ben Finney . . . turned up on Mr. Leed’s yacht the Moana.  We stayed up late and I drank a few highly frozen Daiquiris just to see what their effect would be (it was moderately terrific and made me feel a friend of all mankind).”

Author’s note:  see also the Rum Collins, for more tales of the Moana.

Hemingway preferred that the drinks be made as doubles, thus the “doble” designation.  The “double frozen daiquiri with no sugar” pretty much steals the show in the second book of the novel Islands in the Stream, titled Cuba, which recounts a marathon drinking session at the Floridita by the protagonist, painter Thomas Hudson.

But on this night Thomas Hudson had been ashore about four days when he got really drunk.  It had started at noon at the Floridita and he had drunk first with Cuban politicians that had dropped in, nervous for a quick one; with sugar planters and rice planters; with Cuban government functionaries, drinking through their lunch hour; with second and third secretaries of Embassy, shepherding someone to the Floridita; with the inescapable FBI men, pleasant and all trying to look so average, clean-cut-young-American that they stood out as clearly as though they had work a bureau shoulder patch on their white linen or seersucker suits.  He had drunk double frozen daiquiris, the great ones that Constante made, that had no taste of alcohol and felt, as you drank them, the way downhill glacier skiing feels running through powder snow and, after the sixth and eighth, felt like downhill glacier skiing feels when you are running unroped.  Some Navy that he knew came in and he drank with them and then with some of the then-called Hooligan Navy or Coast Guard.  This was getting too near to shop, which he was drinking away from, so he went down to the far end of the bar where the old respectable whores were, the fine old whores that every resident drinker at the Floridita had slept with sometime in the last twenty years, and sat on a stool with and had a club sandwich and drank more double frozens.

In a later scene, Hudson is in mourning following the death of a loved one.  After having a couple of whiskey highballs at home, followed by a Tom Collins for the road, Hudson heads for the Floridita, where he spends the afternoon with some colorful locals, including a hooker with a heart of gold name of Honest Lil.

He was drinking another of the frozen daiquiris with no sugar in it and as he lifted it, heavy and the glass frost-rimmed, he looked at the clear part below the frapped top and it reminded him of the sea.  The frapped part of the drink was like the wake of a ship and the clear part was the way the water looked when the bow cut it when you were in shallow water over marl bottom.  That was almost the exact color.

“I wish they had a drink the color of sea water when you have a depth of eight hundred fathoms and there is a dead calm with the sun straight up and down and the sea full of plankton.”

            “What?”

            “Nothing.  Let’s drink this shallow water drink.”  … 

“This frozen daiquiri, so well beaten as it is, looks like the sea where the wave falls away from the bow of a ship when she is doing thirty knots.” 

At the Floridita, Hemingway hosts his wife Mary, Spencer Tracy, his son Jack, and others.  Photo courtesy JFK Library, Hemingway Collection, Boston, Mass.

The basis for that epic Daiquiri binge from Islands may have come from a day in 1942, as recounted to his friend Harvey Breit years later:

“I’ve been good about drinking for a long time now.  Not because I get tight or feel bad.  But to give myself all the edge I can.  But I can remember one time in 1942 comeing (sic) in when the weather was too bad to stay out and running into Guillermo the great Basque pelota player at the Floridita.  It was about ten thirty in the morning and he had played the night before and lost and I was feeling beat-up.  We drank seventeen double frozen Daiquiris apiece in the course of the day without leaveing (sic) the bar except for an occasional trip to the can.  Each double had four ounces of rum in it.  That makes 68 ounces of rum.  But there was no sugar in the drinks and we each ate two steak sandwiches.  He left finally because he had to go to the Fronton to be a judge at the Jai-Alai that night.  I drank one more double and went home and read all night.

We met the next day at the bar at noon and had a couple of frozen Daiquiris.  We both felt good and neither one of us had been drunk and there was no compulsion to go on drinking and neither one of us had a hangover.[i]

As an aside, Hemingway mentions “an occasional trip to the can,” he was a bit upset in the mid-50’s when the Floridita’s owners decided to upgrade the facilities, so to speak.  Hemingway groused about how the addition of air conditioning detracted from its former open-air market nature.  He wasn’t happy about the new bathrooms, either.  “A wonderful old john back there,” he once noted, “makes you want to shout, ‘Water closets of the world unite; you have nothing to lose but your chains.”[i]

The total number of his “record” appears to be a moving target.  It was 16 when he told A.E. Hotchner about it, and 17 in the above instance.  The latter figure is “corroborated” by a 1945 letter he wrote to his soon-to-be wife Mary, where he made great efforts to tell her how well behaved he’d been in her absence:  “Haven’t bought anything for myself except books, magazines, pop-corn and peanuts, and phonograph records for house.  Never been to Floridita more than three times a week and not had more than four daiquiris (once had 34 some years ago.  Still record…).”  If these were singles, not dobles, the 17 number holds fast.  Whichever, that’s a hell of a lot of Daiquiri.  Folks, I recommend you just have one or two.  Cheers!


[i]  Robert Manning, Hemingway in Cuba, August, 1965, Atlantic Monthly, reprinted in Conversations With Ernest Hemingway, edited by Peggy Whitman Prenshaw (University Press of Mississippi, 1986), 186


[i]  Ernest Hemingway, Letter to Harvey Breit, February 24, 1952, Selected Letters,


[i]  A.E. Hotchner, Papa Hemingway


[i]  Wayne Curtis, And a Bottle of Rum (New York: Crown Publishing Group, 2006), 170-171

[ii]  Ian Williams, RUM, A Social and Sociable History(:, 2005),

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A Great Summer Drink, the Tom Collins

Traditional Tom Collins

 2 oz London Dry Gin

 ¾ oz fresh lemon juice

1 oz simple syrup

2-4 oz soda water

 

Tom Collins a la Hemingway

2 oz London Dry Gin

 ¾ oz fresh lime juice

2-4 oz coconut water

2-3 dashes Angostura bitters

Vigorously shake all ingredients, then strain into an ice-filled Collins glass.  Garnish with a lime wedge or peel.

Suggested reading:  The Garden of Eden (Chapters XV and XX); Islands in the Stream (Chapters XV and XX)

 

The traditional Tom Collins is a classic drink.  It’s been around for well over 100 years, though its origin is unclear.  What is known for certain is that “The Great Tom Collins Hoax of 1874” swept the nation.  The Hoax centered around a ruse or practical joke that featured one person telling someone else, “Have you seen Tom Collins?  He’s been saying nasty things about you, he’s around the corner, go get him!,” or the like.  The unwitting victim would end up on a wild-goose chase.  Newspapers joined the game, publishing “Tom Collins sightings.”  It became a popular prank, with poor souls going from pub to tavern to saloon, searching in vain for the elusive, non-existent, Tom Collins.  One such story resulted in the victim accidentally shooting himself during the fruitless search.  Sadly, the wound was fatal.

Hemingway being served a drink at the Finca Vigia, Cuba.

What is fairly certain is that the drink first appeared in the 1876 edition of The Bartender’s Guide, by Jerry Thomas.  Though the Tom Collins was originally made with Old Tom Gin (a sweeter style), I suspect Hemingway would have made his with Gordon’s Gin, not to mention no sugar.

Two recipes are noted above, we’ll begin with the traditional Tom Collins, which makes a couple appearances in The Garden of Eden.  This posthumously-published novel features David and Catherine Bourne.  David is a writer, and he and his new bride are on an extended honeymoon, cycling down the southern coast of France.  They come to meet and befriend a beautiful girl named Marita, who becomes a little bit more of a friend to them both, and a love triangle ensues.  David finds himself in love with both girls, but complicating matters is the fact that Catherine is having a bit of a nervous breakdown.  In Chapter XV, Catherine and Marita have gone out for the day while David works on his novel.

The girls were not back yet and he went into the room and took a shower, changed to a fresh shirt and shorts and came out to the bar with its new and handsome mirror.  He called the boy and asked him to bring a lemon, a knife and some ice and showed him how to make a Tom Collins. Then he sat on the bar stool and looked into the mirror as he lifted the tall drink. I do not know if I’d have a drink with you or not if I’d met you four months ago, he thought. The boy brought him the Eclaireur de Nice and he read it while he waited. He had been disappointed not to find the girls returned and he missed them and began to worry.

Cover of Hemingway’s posthumously-published The Garden of Eden (1986)

In Chapter XX, David again spends the morning working, while Catherine and Marita go into Cannes for the day.  David fixes himself a Scotch and Perrier, and has lunch while chatting with the hotelkeeper.  When the girls return,

Catherine came into the room. She had a scarf over her head and sunglasses on and she took them off and kissed David. He held her close and said, “How are you?”

“Not so good,” she said. “It was too hot.” She smiled at him and put her forehead on his shoulder. “I’m glad I’m home.”

He went out and made a Tom Collins and brought it in to Catherine who had finished a cold shower. She took the tall cold glass and sipped from it and then held it against the smooth dark skin of her belly. She touched the glass to the tips of each of her breasts so they came erect and then took a long sip and held the cold glass against her belly again.

“This is wonderful,” she said.

He kissed her and she said, “Oh, that’s nice. I’d forgotten about that. I don’t see any good reason why I should give that up. Do you?”

“No.”

“Well, I haven’t,” she said. “I’m not going to turn you over to someone else prematurely. That was a silly idea.”

“Get dressed and come on out,” David said.

“No. I want to have fun with you like in the old days.”

“How?”

“You know. To make you happy.”

“How happy?”

“This.”

The Tom Collins also makes an appearance in Chapter IV of the Bimini book in Islands in the Stream.  The Bimini portion of the novel centers around the painter Thomas Hudson, his friend Roger Davis, and Hudson’s three sons.  This scene takes place on the evening of the Queen’s Birthday, discussed in the chapter on the Gin and Tonic.

It was dark now and there was a breeze blowing so that there were no mosquitoes nor sand flies and the boats had all come in, hoisting their outriggers as they came up the channel, and now were lying tied up in the slips of the three docks that projected out from the beach into the harbor.  The tide was running out fast and the lights of the boats shone on the water that showed green in the light and moved so fast it sucked at the piling of the docks and swirled at the stern of the big cruiser they were on.  Alongside in the water where the light was reflected off the planking of the cruiser toward the unpainted piling of the dock where old motor car and truck tires were tied as fenders, making dark rings against the darkness under the rock, garfish, attracted by the light, held themselves against the current.  Thin and long, shining as green as the water, only their tails moving, they were not feeding, nor playing; only holding themselves in the fascination of the light.

Johnny Goodner’s cruiser, Narwhal, where they were waiting for Roger Davis, was headed into the ebbing tide and astern of her in the same slip, made fast so that the two cabin cruisers lay stern to stern, was the boat of the party that had been at Bobby’s place all day.  Johnny Goodner sat in a chair in the stern with his feet on another chair and a Tom Collins in his right hand and a long, green Mexican chile pepper in his left.

“It’s wonderful,” he said.  “I bite just a little piece and it sets my mouth on fire and I cool it with this.” 

He took the first bite, swallowed, blew out, “thew!” through rolled tongue, and took a long swallow of the tall drink.  . . . 

“Listen Tommy.  I have these chiles stuffed with salmon.  Stuffed with bacalao.  Stuffed with Chilean bonito.  Stuffed with Mexican turtledoves’ breasts.  Stuffed with turkey meat and mole.  They’ll stuff them with anything and I buy them.  Makes me feel like a damned potentate.  But all that’s a perversion.  Just this long, drooping, uninspiring, unpromising old chile with the brown chupango sauce is the best.  You bastard,” he blew out through his pursed tongue again, “I got too much of you that time.”

He took a really long pull at the Tom Collins.

“They give me a reason for drinking,” he explained.  “Have to cool my damned mouth.  What are you having?”

“I might take one more gin and tonic.”

“Boy,” Johnny called.  “One more gin and tonic for Bwana M’Kubwa.”

Hemingway and son Jack (Bumby) on the stern of another boat, likely Bill Leeds’ Moana, circa 1935.

The Tom Collins makes at least a nominal appearance in a later scene in Islands in the Stream.  In the opening chapter of the Cuba portion of the book, Hudson is at his home in Cuba, and a gale is blowing outside.  He’s alone with his cats, in mourning, and drinking Scotch and soda.  He decides to go into town, specifically to the Floridita.  But before he leaves, he asks his houseboy Mario to make him a Tom Collins.

He rang for Mario

“Is Pedro here?”

Yes, senor.  He has the car outside.”

“Make me a Tom Collins with coconut water and bitters to take.  Put it in one of the cork holders.” 

Thomas Hudson took a sip of the ice-cold drink that tasted of the fresh green lime juice mixed with the tasteless coconut water that was still so much more full-bodied than any charged water, strong with the real Gordon’s gin that made it alive to his tongue and rewarding to swallow, and all of it tautened by the bitters that gave it color.  It tastes as good as a drawing sail feels, he thought.  It is a hell of a good drink.  The cork glass-holder kept the ice from melting and weakening the drink and he held it fondly in his hand and looked at the country as they drove into town.

Hemingway relaxing in the shade on a hot summer day in Cuba, circa early 1940s.

Hudson has brought a drink with him on the drive from his home to the Floridita, a drink he claims to need as support for what he is to see along the way:

This was the part he did not like on the road into town.  This was really the part he carried the drink for.  I drink against poverty, dirt, four-hundred-year-old dust, the nose-snot of children, cracked palm fronds, roofs made from hammered tins, the shuffle of untreated syphilis, sewage in the old beds of brooks, lice on the bare necks of infested poultry, scale on the backs of old men’s necks, the smell of old women, and the full-blast radio, he thought.  It is a hell of a thing to do.  I ought to look at it closely and do something about it.  Instead you have your drink the way they carried smelling salts in the old days.  No.  Not quite that, he thought.  Sort of a combination of that and the way they drank in Hogarth’s Gin Lane.  You’re drinking against going in to see the Colonel, too, he thought.  You’re always drinking against something, or for something now, he thought.  The hell you are.  Lots of times you are just drinking.  You are going to do quite a lot of it today.  He took a long sip of the drink and felt it clean and cold and fresh-tasting in his mouth.  This was the worst part of the road…”

Note that the drink Hemingway describes is not a traditional Tom Collins.  Indeed, he’s made a few alterations, substituting lime for lemon, coconut water for sparkling water, and he’s added Angostura bitters.  I’m guessing he left out the sugar, as well, knowing how Hemingway disdained it.  In truth, this latter drink sounds more like the Green Isaac’s Special, the drink Eddy served him on their cruiser while fishing, in the Bimini section of the book (and later called a Tomini).  No matter, they’re both delicious drinks, and I recommend them both highly.  Cheers.

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The Jack Rose

Jack Rose

Two recipes from which to choose:

Traditional recipe:

2 oz Applejack or Calvados

½ oz fresh lime or lemon juice

¼ oz Grenadine (preferably genuine pomegranate)

 

Shake well with ice, strain into chilled cocktail glass.  Garnish with twist of lime or lemon peel.

 Harry MacElhone’s 1920s Paris recipe:

 1 ½ oz Applejack or Calvados

¾ oz dry gin

¾ oz orange juice

¾ oz fresh lemon or lime juice

1/3 oz French vermouth

1/3 oz Italian vermouth

Grenadine to colour (about 1/3 oz)

Shake well with ice, strain into a chilled cocktail glass.  Garnish with twist of lime or lemon peel.

 Recipe adapted from Barflies and Cocktails, 1927 edition

Note:  AppleJack, which like its French cousin Calvados, is nothing more than distilled apple cider or apple brandy.  Also known as “Jersey Lightning,” it is believed to be the oldest distilled spirit in the U.S., and is still made by Laird & Company distillers, of Scobeyville, New Jersey (est. 1780).  George Washington made use of the Laird’s AppleJack recipe when he set up distilling operations of his own at Mount Vernon in the 1760s.

 Perhaps fitting for an apple drink, the Jack Rose’s “creation theory” is the subject of some debate.  One theory is quite simple: it’s a rose-colored drink made from AppleJack brandy.  If you’re thirsty, I suggest you stop reading right now and fix yourself that drink.  This gets complicated.

Another view holds that it was named for, or even invented by, “Bald Jack” Rose, a [m1] Gotham gangster who copped to orchestrating the 1912 assassination of gambling boss Herman “Beansy” Rosenthal.  The gunmen were “Lefty Louie” Rosenberg, “Whitey Lewis,” “Dago Frank” Cirofici, and “Gyp the Blood” Horowitz.  Jack Rose was granted immunity as part of the prosecution (some would say framing) of allegedly-crooked NYPD vice detective Charles Becker, who reputedly ordered Jack Rose to make the hit. “Becker told me,” Rose testified, “that he wanted Rosenthal murdered, shot, croaked or dynamited.  …  I gave myself up and became a State’s witness because Becker deserted me like a dirty dog and was getting ready to throw me to the wolves.”   Based in part on Rose’s testimony, Becker took a trip to the Sing Sing electric chair on July 30, 1915.  It was a one-way ticket.  

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Yet another story has the drink being named for a flower, the General Jacqueminot Rose, which would likely smell as sweet by any other name.  It was named for one of Napoleon’s generals, Jean-Francois Jacqueminot, who led the 1827 Expedition of Rambouillet, resulting in the abdication of French King Charles X. 

Rambouillet, by the way, was the site of another expedition, in 1944, led by a war correspondent name of Ernest Hemingway.  Assigned to an Office of Strategic Services (OSS, predecessor to the CIA) unit with Patton’s Third Army, Hemingway allegedly couldn’t resist the temptation of getting into the action as Allied forces pushed towardParis.  Reports claimed that Hemingway was leading his own private army of French partisans in live combat.  Charges were brought for violating the Geneva Convention’s rules governing non-combatants, but Hemingway was later cleared by the Army’s Inspector General.  But I digress….

The Jack Rose makes two appearances in Hemingway’s 1926 novel, The Sun Also Rises, one of the quintessential books of The Lost Generation.  The story surrounds the dissipated lives of a group of friends in Paris.  Much of the action takes place in Pamplona, Spain, at the Fiesta of San Fermin, famous for its “Running of the Bulls,” bull fights, and its general carnival-like atmosphere.  The Hemingway protagonist is Jake Barnes, an American journalist who was wounded in World War I.  Jake is in love with Lady Brett Ashley who, at varying times, loves Jake.  Chapter VI begins with Jake waiting in vain for Brett at the Hotel Crillon in Paris, where they’d agreed to meet.  She stands him up, typifying the frustrated love Jake has for Brett throughout the novel.  You see, Jake’s war wound prevents him from, how shall I say, consummating his love for Brett.  Yep, a pretty nasty wound. 

It’s during his wait that he orders a Jack Rose:

“At five o’clock I was in the Hotel Crillon, waiting for Brett.  She was not there, so I sat down and wrote some letters.  They were not very good letters but I hoped their being on Crillon stationery would help them.  Brett did not turn up, so about quarter to six I went down to the bar and had a Jack Rose with George the barman.

George the barman apparently was known for his Jack Rose, as it makes a return appearance in Chapter VIII.  It seems ol’ George has mixed more than a few for Jake’s friend Bill Gorton prior to Bill dropping by Jake’s flat.  As they walk the streets ofParistogether, it becomes obvious to Jake that Bill is “pie-eyed:”

“Certainly like to drink,” Bill said. “You ought to try it some times, Jake.

“You’re about a hundred and forty-four ahead of me.” 

“Ought not to daunt you. Never be daunted. Secret of my success. Never been daunted. Never been daunted in public.” 

“Where were you drinking?”

“Stopped at the Crillon. George made me a couple of Jack Roses. George’s a great man. Know the secret of his success? Never been daunted.”               

It’s likely Hemingway had a few pie-eyed moments himself at the Crillon, being no stranger to the bar; “When I had money I went to the Crillon,” he noted in his memoir, A Moveable Feast.  Also, in the posthumously-published novel The Garden of Eden, David Bourne met his wife Catherine in the Crillon bar.

Pamplona is no place to bring your wife. The odds are all in favor of her getting ill, hurt or wounded or at least jostled and wine squirted all over her, or of losing her; maybe all three.   If anybody could do Pamplona successfully it would be Carmen and Antonio but Antonio would not bring her.  It’s a man’s fiesta and women at it make trouble, never intentionally of course, but they nearly always make or have trouble. I wrote a book on this once. Of course if she can talk Spanish so she knows she is being joked with and not insulted, if she can drink wine all day and all night and dance with any group of strangers who invite her, if she does not mind things being spilled on her, if she adores continual noise and music and loves fireworks, especially those that fall close to her or burn her clothes, if she thinks it is sound and logical to see how close you can come to being killed by bulls for fun and for free, if she doesn’t catch cold when she is rained on and appreciates dust, likes disorder and irregular meals and never needs to sleep and still keeps clean and neat without running water; then bring her. You’ll probably lose her to a better man than you.”  The Dangerous Summer, Ernest Hemingway

            The first recipe shown above is the commonly accepted, conventional recipe for the Jack Rose.  However, submitted for your approval is a quite different recipe.  In 1922, there was published in Paris a classic cocktail book titled Barflies and Cocktails, written by Harry MacElhone and Wynn Holcomb, with contributions from Harry Moss.  MacElhone was the owner/bartender at Harry’s New York Bar, in Paris, and Holcomb was a noted caricaturist and society reporter for the Paris edition of the New York Herald.  Arthur Moss’ job was apparently to scare up interesting recipes from the bar’s regulars.  All three were members of a facetious organization called the International Bar Flies, or I.B.F.

            At any rate, within these hallowed pages is found a rather different Jack Rose recipe.  As so many of these drinks have multiple variations, my tendency has been to go with the one that I felt was most likely to be what Hemingway might have known.  Well, dear reader, here you have a recipe published around the same time (Barflies was published in 1922, my edition 1927) that Hemingway wrote and published The Sun Also Rises (1926).  Further, Hemingway happened to live in the same town (Paris) where the inimitable Mr. MacElhone tended bar, at a saloon that Hemingway was known to frequent.  So, does it not make sense that Hemingway, and Jake Barnes, might have been drinking this version of the Jack Rose?  Pardon me, I’m an attorney by training, I can’t help the leading questions.  But I happen to think that this is Jake Barnes’ Jack Rose. 

            Having grown quite fond of the traditional Jack Rose recipe, I didn’t want to like this drink.  But I made it, you know, out of a pure sense of reportorial responsibility.  I just wasn’t sure that the additions of gin, sweet and dry vermouth, not to mention orange juice, would work together.  And let’s face it, the odd collection of ingredients brings to mind a bad B movie, you know, “Jack Rose Meets the Bronx Cocktail.”  

I was wrong, I love this drink.  The vermouth offers an aromatic quality that reminds me of the El Presidente, that famous cocktail of Cuba.  The gin gives it some more backbone and dryness, and the orange juice balances out the tartness.  The trick is to be judicious in the amount of grenadine – don’t want it too sweet.  So, dear reader, I offer this second version of the Jack Rose to you, and submit to you that perhaps it was this drink that Jake was drinking while waiting for Brett. 

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Photo from Pamplona café in 1925 showing Hemingway, Harold Loeb (Robert Cohn in the novel), Lady Duff Twysden, and Hadley

 ImagePortrait of Lady Duff Twysden, caption could read “Lady Duff Twysden, the [m6] real-life Lady Brett Ashley”

            When published in 1926, The Sun Also Rises caused a bit of a stir among the Montparnasse expatriate crowd, as many of the novel’s characters were based on real people.  So who was this Lady Brett Ashley, for whom Jake carried such a torch?  It was none other than Lady Duff Twysden, described by Hemingway’s wife Hadley as being “a wonderfully attractive Englishwoman, a woman of the world with no sexual inhibitions.”  As described in the novel itself, “Brett was damned good looking.  She wore a slipover jersey sweater and a tweed skirt, and her hair was brushed back like a boy’s.  She started all that.  She was built with curves like the hull of a racing yacht, and you missed none of it with the wool jersey.”

Though Hemingway was somewhat smitten with her, it’s not believed they ever had an affair.  However, during the 1925 Pamplona Fiesta, when he learned that Duff had recently spent a romantic holiday with writer Harold Loeb, Hemingway fumed.  His jealousy and frustration simmer through the pages of the novel, during which Brett has affairs with Robert Cohn (based on Harold Loeb), Mike Campbell, and a bullfighter named Pedro Romero, all while being in love with Jake.  At the end of the novel, Brett sighs, “Oh, Jake, we could have had such a damned good time together,” to which Jake replies, “Yes.  Isn’t it pretty to think so?”

So, if your gal ever stands you up, or runs off with a toreador, fix yourself a Jack Rose, and don’t ever be daunted, not in public, anyway.

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Pauline Hemingway’s Rum Scoundrel

Pauline Hemingway’s Rum Scoundrel

1 ½ oz white rum

½ oz fresh lime juice

¾ teaspoon brown sugar

Add ice to shaker, “hand shake 75 times.”  Strain into chilled cocktail glass. 

Greetings from the Florida Keys!  I’m down here for a few days and figured it was appropriate to write about one of Hemingway’s Key West drinks.  I was quite fortunate last evening to have a couple of drinks (Hemingway Gin and Tonics, btw) with Benjamin “Dink” Bruce, son of Hemingway’s right-hand-man Otto “Toby” Bruce.  Hemingway and his second wife Pauline bought what is now known as the Hemingway House (corner of Whitehead and Olivia Street) in late 1931.  Pauline’s family was based in Piggott, Arkansas.  During a visit there, Hemingway came to know Toby Bruce, who lived nearby.  When major repairs were needed on the Hemingway home, Hemingway hired Toby to help with the renovations.  Toby ended up moving to Key West, where he fell in love with Betty Moreno, married her, and became a fixture in the Hemingways’ lives.

Dink lives here in Key West and is a bit of a local legend, and a great guy.  This post will feature a drink recipe he gave me from his mother Betty’s handwritten collection, Pauline Hemingway’s Rum Scoundrel.

Shown above, Hemingway and wife Pauline, at home in Key West, circa 1937.

If the world now knows Hadley Richardson as The Paris Wife, from the novel of that name, we can safely call Pauline “The Key West Wife.”  Pauline Pfieffer was Hemingway’s second bride (1927-1940), they were married during his tenure in Key West, which Hemingway affectionately referred to as “The Saint Tropez of the Poor.”

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This delightfully simple little libation is Pauline’s take on the Rum Scoundrel, which was a popular drink at the world famous Stork Club, on East 53d Street in Manhattan.  Said to have been invented by bartender Julius Corsani, the Rum Scoundrel is more or less a Daiquiri with a sugared rim, and Pauline’s is more or less a Rum Scoundrel, but with brown sugar.  The old adage about standing on the shoulders of giants will take you a long way in the land of cocktails.  Here’s the recipe from the Stork Club Bar Book:

Rum Scoundrel

1/3 oz lime juice

2/3 oz white or gold Bacardi rum

1 tsp. sugar 

Serve in an old fashioned glass.  Rub the edge of the glass with lemon and dip in sugar to coat it. 

 Author’s note, the Stork Club Bar Book offers no instructions on preparation or presentation.  I would suggest shaking it well and serving it on the rocks.

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The Stork Club was a magnet for celebrities, and Hemingway was not immune to its pull.  He often came to New York on business (his editor and publisher were there), or after completing a book, which left him emotionally and physically spent.  “When I hit New York,” he once observed to his friend Earl Wilson, “it is like someone coming off a long cattle drive hitting Dodge City in the old days.”  He’d go to Toots Shor’s, or Costello’s, or the Stork, where he became friends with its colorful owner Sherman Billingsley.

An unabashed self-promoter, Billingsley loved his celebrity clientele, and the publicity they brought, even if he wasn’t entirely sure of who some of the notables were.  On one occasion, when Carl Sandburg was a guest of the New York Post’s Leonard Lyons, Billingsley asked, “What does he do?”  When told that he was an author, Billingley said, “Tell him to stick in ‘Stork Club’ once in a while.”

Hemingway got the memo, seeing fit to mention the Stork Club now and again, including one notable passage in a 1938 book, All the Brave, by Luis Quintanilla, referring to the hardships of war-torn Spain:

When you have sat at a table and been served a plate of water soup, a single fried egg and one orange after you have been working fourteen hours, you have no desire to be anywhere but where you were, nor to be doing anything but your work, but you would think, Boy, I’ll bet you could get quite a meal at The Stork tonight. Hunger is a marvelous sauce and danger of death is quite a strong wine. You keep The Stork, though, as a symbol of how well you would like to eat.

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Shown in picture, Hemingway, Sherman Billingsley and novelist John O’Hara, circa 1936.  Photo courtesy Shermane Billingsley, http://www.StorkClub.com.

The Stork also found its way into Islands in the Stream, during a conversation between Tom Hudson and his friend Roger Davis, concerning the many ways in which Roger had broken up with girlfriends.

“There are probably politer ways and more endearing  ways of leaving a girl than simply, with no unpleasantness and never having been in any row, excusing yourself to go to the men’s room at 21 and never coming back.  But, as Roger said, he did settle the check downstairs and he loved to think of his last glimpse of her, sitting alone at the corner table in that décor that suited her so and that she loved so well.

He planned to leave the other one at the Stork, which was the place she really loved, but he was afraid Mr. Billingsley might not like it and he needed to borrow some money from Mr. Billingsley.”

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Hemingway and third wife Martha Gellhorn in happier times at the Stork, circa 1940.  Photo courtesy Shermane Billingsley, the Stork Club, StorkClub.com.

Speaking of money, there was the night in 1940 that Hemingway tried to cash a check he’d just received for the film rights to For Whom the Bell Tolls.  The check was for a mere hundred grand.  Billingsley asked Hemingway if he just wait until closing time, they should have the cash on hand.  He did and they did.  To return the favor, Hemingway once came to Billingsley’s rescue in a legal battle.  It seems that Billingsley, who was incredibly vigilant against other “Stork Clubs” popping up, learned that his nephew Glenn (an illegitimate child of his brother Logan) had the audacity to open a new Stork Club bar in Key West.  Billingsley knew someone in Key West, right?  So, Billingsley called Hemingway, asking if he could recommend good local counsel.  “I’ll be your lawyer,” Hemingway replied.  About an hour later, Hemingway reported back to his “client,” advising him that “The Key West Stork Club has changed its name to Billingsley’s Cooked Goose.”  As a final note, if the name Billingsley rings a bell, Glenn’s wife was none other than Barbara Billingsley, the TV mom of Beaver Cleaver.  Glenn sounds more like Eddie Haskell, to me.  Cheers

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Have a Gimlet Tonight to Honor Raymond Chandler

The Gimlet
  •  2 oz London Dry Gin
  • 1 oz Rose’s Lime Juice

 Shake well with ice, strain into chilled cocktail glass.  Note: vary the amount of Rose’s to make it sweeter or drier

March 26, 2012.  It was on this day in 1959 that novelist Raymond Chandler passed away.  He was the author of The Big Sleep, Farewell My Lovely, The Long Goodbye, and many other iconic detective novels.  He created not only the character of Philip Marlowe, the hard boiled Los Angeles private detective, but had a lot to do with the creation of the gritty genre of film noir.  If you enjoyed L.A. Confidential, you owe Chandler more than a bit of thanks.

Like Hemingway, Chandler was fond of placing a drink into his character’s hand, which is why I’m thinking of having a Gimlet this evening.  You’ll find it in a number of Hemingway’s works, notably Green Hills of Africa, The Short Happy Life of Francis Macomber, Under Kilimanjaro, and True At First Light.  Note that all of these stories take place on safari in Africa – the Gimlet appears to be one of his go-to cocktails while big game hunting, perhaps due to the fact that Rose’s Lime Juice Cordial wasn’t as likely to spoil under the hot African sun as fresh lime juice.

Hem looks like he's earned himself that Gimlet, eh?

As for Chandler, the Gimlet practically steals the show in the Chandler’s 1953 classic The Long Goodbye.  The drink plays an integral role in the relationship between Marlowe and his tragic friend, Terry Lennox:

“We sat in a corner of the bar at Victor’s and drank gimlets.  “They don’t know how to make them here,” he said.  “What they call a gimlet is just some lime or lemon juice with a dash of sugar and bitters.  A real gimlet is half gin and half Rose’s Lime Juice and nothing else.  It beats martinis hollow.”

Lennox was as particular about his bars as his drinks.

“I like bars just after they open for the evening.  When the air inside is still cool and clean and everything is shiny and the barkeep is giving himself that last look in the mirror to see if his tie is straight and his hair is smooth.  I like the neat bottles on the bar back and the lovely shining glasses and the anticipation.  I like to watch the man mix the first one of the evening and put it down on a crisp mat and put the little folded napkin beside it.  I like to taste it slowly.  The first quiet drink of the evening in a quiet bar – that’s wonderful.”

Later in the book, Marlowe returns to Victor’s bar as an homage to Lennox, who is believed to have been killed in Mexico.

I sat down two stools away and the barkeep nodded to me, but didn’t smile.

            “A gimlet,” I said.  “No bitters.”

He put the little napkin in front of me and kept looking at me.  “You know something,” he said in a pleased voice, “I heard you and your friend talking one night and I got me a bottle of that Rose’s Lime Juice.  Then you didn’t come back any more and I only opened it tonight.”

“My friend left town,” I said.  “A double if it’s all right with you.  And thanks for taking the trouble.”

He went away.  The woman in black gave me a quick glance, then looked down into her glass.  “So few people drink them around here,” she said so quietly that I didn’t realize at first that she was speaking to me.  Then she looked my way again.  She had very large dark eyes.  She had the reddest fingernails I have ever seen.  But she didn’t look like a pickup and there was no trace of come-on in her voice.  “Gimlets I mean.”

            “A fellow taught me to like them,” I said.

            “He must be English.”

            “Why?”

“The lime juice.  It’s as English as boiled fish with that awful anchovy sauce that looks as if the cook had bled into it.  That’s how they got called limeys.  The English – not the fish.”

“I thought it was more a tropical drink, hot weather stuff.  Malaya or some place like that.”

“You may be right.”  She turned away again.

The bartender set the drink in front of me.  With the lime juice it has sort of a pale greenish yellowish misty look.  I tasted it.  It was both sweet and sharp at the same time.  The woman in black watched me.  Then she lifted her own glass towards me.  We both drank.  Then I knew hers was the same drink.”

Hemingway was an ardent admirer of Raymond Chandler.  In a 1940 letter to his editor, Max Perkins, Hemingway asked for a copy of Farewell My Lovely.  Further, in a 1950 piece he wrote for the New York Herald Tribune Book Review, Hemingway noted that “[i]n the old days, I could read anything.  But now I cannot read detective stories any more unless they are written by Raymond Chandler.”  Perhaps the feelings weren’t mutual.  In the aforementioned thriller Farewell My Lovely, Philip Marlowe is confronted by a cop who, like most cops in Chandler’s books, gets on his nerves.  “Listen, Hemingway, don’t repeat everything I say,” Marlowe retorts, and continues to call him Hemingway throughout the scene.  When the quite oblivious cop eventually asks Marlowe who this Hemingway person is, Marlowe snidely replies, “A guy that keeps saying the same thing over and over until you begin to believe it must be good.”  Hmmm.  I did mention that Hemingway liked Chandler, didn’t I?

In True At First Light, based on Ernest and Mary’s safari to Kenya in 1953-54, Mary is ill, and asks “Would it be terrible to have a gimlet for my morale?”  Hemingway obliges, of course, noting, “You’re not supposed to drink but I always did and I’m still here.”  In Green Hills of Africa, a semi-autobiographical account of Ernest and Pauline’s 1933 safari, the Gimlet makes a few appearances.  In one instance, it is used as a means of rescuing Hemingway from a conversation about writing which has grown tedious.  Hemingway explains:

“First, there must be talent, much talent. Talent such as Kipling had. Then there must be discipline. The discipline of Flaubert. Then there must be the conception of what it can be and an absolute conscience as unchanging as the standard meter in Paris, to prevent faking. Then the writer must be intelligent and disinterested and above all he must survive. Try to get all these in one person and have him come through all the influences that press on a writer. The hardest thing, because time is so short, is for him to survive and get his work done. But I would like us to have such a writer and to read what he would write. What do you say? Should we talk about something else?”

“It is interesting what you say. Naturally I do not agree with everything.”

“Naturally.”

“What about a gimlet?” Pop asked. “Don’t you think a gimlet might help?”

“Tell me first what are the things, the actual, concrete things that harm a writer?”

I was tired of the conversation which was becoming an interview. So I would make it an interview and finish it. The necessity to put a thousand intangibles into a sentence, now, before lunch, was too bloody.

“Politics, women, drink, money, ambition. And the lack of politics, women, drink, money and ambition,” I said profoundly.

“He’s getting much too easy now,” Pop said.

“But drink. I do not understand about that. That has always seemed silly to me. I understand it as a weakness.”

“It is a way of ending a day. It has great benefits. Don’t you ever want to change your ideas?”

“Let’s have one,” Pop said. “M’Wendi!”

Pop never drank before lunch except as a mistake and I knew he was trying to help me out.

“Let’s all have a gimlet,” I said.

The Gimlet is central to the opening scene in The Short Happy Life of Francis Macomber, a short story published in 1936 in Cosmopolitan magazine.  The story concerns an American couple, Francis and Margot Macomber, on safari with their professional hunting guide, Robert Wilson.  Macomber is described as:

very tall, very well built if you did not mind that length of bone, dark, his hair cropped like an oarsman, rather thin-lipped, and was considered handsome. He was dressed in the same sort of safari clothes that Wilson wore except that his were new, he was thirty-five years old, kept himself very fit, was good at court games, had a number of big game fishing records, and had just shown himself, very publicly, to be a coward.”

Indeed, while hunting a “damned fine” lion, Macomber panicked and ran away, leaving Wilson to kill the charging lion.  If that weren’t enough, on top of needling Macomber for having “bolted like a rabbit,” Margot adds to his misery by having a fling with Wilson.  So, the story begins in the aftermath of the scene with the lion:

It was now lunch time and they were all sitting under the double green fly of
the dining tent pretending that nothing had happened.

“Will you have lime juice or lemon squash?” Macomber asked.

“I’ll have a gimlet,” Robert Wilson told him.

“I’ll have a gimlet too. I need something,” Macomber’s wife said.

“I suppose it’s the thing to do,” Macomber agreed. “Tell him to
make three gimlets.”

The mess boy had started them already, lifting the bottles out of the canvas cooling bags that sweated wet in the wind that blew through the trees that shaded the tents.  . . . 

So they sat there in the shade where the camp was pitched under some wide-topped acacia trees with a boulder-strewn cliff behind them, and a stretch of grass that ran to the bank of a boulder-filled stream in front with forest beyond it, and drank their just-cool lime drinks and avoided one another’s eyes while the boys set the table for lunch.

Wilson knew that his cordial relationship with the Macombers could not survive the day, what with “that lion business,” his dalliance with Margot, and her “bitchery” toward her cuckolded husband.

He had decided now that to break would be much easier.  He would eat, then, by himself and could read a book with his meals.  They would eat by themselves.  He would see them through the safari on a very formal basis.  What was it the French called it?  Distinguished consideration – and it would be a damn sight easier than having to go through this emotional trash.  He’d insult him and make a good clean break.  Then he could read a book with his meals and he’d still be drinking their whisky.  That was the phrase for it when a safari went bad.  You ran into another white hunter and you asked, “How is everything going? And he answered, “Oh, I’m still drinking their whisky,” and you knew everything had gone to pot.

It should be noted that Macomber recovered his courage later in the story, standing tall while a fearsome buffalo charged, reeling off shot after shot.  It was but a momentary redemption, though (not wanting to spoil the plot).  Hollywood saw fit to cinematize the story in 1947, renaming it The Macomber Affair, in which Gregory Peck “makes that Hemingway kind of love” to Joan Bennett,” whatever the hell that means.  What’s ironic is that Hemingway’s depictions of lovemaking were often lampooned in the media.  Critics howled at the notion of two people making love in a sleeping bag (For Whom the Bell Tolls), and on a gondola in Venice (Across The River and Into The Trees).  But who am I to question the Hollywood PR machine?

As a final note on the Gimlet, I encourage you to try both the traditional version (using Rose’s), and the natural version (using freshly squeezed lime juice, plus a dash of simple syrup).  You might find that the natural version tastes better, but if you’re into authenticity, you’ve got to use the Rose’s (although Dale DeGroff notes that using fresh lime juice makes the drink a sweet Gin Rickey, and not a Gimlet, so there you are).  While I don’t share Terry Lennox’s view that “it beats martinis hollow,” the Gimlet is still a pretty good drink.  Cheers.


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