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.”
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:
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.
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.
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.”
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