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.” 



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.




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]

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.



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.



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




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

About philgreene61

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4 Responses to The Rum Collins

  1. Nikon says:

    Great post! I love the photos.

  2. Richard says:

    Great post – love it! Too bad I am not a drinker!

  3. Pingback: To Have? To Have Another? The Hemingway Daiquiri | OKRA Magazine

  4. Gene Wier says:

    Enjoyed this history. I served aboard the Hilo about a year and a half during the war in the Pacific. Was good duty. I was only 17 when I went aboard and too young to be scared, even when we were targeted by Kamikazis near end of war. Were outfitting in Philippines for voyage to Japan when the atomic bomb was dropped. We were sure thankful. Hilo was one of 2 Navy ships with a bathtub. The other the Missouri (if memory asrved me right. Has been sixty-some-odd years and memory not so great. She was scrapped after the war. Many happy memories.

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