Today is Ernest Hemingway’s 116th birthday, so why not celebrate it in style with an authentic Hemingway cocktail? As I write this, hundreds of Hemingway enthusiasts are in Key West, attending the annual Hemingway Days celebration centered around Sloppy Joe’s on Duval Street, and very likely not enjoying authentic Hemingway cocktails, but that’s a subject for another post…
Here’s one of my favorite drinks from Hemingway’s time in Key West, a simple little cooler invented by Hemingway’s close friends, Betty and Toby Bruce. They referred to it as being “similar in flavor to a daiquiri especially in the punch form.” Their son, Dink Bruce (whose become a great pal), gave me this hand-written recipe:
Cayo Hueso la Floridita
1.5 oz Pilar Blonde Rum
½ oz fresh lime juice (roughly the juice of half a lime)
3-4 oz grapefruit soda (such as Fresca, Goya, Squirt, etc.)
Add all ingredients to a Highball glass, stir, garnish with a lime wedge, serve. Adapted from the recipe of Hemingway’s close Key West friends Betty and Toby Bruce.
Hemingway first came to Key West in 1928, and began spending extended vacations there. He and his second wife Pauline bought the house on Whitehead Street in 1931. He lived in Key West until Christmas of 1939, at which time he moved to the Finca Vigia, near Havana, Cuba. In 1934, he bought a 38-foot Wheeler Playmate, which he named Pilar.
“Cayo Hueso” is among the historic names for Key West. Meaning “island of bones” or “bone key” in Spanish, the name given to the island by early explorers after discovering burial mounds left by the island’s earlier inhabitants.
The Hemingway home, circa 1938, with the island’s first swimming pool. Photo courtesy Hemingway Collection, JFK Library, Boston.
Papa’s Pilar Blonde Rum is perfect in this drink, as the rum’s citrus notes go perfectly with the lime and grapefruit juices. The drink is amazingly refreshing on a hot summer day, which today happens to be.
I mentioned Dink Bruce earlier, when he was a little schoolboy he and his Key West classmates were asked to write a book report, and to also comment on the motivations of the author. Dink chose The Old Man and the Sea, not merely because he actually knew the author, but because, after all, it was such a quick read. You see, Dink wasn’t too fond of books as a lad. So Dink interviewed Hemingway, and asked him why he chose to write it. Hemingway gave it to him straight: “I did it for the money.” Dink dutifully noted this in his report, but his teacher refused to believe it. She gave Dink a “D” on his book report. Apparently it wasn’t the only time she gave Dink a hard time over something. “I’m quite certain that she’s now living in one of the rings of Hell,” Dink noted, with some degree of confidence.
Anyway, fix yourself a Cayo Hueso la Floridita and toast Hemingway’s 116th birthday!