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.”


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.


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,

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,

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.”


“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.”


“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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The Hemingway Cocktail Companion

To Have and Have Another

“Will you have a drink?”  I held out the flask. “Hemingway is my name.”

Welcome to To Have and Have Another – the Hemingway Cocktail Companion, the blog behind the book, which will be published in 2012 by Perigee Books, an imprint of Penguin Group.  Here, you’ll learn the stories behind the drinks that Hemingway’s characters were enjoying  and also on those that Papa himself drank.  To Have and Have Another will offer fascinating and lively background on those various drinks, their ingredients, their histories, and the characters—real and fictional—associated with them.  Each drink is chosen because of its intimacy with Hemingway’s life and work, as excerpts from his writings generate recipes and instructions on how to recreate the drink of Hemingway’s world—and for a moment or two, to be transported to that place: the Hotel Crillon, the Rotonde, Harry’s New York Bar, the Ritz Paris, Sloppy Joe’s in Key West, El Floridita in Havana, the bars and restaurants of Madrid, the Green Hills of Africa, Venice, the Michigan woods.

About the author:  Philip Greene is an attorney, writer and cocktail historian.  He is Trademark and Internet Counsel to the U.S. Marine Corps, stationed at the Pentagon.  He is also one of the founding members of and legal counsel to the Museum of the American Cocktail, based in New Orleans.  Phil manages the Museum’s robust D.C. monthly cocktail seminar program, and also does cocktail presentations around the world, and has presented in New Orleans, Miami, New York, Tampa, San Francisco, as well as in Vancouver, British Columbia, and Wellington, New Zealand.  He has presented numerous times before the Smithsonian in Washington, D.C., as well as for the Key West Art and Historical Society, and the New Zealand Embassy.

In his legal career, Philip held the position of InternetNZ Senior Research Fellow in Cyberlaw in 2007, during which he taught Internet and intellectual property law at Victoria University School of Law in Wellington, New Zealand.  In that capacity, he also wrote and published two major papers and engaged in numerous public speaking engagements and radio and press interviews.

Phil has also served as a Brand Ambassador for Domaine de Canton French Ginger Liqueur, and does outreach, cocktail design, consultation, and special events for Maurice Cooper et Cie, LLC.  Phil also offers consulting services for the bar and restaurant trade, and is based inWashington,D.C.  His web site is located at

The Drinks

The Americano

1 oz Campari

1 oz Italian (Sweet) Vermouth

1-2 oz seltzer water (to taste)

 Add all ingredients to a rocks or highball glass filled with ice.  Stir.  Garnish with an orange wedge or a lemon twist.  Enjoy.

This is one of four Campari-based cocktails that I’ll feature in this book, the others being the Negroni, Gin and Campari on the Rocks, and the Gin, Campari and Soda.  Hemingway was likely introduced to both Campari and Cinzano Vermouth in Italy during World War I, while serving as a Red Cross ambulance driver, and later while recuperating from his war wounds.  In fact, during a conversation with Gertrude Stein in A Moveable Feast, he mentions an “old man with beautiful manners and a great name who came to the hospital in Italy and brought me a bottle of Marsala or Campari and behaved perfectly, and then one day I would have to tell the nurse never to let that man into the room again.”  Stein dismisses him predictably, “those people are sick and cannot help themselves and you should pity them.”  Hmmmm, must be a good story there, but I digress…

Campari, an aperitif bitters, was invented by Gaspare Campari in the 1860s at the Bass Bar in Turin, Italy, where he worked as a maitre licoriste, or master bartender.  Campari is a blend of natural ingredients, mostly herbs, spices, bark, fruits and fruit peels.  The recipe is a trade secret; according to Gruppo Campari, only one person in the world knows the entire formula.  Its distinctive carmine hue derives (at least originally) from dye extracted from the cochineal, a beetle-like insect native to Mexico, Central and South America.  Campari is one of two types of bitters.  Aperitif bitters (such as Campari, Amer Picon, Fernet Branca, and Averna) are typically enjoyed as a beverage, while cocktail bitters (Angostura, Peychaud’s, Fee Brothers, et al.) are used only a dash at a time.  An easy way to remember, aperitif bitters = big bottle, cocktail bitters = small bottle.

 The Americano is a simple drink, made up of equal parts Campari and Italian (sweet) Vermouth, with a splash of seltzer to give it effervescence.  Said to have been invented by Campari around 1860, it was originally called the Milano-Torino, named for the origins of its two main ingredients, Campari from Milan and Cinzano Vermouth from Turin.  It became the Americano in the early 20th Century, as many American tourists were seen enjoying the drink.  If it enjoyed a spike in popularity during Prohibition, perhaps it’s because Americans were acquiring a taste for it Stateside.  You see, in spite of its alcoholic content, Campari had been classified by the U.S. government as a medicinal product and was available to savvy Americans by prescription (!).

Adding an equal portion of gin to the Americano yields another delightful drink, the Negroni; I’ll have more to say about that below.  In Across the River and Into the Trees, in what is perhaps the only mixological slip-up I’ve encountered in my research, Hemingway refers to two people “drinking negronis,” but the drink he describes sounds more like an Americano.  I offer this excerpt riddled with contradiction OR I offer this excerpt with that caveat (choose one).

In the bar, sitting at the first table as he came in, there was a post-war rich from Milan, fat and hard as only Milanese can be, sitting with his expensive looking and extremely desirable mistress.  They were drinking negronis, a combination of two sweet vermouths and seltzer water, and the Colonel wondered how much taxes the man had escaped to buy that sleek girl in her long mink coat and the convertible he had seen the chauffeur take up the long, winding ramp, to lock away.  The pair stared at him with bad manners of their kind and he saluted, lightly, and said to them in Italian, ‘I am sorry that I am in uniform.  But it is a uniform.  Not a costume.”  Then he turned his back on them, without waiting to see the effect of his remark, and walked to the bar.  From the bar you could watch your luggage, just as well as the two pescecani (sharks) were watching theirs.

            Hemingway also makes mention of the Negroni and Americano in a short story titled The Good Lion.  Intended as a children’s story (!), it told of a lion who existed on a higher moral plane; whereas “the bad lions would roar with laughter and eat another Hindu trader…, the good lion would sit and … ask politely if he might have a Negroni or an Americano and he always drank that instead of the blood of the Hindu traders.  One day he refused to eat eight Masai cattle and only ate some tagliatelli and drank a glass of pomodoro.” 

The Americano has also found its way into other works of prose, notably in the Ian Fleming novel Casino Royale.  In the first of the James Bond series of thrillers, the Americano carries the distinction of being the first cocktail ever to grace the lips of 007.

Fleming saw fit to feature the Americano in another Bond story, this time, From a View to a Kill:

 James Bond had his first drink of the evening at Fouquet’s. It was not a solid drink. One cannot drink seriously in French cafés. Out of doors on a pavement in the sun is no place for vodka or whisky or gin. A fine a l’eau is fairly serious, but it intoxicates without tasting very good. A quart de champagne or a champagne à l’orange is all right before luncheon, but in the evening one quart leads to another quart and a bottle of indifferent champagne is a bad foundation for the night. Pernod is possible, but it should be drunk in company, and anyway Bond had never liked the stuff because its liquorice taste reminded him of his childhood. No, in cafés you have to drink the least offensive of the musical comedy drinks that go with them, and Bond always had the same thing–an Americano–Bitter Campari, Cinzano, a large slice of lemon peel and soda. For the soda he always specified Perrier, for in his opinion expensive soda water was the cheapest way to improve a poor drink.

I consider both the Americano and the Negroni as an excellent introduction to aperitif bitters, in this case Campari, but also others such as Fernet Branca, Averna, Aperol, Cynar, Luxardo Bitter, Gran Classico, Amer Picon, and other such products.  Enjoy.

Hemingway’s book and story titles were often revelatory.  Across the River and Into the Trees told the story of an aging warrior’s final days.  The title derives from the great Confederate general, Thomas J. “Stonewall” Jackson, whose dying words were, “Let us cross over the river, and rest under the shade of the trees.”

Bloody Mary (makes one pitcher)

16 oz vodka

16 oz tomato juice

1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce (or A1)

1 ½ oz fresh lime juice

Celery salt (to taste)

Cayenne pepper (to taste)

Black pepper (to taste)

 Per Hemingway’s recipe:  “take a good sized pitcher and put in it as big a lump of ice as it will hold.  (This is to prevent too rapid melting and watering of our product.)”  Add all above ingredients in order, stirring all the while.  Taste it occasionally, to determine if more of any ingredient is desired; after all, the Bloody Mary is a blank canvas, awaiting each artist’s expression. 

 Suggested reading: A Moveable Feast, Selected Letters 

There seem to be as many stories relating to the origin (and naming) of the Bloody Mary as there are variations on the recipe.  Well, perhaps that’s an exaggeration.  The most popular is that the Bloody was invented by M. Fernand “Pete” Petiot, who tended bar at Harry MacElhone’s Harry’s New York Bar in Paris, circa 1921.  The drink was given the name “Bucket of Blood” by an American entertainer by the name of Roy Barton.  He said it reminded him of a club back in Chicago by that name.   As the story goes, once Prohibition ended, Petiot landed a job at the King Cole Room of the St. Regis Hotel in New York, where he revived the drink but called it the Red Snapper (Bloody Mary being too coarse a name, it seems).

Legendary bartender Dale “King Cocktail” DeGroff tells of a 1997 conversation with Harry MacElhone’s grandson, Duncan, which support’s Petiot’s story.  It seems that Petiot named the drink “Bloody Mary” after a woman customer “who sat at the bar for long hours pining for a boyfriend who seldom kept appointments with her.”

Another version of the story tells us that actor/toastmaster/bon vivant George Jessel invented the Bloody Mary in 1927, as a way of combating a wicked hangover in Palm Beach, Florida.  It was attributed to Jessel in a 1939 item in the New York Herald Tribune, in Lucius Beebe’s gossip column “This New York.”  Beebe noted that “George Jessel’s newest pick-me-up which is receiving attention from the town’s paragraphers is called a Bloody Mary: half tomato juice, half vodka.”  As for the name, it was said to have come from Mary Brown Warburton, a friend of Jessel’s and a member of Philadelphia’s Wanamaker department store family.  While sampling it, she apparently spilled some on her white evening dress, and blurted out “”Now, you can call me Bloody Mary, George!”

But like any drink worth its celery salt, there are multiple claims of inventorship, including one connected to, you guessed it, Hemingway himself.  According to Colin Peter Field, head bartender of the Hemingway Bar at the Ritz Paris:

“Bernard ‘Bertin’ Azimont, the bartender of the Ritz Paris’s Petit Bar (and later Head Bartender of the hotel), told me one day over lunch how he invented the Bloody Mary in the 1950s: he had, he said, concocted it for Ernest Hemingway.  The doctors had forbidden the writer to drink.  Mary, Hemingway’s wife, had taken the interdiction very seriously and had placed him under close watch.  Stealth and cunning were needed, and so it was that Bertin devised the ingenious mixture, a drink packed full of alcohol that could not be detected on the writer’s breath.  Hemingway, he said, was so pleased that he had got the better of his ‘bloody wife’ that he named the drink after her.  And thus came to pass, one might imagine, the Bloody Mary.  If only it were that easy: there exists a letter written by Hemingway himself in 1947 giving the precise recipe for the Bloody Mary, offering information that he had enjoyed it in China as early as 1941.”

Indeed, the letter he references goes like this:

 “To make a pitcher of Bloody Marys (any smaller amount is worthless) take a good sized pitcher and put in it as big a lump of ice as it will hold.  (This is to prevent too rapid melting and watering of our product.)  Mix a pint of good russian vodka and an equal amount of chilled tomato juice.  Add a table spoon full of Worcester Sauce.  Lea and Perrins is usual but can use A1 or any good beef-steak sauce.  Stirr. (sic) Then add a jigger of fresh squeezed lime juice.  Stirr.  Then add small amounts of celery salt, cayenne pepper, black pepper.  Keep on stirring and taste it to see how it is doing.  If you get it too powerful weaken with more tomato juice.  If it lacks authority add more vodka.  Some people like more lime than others.  For combatting a really terrific hangover increase the amount of Worcester sauce – but don’t lose the lovely color.  Keep drinking it yourself to see how it is doing.  I introduced this drink to Hong Kong in 1941 and believe it did more than any other single factor except perhaps the Japanese Army to precipitate the fall of that Crown Colony.  After you get the hang of it you can mix it so it will taste as though it had absolutely no alcohol of any kind in it and a glass of it will still have as much kick as a really good big martini.  Whole trick is to keep it very cold and not let the ice water it down.  Use good vodka and good tomato juice.  There is a vodka made in N.J. by a Russian process that is o.k.  Can’t remember the name and don’t want to tout you onto the wrong one. . . .  There is a very fine Mexican sauce called Esta Si Pican (sort of mild Tobasco) that is good added to the Bloody Marys too.  Just a few drops.”

  “Another time, at Toot’s Shor’s restaurant, Hemingway ordered vodka and the waiter said no vodka was left.  ‘No vodka?’  Hemingway said.  ‘’I’ll make some.  Just bring me a potato and a lamp.’”

But the story of Hemingway’s affection for the Ritz Bar and Bertin’s inimitable Bloody Marys shouldn’t end there.  It seems that in 1950, Hemingway “adopted the bar as his Head Quarters and spent many hours there planning his strategies for the horse races at Auteuil.  He would even … pick up the bets of” the other Ritz bartenders, and all of this was done “under the profound inspiration of Bertin’s Bloody Marys.”  Hemingway’s friend and biographer A.E. Hotchner was a part of that “racing syndicate,” and here’s his account:

“But in that fall in Paris we were at the simpler partnership level of a racing syndicate.  Our routine for Auteuil was to convene in the Little Bar of the Ritz every race day at noon, and while Bertin, the maestro of that boite, made us his non-pareil Bloody Marys, we would study the form sheets and make our selections.  Sometimes Georges or Bertin or one of the other barmen in the big bar would put some money on our mounts and we would bet it for them.  Bertin was an indefatigable student of the track, more occult than scientific, and on one occasion he handed Ernest a list of eight horses which he had brained out as the winners of the eight races on the card that day.  Ernest studied the list and said, ‘Okay, tell you want I’ll do, Bertin – I’ll bet ten thousand francs on each and we’ll split the winnings.’  All of Bertin’s horses ran out of the money, but when we returned that day Ernest gave Bertin five thousand francs.  ‘One of your horses got scratched,’ he told him, ‘and we saved the loss.’”

Awfully generous of him, no doubt.  But Hemingway was a bit more flush in 1950 than in, say, 1922, when he was an unknown, starving writer in Paris.  But that didn’t stop him from visiting the track now and then.  He had a different strategy then, and while it didn’t involve the Ritz or its bartenders, cocktails did play a role.  In a 1922 letter to Gertrude Stein and Alice B. Toklas, describing Ernest and Hadley’s visit to Milan, Hemingway wrote:

“We’ve been here for about a week playing the races with tremendous success.  I get up at dawn and study the dope-sheet and then after my brain has cracked under the strain Mrs. Hemingway, without about three cocktails and an indelible pencil to aid her, picks winners as easily as cracking peanut shucks.  With the aid of her alcoholic clairvoyance and an old friend of mine that I think sleeps with the horses we’ve had 17 winners out of 21 starts. …  It is raining hard today and that will probably mean disaster at the track, I don’t think Mrs. H’s alcoholic genius could function on a muddy track…””

            Alas, I don’t know what Hadley was drinking to give her that “alcoholic clairvoyance” at the track, undoubtedly more research is required.  Perhaps it was the Bloody Mary!  Perhaps not.  As a final note on the Bloody, Hemingway made no mention of garniture in his recipe.  Celery, of course, is a standard adornment, and other options abound.  My own favorites include pickled string beans (as is served at the Columns Hotel in New Orleans), or pickled okra.  Cheers.

In Hemingway’s Bloody Mary recipe, he claims to have “introduced this drink to Hong Kong in 1941.”  While that might have been a boast, he did in fact visit the Far East with his then-wife Martha Gellhorn, they were covering the war between Japan and China (this was prior to Pearl Harbor and the U.S.’ entry into World War II).  While on that long and arduous assignment, Hemingway faced innumerable challenges when looking for a decent drink.  For example, he had to endure such bizarre local “delicacies” as snake wine and bird wine; both were rice wines, one with dead snakes in the bottom of the bottle, the other with dead cuckoos.  And, no, I don’t have any cocktail recipes using these choice ingredients.

On another occasion in Chungking, Hemingway met a young Navy lieutenant named Lederer, who purchased two cases of whiskey at an auction.  Hemingway tried to persuade Lederer to sell him some, but he declined; he was saving them for a farewell party.  Hemingway adopted the role of Epicurious, and advised him to “never delay kissing a pretty girl … or opening a bottle of whiskey.”  He made a deal with Lederer, swapping six bottles of whiskey for six writing lessons.  At the end of the sixth lesson, Hemingway told Lederer that a writer above all had to be compassionate, and never laugh at another’s mistakes.  Further, he had to roll with the punches, and bounce back.  He then suggested that the young man go home and sample his whiskey.

When Lederer did so, he discovered that he’d been swindled; the bottles contained tea, not whiskey.  “Hemingway had known the truth for nearly a week.  Yet he had neither laughed at the victim nor evaded his part of the bargain.  Lederer salted his story away for twenty years.  From that day in Chungking he always remembered Hemingway as a civilized man.”

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