Cocktail of the Month

Ernest Hemingway’s Favorites

Ernest Hemingway sits on the deck at the Finca Vigia, Cuba, 1940.
Ernest Hemingway Collection/John F. Kennedy Presid
Ernest Hemingway sits on the deck at the Finca Vigia, Cuba, 1940.

Aside from being a literary genius, Ernest Hemingway is also known for his legendary drinking habits. Evidence of his fondness for the bottle can be found throughout the world.

In Havana, the El Floridita erected a statue of Hemingway at the bar where he consumed his favorite papa doble Daiquiris. The author loved the bar at the Paris Ritz so much that when they renovated it in the 1990s, they named it after him. In Key West, visitors from across the globe flock to Sloppy Joe’s bar for the annual Hemingway look-alike contest, part of the island’s Hemingway Days celebration.

Many of Hemingway’s favorite tipples make appearances in his written works. In “The Sun Also Rises,” the main character Jake Barnes drinks a Jack Rose in Paris while waiting for Lady Brett Ashley. In “A Farewell to Arms,” Hemingway describes martinis as “cool and clean” and in “Islands in the Stream,” he mentions two of original concoctions: the Green Isaac’s Special, named for the Isaac Islands in the Bahamas, and the papa doble Daiquiri.

While much has been written about Hemingway, Phil Greene, a Washington resident and founding member of the Museum of the American Cocktail, has managed to capture another side of this prolific man. Greene’s book, “To Have and Have Another,” is a historical account and collection of drink recipes based on the writer’s life and work. Greene focuses on Hemingway’s peculiar drinking habits and written descriptions of food and drink.

Greene, who discovered Hemingway in high school, says he “was drawn to him for his style of writing, the vivid and compelling way he described scenes, people, food and drink, so much so that you could see, feel and taste what the characters were seeing, feeling, etc.”

As far as his interest in cocktails, you could say he was born into it. Greene is a descendant of Antoine Peychaud, the New Orleans pharmacist who created Peychaud’s Bitters and is credited with inventing the Sazerac, which was declared the official cocktail of New Orleans by the Louisiana legislature in 2008.

These two interests collided while Green was in his 20s. “I sought to learn more about beer, wine and cocktails, I naturally took notice when Hemingway wrote about them,” he says “When I encountered a drink I’d never seen or tasted before, the Jack Rose, absinthe, the Fine a l’Eau, Chambery Cassis, etc., I wanted to know what he/his characters were drinking. As a cocktail historian, it was a natural that I’d want to dig a little deeper here.”

“And finally, all through my 20s and 30s I wanted to write like Hemingway,” Greene recounts, “ By the time I reached my 40s, I figured I might as well write about Hemingway.”

Greene’s book is filled with interesting anecdotes about Hemingway’s preferred drinks. For example, he was not a fan of sweet drinks. “For the Daiquiri,” Greene writes, “he didn’t want sugar in his drinks (likely because he was diabetic), so he called for just a touch of maraschino liqueur in its place, and also added grapefruit juice to the usual lime juice.

Hemingway liked his martini ice cold. Greene describes the way he “froze the glasses, made giant ice cubes at 20 degrees below zero using metal tennis ball cans, he froze his cocktail onions so they’d help keep the drink cold.”

Most of Greene’s research was done by scouring through Hemingway’s writings, biographies and letters. He traveled to Key West to interview Hemingway’s friends and children of friends and to Boston, where the Hemingway Collection is housed within the JFK Presidential Library.

Even if you are not a Hemingway buff, this book is full of interesting tidbits that make it a delightful read. “I’d like to think there’s something for everyone,” Green says “biography, literature, drinks recipes, folklore, pop culture, great old photos and ads, you name it.” The book is available at local stores including Politics & Prose, Kramerbooks, Barnes & Noble, Salt & Sundry and Coco Blanca.

Green Isaac’s Special -2 oz. Gin -4 oz. green coconut water -1 oz. lime juice -4 drops Angostura Bitters -Fill highball glass with ice, add all ingredients, stir, serve. Optional garnish, wedge of lime.

To learn about upcoming events with Greene, visit www.museumoftheamericancocktail.org

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Mon, 21 Apr 2014 11:18:46 -0400

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