Great American Writers and Their Cocktails

'Hemingway & Bailey's Bartending Guide'
Edward Hemingway

From 'Wait Wait... Don't Tell Me!'

 

Writer Amy Sedaris answers questions taken from Hemingway & Bailey's Bartending Guide.

Famous writers and drinks are inseparable, despite the price some paid for the vice. Ernest Hemingway loved the Mojito, William Faulkner had his mint juleps, and F. Scott Fitzgerald was convinced gin was the way to go (he thought its smell would be undetectable on his breath).

Hemingway & Bailey's Bartending Guide delves into the drinking habits of America's top writers to reveal their favorite cocktails. Steve Inskeep talks with author Mark Bailey and illustrator Edward Hemingway — grandson of the writer — about their new book.

Below are excerpts from the guide, including cocktail recipes, drinking stories and writers' famous passages about imbibing.

Ernest Hemingway

Ernest Hemingway

hide caption1899-1961. Novelist and short-story writer. Hemingway was one of the principal figures of the Lost Generation. As a cub reporter for the Kansas City Star, he developed a minimalist style. With his second novel, 'The Sun Also Rises,' he immediately became a literary star. In 1954 Hemingway was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature.

By Edward Hemingway
"A man does not exist until he is drunk."

Hemingway was not one for pretension, literary or otherwise. In a famous incident at Costello's, a New York writers' haunt, he found just the opportunity to make those feelings known. After drinking in back with friends, he passed John O'Hara at the bar. O'Hara was carrying an Irish blackthorn walking stick (shillelagh) and Hemingway began to mock him for it. Defensively, O'Hara claimed that it was "the best piece of blackthorn in New York." Hemingway immediately bet him fifty dollars that he could break it with his bare hands. Then in one swift move he smashed the walking stick against his own head, snapping it in half. The broken pieces hung over Costello's bar for many years.

Mojito Recipe

 

Hemingway is associated with any number of cocktails, but perhaps none more so than the Mojito. The drink was invented at La Bodeguita del Medio in Havana, Cuba, where Hemingway drank them. So did Brigitte Bardot, Nat King Cole, Jimmy Durante, Erroll Flynn and countless others.

 

6 fresh mint sprigs

1 oz. lime juice

3/4 oz. simple syrup

2 oz. light rum

Lime wedge

 

Crush 5 mint sprigs into the bottom of a chilled highball glass. Pour in lime juice, simple syrup, and rum. Fill glass with crushed ice. Garnish with lime wedge and remaining mint sprig. Sometimes a splash of club soda is added.

 

From 'The Three-Day Blow,' 1925

 

"I'm a little drunk now," Nick said.

 

"You aren't drunk," Bill said... Bill poured the glass half full of whiskey.

 

"Put in your own water," he said. "There's just one more shot."

 

"Got any more?" Nick asked.

 

"There's plenty more, but Dad only likes me to drink what's open."

 

"Sure," said Nick.

 

"He says opening bottles is what makes drunkards," Bill explained.

 

"That's right," said Nick. He was impressed. He had never thought of that before. He always thought it was solitary drinking that made drunkards.

William Faulkner

William Faulkner

hide caption1897-1962. Novelist, short-story writer, and screenwriter. Faulkner’s southern epic, the Yoknapatawpha cycle, includes his most celebrated novels, 'The Sound and the Fury,' 'As I Lay Dying,' 'The Light in August,' 'The Unvanquished,' and 'Absalom, Absalom!' His most famous screenplays are 'The Big Sleep' and 'To Have and Have Not.' In 1949, Faulkner won the Nobel Prize for Literature.

By Edward Hemingway
"Civilization begins with distillation."

Unlike most writers, Faulkner, from the very beginning of his career, drank while he wrote. He claimed, "I usually write at night. I always keep my whiskey within reach." That he did. In Hollywood, hired by director Howard Hawks to write Road to Glory, Faulkner showed up to a script meeting carrying a brown paper bag. He pulled out a bottle of whiskey, but accidentally sliced his finger unscrewing the cap. If the film’s producer thought the meeting was over, he was wrong. Faulkner dragged over the wastepaper basket — so he could gulp whiskey and drip blood as they hashed out the story.

Mint Julep Recipe

 

In the early 1800s, doctors used the word julep to describe "a kind of liquid medicine." These were remedies in which leaves from the mentha family were used to soften the taste of the medication. Of course, this is not to suggest the Mint Julep is good for you, but it may be what Faulkner had in mind when he said, "Isn’t anythin’ Ah got whiskey won’t cure." He was so much an authority on the drink that the famous Musso & Frank Grill in Los Angeles let him mix his own.

 

7 sprigs of mint

1/2 oz. simple syrup

3 oz. bourbon

 

Crush 6 mint sprigs into the bottom of a chilled double Old-Fashioned glass. Pour in simple syrup and bourbon. Fill with crushed ice. Garnish with the remaining mint sprig and serve with two short straws. Sometimes a splash of club soda is added.

 

From 'Sanctuary,' 1931

 

Gowan filled the glass level full and lifted it and emptied it steadily. He remembered setting the glass down carefully, then he became aware simultaneously of open air, of a chill gray freshness and an engine panting on a siding at the head of a dark string of cars, and that he was trying to tell someone that he had learned to drink like a gentleman. He was still trying to tell them, in a cramped dark place smelling of ammonia and creosote, vomiting into a receptacle.

Carson McCullers

Carson McCullers

hide caption1917-1967. Novelist, short-story writer, playwright, and screenwriter. McCullers achieved early acclaim with her first novel, 'The Heart Is a Lonely Hunter.' After receiving a Guggenheim Fellowship, she wrote 'The Member of the Wedding,' another critical success; her adaptation for the stage was awarded the Drama Critics Circle Award. The novella 'The Ballad of the Sad Cafe' is perhaps her finest work.

By Edward Hemingway
"I'm drinking hot tea and not doing much."

Not nearly so powerful as a Long Island Iced Tea, McCullers' favorite drink while writing was a mixture of hot tea and sherry that she kept in a thermos. She named the concoction "sonnie boy" and, often claiming it was only tea, would drink straight through the workday. McCullers must have felt the liquor helped her creativity. At Yaddo, the famous writers' colony, she began with a beer at the typewriter just after breakfast, then moved on to her "sonnie boy," and finished with cocktails in the evening.

Long Island Iced Tea Recipe

 

Notorious, the Long Island Iced Tea (when made correctly) is incredibly potent, but tastes and looks like nonalcoholic tea. It's perfect for discreet drinking, which McCullers indulged in often. But be warned, invented in the Hamptons by bartender Robert Butt, the Long Island Iced Tea will knock you out cold if you're not careful.

 

1⁄2 oz. gin

1⁄2 oz. vodka

1⁄2 oz. tequila

1⁄2 oz. light rum

1⁄2 oz. Cointreau

3⁄4 oz. lemon juice

Top with cola

Lemon wedge

Top with cola

Lemon wedge

 

Pour all ingredients except cola and garnish into a cocktail shaker filled with ice cubes. Shake, and then strain into a Collins glass filled with ice cubes. Add cola until color of tea. Garnish with lemon wedge. Serve with two straws.

 

From 'The Ballad of the Sad Cafe,' 1951

 

The whisky they drank that evening (two big bottles of it) is important. Otherwise, it would be hard to account for what followed. Perhaps without it there would never have been a café. For the liquor of Miss Amelia has a special quality of its own. It is clean and sharp on the tongue, but once down a man it glows inside him for a long time afterward. And that is not all. It is known that if a message is written with lemon juice on a clean sheet of paper there will be no sign of it. But if the paper is held for a moment to the fire then the letters turn brown and the meaning becomes clear. Imagine that the whisky is the fire and that the message is that which is known only in the soul of a man — then the worth of Miss Amelia's liquor can be understood.

F. Scott Fitzgerald

F. Scott Fitzgerald

hide caption1896-1940. Novelist and short-story writer. With his first novel, 'This Side of Paradise,' Fitzgerald became the spokesman for the Jazz Age. 'The Beautiful and the Damned' came next, followed by Fitzgerald's masterpiece, 'The Great Gatsby,' considered by many the finest American novel of the 20th century. 'Tender Is the Night' was published nine years later. Fitzgerald's last novel, 'The Last Tycoon,' was published posthumously.

By Edward Hemingway
"First you take a drink, then the drink takes a drink, then the drink takes you."

Fitzgerald's preferred liquor was gin; he believed you could not detect it on the breath (a funny notion given his remarkably low tolerance). He would get roaring drunk on very little, but then it was the Roaring Twenties, and he was the symbol. Fitzgerald and his wife, Zelda, were a pair of drunken pranksters. There are stories about how they jumped into the fountain at the Plaza Hotel, boiled party guests' watches in tomato soup, stripped at the Follies. Invited to an impromptu party, "Come as you are," he and Zelda arrived in their pajamas. Zelda soon enough removed hers and danced naked. Did anyone have to smell their breath to know?

Gin Rickey Recipe

 

It is easy to imagine a warm summer evening out on the shore of Long Island — say a party at Gatsby's house, the bartenders serving up light, refreshing Gin Rickeys as the jazz band swings. In the 1920s and '30s there were any number of Rickeys (scotch, rum, applejack), but gin is the one that endured. And besides, it was Fitzgerald's favorite.

 

 

2 oz. gin

3/4 oz. lime juice

Top with club soda

Lime wheel

 

Pour gin and lime juice into a chilled highball glass filled with ice cubes. Top with club soda, and stir gently. Garnish with lime wheel. Serve with two straws.

 

From 'Tender Is the Night,' 1933

 

By one o'clock the bar was jammed; amidst the consequent mixture of voices the staff of waiters functioned, pinning down their clients to the facts of drink and money...

 

In the confusion Abe had lost his seat; now he stood gently swaying and talking to some of the people with whom he had involved himself...

 

Across from him the Dane and his companions had ordered luncheon. Abe did likewise but scarcely touched it. Afterwards, he just sat, happy to live in the past. The drink made past happy things contemporary with the present, as if they were still going on, contemporary even with the future as if they were about to happen again.

Raymond Chandler

Raymond Chandler

hide caption1888-1959. Novelist, short-story writer, and screenwriter. Most famous for his seven novels featuring the detective Philip Marlowe. Chandler's best-known screenplays include 'Double Indemnity,' 'The Blue Dahlia,' and 'Strangers on a Train.' He is considered Dashiell Hammett's principal successor.

By Edward Hemingway
"I think a man ought to get drunk at least twice a year just on principle."

Paramount Studios put the movie The Blue Dahlia into production before Chandler had written a line of the script. Unfortunately, two weeks into shooting, he had yet to find an ending and was suffering from writer's block. He told his producer, John Houseman, that although he was a recovering alcoholic and had been sober for some time, he could only finish the script if he relapsed completely. Houseman arranged for Paramount to place six secretaries at Chandler's house around the clock. A doctor was hired to give him vitamin shots, as he rarely ate when drinking. Limousines waited outside, ready to run pages at a moment's notice. In the end he produced one of his best original scripts, and the story of his self-sacrifice became Hollywood legend.

 

Gimlet Recipe

 

It wasn't until Chandler's detective Philip Marlowe introduced the Gimlet in The Long Goodbye that the cocktail finally caught on in America. Surprisingly, the recipe did not use fresh lime juice. As Chandler wrote, "A real Gimlet is half gin and half Rose's Lime Juice and nothing else. It beats martinis hollow."

 

2 oz. gin

1 oz. Rose's Lime Juice

Lime wedge

 

Pour gin and lime juice into a mixing glass filled with ice cubes. Stir well. Strain into a chilled cocktail glass. Garnish with lime wedge.

 

The Gimlet can also be served on the rocks in an Old-Fashioned glass.

 

From 'The Long Goodbye,' 1953

 

"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.

 

I agreed with him.

 

"Alcohol is like love," he said. "The first kiss is magic, the second is intimate, the third is routine. After that you take the girl's clothes off."

Books Featured In This Story

Hemingway & Bailey's Bartending Guide to Great American Writers
Hemingway & Bailey's Bartending Guide to Great American Writers

by Mark Bailey and Edward Hemingway

Hardcover, 97 pages | purchase

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