Historical Flight: Ernest Hemingway

By Jonathan Laurel July 17, 2019 Cocktails Events

Few cultural figures in the last century have brought cocktail and spirit culture into the limelight the way that Ernest Hemingway did.  This monumental figure in 20th century literature was also a famous drinker, incorporating his love for all things alcoholic (and, often, bitter) into his stories and his life.  We prefer “famous” here in lieu of “infamous,” because Hemingway’s extraordinary enthusiasm for beverages was of mythical proportions even in his own life and is the subject of many humorous, endearing contemporary anecdotes. Our favorite passage about Absinthe comes from For Whom the Bell Tolls, and many of our favorite entries in Charles Baker, Jr., involve his vivacious bestie in the Caribbean.  While stories about Hemingway’s favorite drinks or personal creations abound, many have histories of their own and are often hotly debated.  To celebrate the manliest man’s birthday (July 21), we are featuring three drinks associated with Papa that we love in particular.  Enjoy these and feel free to ask for more suggestions during your visit. 

The Hemingway Daiquiri
Nicaraguan Silver Rum, grapefruit, lime, sugar, maraschino. 

Our flight starts off with the Hemingway Daiquiri, a staple here at West Main.  This cocktail started life as “Daiquiri #3,” created by the Floridita’s famous bartender, Constante Ribalaigua Vert.  This daiquiri, which substitutes grapefruit juice for the more classic lime juice, quickly became Hemingway’s favorite, though he preferred his with less sugar (because of his diabetes). Later adjusted to its modern form, this cocktail retains the name of its most famous fan. 

Death in the Gulf Stream
Genever, lime skin, sugar, monk bitters.

Charles Baker, Jr., transmits this cocktail to us from Hemingway, originally giving in the title “Ernest Hemingway Reviver.”  Like many of The Man’s favorite drinks, it’s a steep, bracing cocktail, originally just a glass of Genever with lime skin and juice, and a ton of Angostura.  Baker found this to be “most valuable” in recovering from a hangover and for yachting in general.  In fact, it was during a boat trip to visit Hemingway and gather recipes for The Gentleman’s Companion that this cocktail was discovered.  To live vicariously through them, we salute with this fabulous cocktail. 

White Lady
London dry gin, lemon, cointreau, sugar, egg white. 

This contentious coup of cocktail appears in Islands in the Stream, Hemingway’s posthumously published “sea trilogy.”  We’re featuring this lady because her history is redolent of classic cocktail provenance drama.  The name first appears in Harry MacElhorn’s ABCs of Mixing Cocktails (1921), though this cocktail is claimed by Harry Craddock who put it in his Savoy Cocktail Book (1934), claiming the drink is named after the platinum blonde Zelda Fitzgerald.  Quite a lot of drama and investigative splitting-of-hairs can be had over these two claims over the White Lady’s origin.  Regardless of all that, it is likely the egg white was added later by Peter Dorelli, but is so sexy an addition that we’ve decided it cannot be left out.