Drinking with Hemingway – An Evening With Author Philip Greene

“Don’t bother with churches, government buildings or city squares; if you want to know about a culture, spend a night in its bars.” –Ernest Hemingway

“When you work hard all day with your head and know you must work again the next day what else can change your ideas and make them run on a different plane like whisky? When you are cold and wet what else can warm you? Before an attack who can say anything that gives you the momentary well being that rum does? I would as soon not eat at night as not to have red wine and water. The only time it isn’t good for you is when you write or when you fight. You have to do that cold. …Modern life, too, is often a mechanical oppression and liquor is the only mechanical relief.”

Letter from Hemingway to Ivan Kashkin, 1935

On November 8 the Smithsonian Associates featured MOTAC Co-Founder Philip Greene and his recently-released book To Have and Have Another: A Hemingway Cocktail Companion. The book has been highly regarded by critics from across the spectrum including the New York Times, Washington Post, Wine Enthusiast Magazine, Imbibe Magazine’s 2012 Holiday Gift Guide, as well as NPR to name just a few. Greene’s work can be best described in its first sentence as “a book about Ernest Hemingway and what he liked to drink, what he wrote about those drinks, and how to make the drinks that he and his characters enjoyed.” Guests were treated to a presentation by Greene highlighting Hemingway’s life, travels, literature and love of drinking which he incorporated into many of his stories such as Island in the Stream, For Whom the Bell Tolls, A Farewell to Arms, and Across the River and Into the Trees, to name a few.

Local DC actor Scott Sedar reads from Hemingway.

Greene’s book features dozens of Hemingway‘s favorite cocktails in alphabetical order, including the Negroni (which he discovered during his time in Italy) and of course the famous Daiquiri (served to him at the Floridita during his time in Cuba). This evening guests were treated to tasting of a Hemingway Martini, Jack Rose, Americano and Gin and Tonic (all recipes below). To accompany the cocktails and Greene’s presentation, guests were treated to readings of Hemingway by DC actor Scott Sedar.

Greene prepares a Hemingway Martini.

Greene pointed out that his book is a celebration of Hemingway’s drinks, his fascinating life, and his compelling manner of writing, in which he used food and drink to add depth to his scenes and characters.  Greene’s book, and the seminar, were not meant to encourage or celebrate excessive drinking. Though history may rumor that he was an alcoholic, Hemingway’s own opinion was that it should be reserved for times of pleasure, after the work was done.  According to biographer Carlos Baker, Hemingway “explained the nights of drinking as a necessary counter force to the daily bouts of writing which left him as whipped, wrung out, and empty as a used dishrag.” It was a “release,” “the irresponsibility that comes after the terrible responsibility of writing.” The book Conversations with Hemingway states that when he was asked if it were true that he took a pitcher of martinis with him every morning on his way to work, Hemingway replied, “Jeezus Christ!…Have you ever heard of anyone who drank while he worked? You’re thinking of Falkner. He does sometimes – and I can tell right in the middle of a page when he’s had his first one. Besides, who in hell would mix more than one martini at a time?”

The Hemingway Martini (found in Across the River and Into the Trees, A Farewell to Arms, The Sun Also Rises, The Garden of Eden, and Islands in the Stream)

Greene’s book explains that Hemingway would freeze ice in tennis ball tubes to assure an ice-cold preparation. Not to diminish the coldness, he would add frozen Spanish cocktail onions, his favorite martini garnish.

1 ¾ oz. London dry gin (we used Plymouth Gin and Beefeater 24)

1/8 oz. French (dry) vermouth (we used Noilly Prat)

Stir well in a mixing glass with plenty of ice; strain into a chilled cocktail glass. Garnish with a couple of frozen Spanish cocktail onions or a chilled garlic onion. Hemingway sometimes garnished his Martini with a thinly sliced onion.

Jack Rose (found in The Sun Also Rises)

Greene’s book explains that the Jack Rose comes from mysterious origins. Some think it derives its name from its color, others think it was created by “Bald Jack” Rose, a gangster hit man from the early 1900s. Another story has it connected to a flower, the Général Jacqueminot Rose, named after one of Napoleon’s generals, Jean-François Jacqueminot. In another twist, Greene suspects the Jack Rose enjoyed in The Sun Also Rises is nothing like the standard recipe, but rather a version created by Harry MacElhone of Harry’s New York Bar in Paris (one of Hemingway’s haunts when he lived in Paris). But for that recipe, you’ll have to get his book.

2 oz. apple brandy (we used Laird’s Applejack)

½ oz. fresh lime juice or lemon juice

¼ oz. grenadine (we used Fee Brothers American Beauty Grenadine)

Shake well with ice; strain into a chilled cocktail glass. Garnish with a twist of lime or lemon peel.

Americano (Found in “The Good Lion”)

The Americano got its name from American tourists visiting Italy during Prohibition who were big fans the aperitif. Apparently, they had developed a taste for one of its ingredients, Campari, an Italian bitter. Campari was thought to have medicinal value and Americans took advantage of a loophole in Prohibition allowing for it to be prescribed as a form of “medicine” by doctors. Completely unrelated to Hemingway, Greene explains in his book that the Americano is actually the first cocktail to grace the lips of James Bond in Ian Fleming’s first 007 novel Casino Royale. Now there are TWO conversation starters the next time you fix an Americano for your guests!

1 oz. Campari

1 oz. Italian (sweet) vermouth (we used Martini brand vermouth)

1-2 oz. Perrier (to taste)

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

The Hemingway Gin and Tonic (found in “Islands in the Stream” and “The Denunciation”)

Quinine, which gives tonic water its distinctive flavor, was thought to help battle malaria and yellow fever. Greene’s book explains that “in India, British subjects would add a dose of quinine to their gin. This combination became popular in warm-weather climes, where such illnesses were common.” The addition of Angostura bitters gives the G&T a red tint, adding a bit of spice and a light, almost berry-like flavor as it interacts with the sweet tonic.

2 oz. London dry gin (we used Hendrick’s)

4 oz. tonic water

2 dashes Angostura bitters

Fill a tall glass with ice, add ingredients, stir, and garnish with a lime wedge or peel.

MOTAC wishes to thank the generosity of our sponsors, namely, Laird’s, Fee Brothers, Plymouth Gin, Beefeater 24 Gin, Hendrick’s Gin, Campari, Perrier, as well as our friends at Nike Communications, for providing Noilly Prat and Martini vermouth.

We would also like to thank Ruth Robbins, Program Coordinator of the Smithsonian Associates, as well as Scott Sedar for his dramatic readings. Additional thanks to Luke Johnson and Matt Keller for tending the event’s bar.  Thanks also to the great Smithsonian Associates volunteers!

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