“No poems can please nor live long which are written by water-drinkers.”
Horace (65-8 B.C.)
On August 13, The Museum of the American Cocktail partnered with the Smithsonian Associates to present “Literary Libations,” presented by MOTAC co-founder Philip Greene. 160 participants were treated to tastings of cocktails featured by great authors such as Ernest Hemingway, Truman Capote, William Faulkner, Hunter Thompson, F. Scott Fitzgerald, and many more. Here are the literary links to the cocktails featured that night.
To start the audience off right, Greene presented the Vesper featured in Ian Fleming’s Casino Royale, which introduced to the world Britain’s most famous, fictional agent. While having dinner with CIA agent Felix Leiter, James Bond makes the following order:
“A dry martini,” [Bond] said. “One. In a deep champagne goblet.“
“Just a moment. Three measures of Gordon’s, one of vodka, half a measure of Kina Lillet. Shake it very well until it’s ice-cold, then add a large thin slice of lemon peel. Got it?“
“Certainly, monsieur.” The barman seemed pleased with the idea.
“Gosh, that’s certainly a drink,” said Leiter.
“Bond laughed. ‘When I’m…er…concentrating,“ he explained, “I never have more than one drink before dinner. But I do like that one to be large and very strong and very cold and very well-made. I hate small portions of anything, particularly when they taste bad. This drink’s my own invention. I’m going to patent it when I can think of a good name.’”
2 ¼ oz. Citadelle Gin
¾ oz. Skyy Vodka
1/3 oz. Lillet Blanc
Shake well with ice, strain into a chilled champagne goblet, garnish with lemon peel.
Greene went on to explain that the first cocktail Bond orders in “Casino Royale” is the Americano. But in Fleming’s 007 book From a View to a Kill, Fleming goes deeper into Bond’s affinity for the drink:
“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.”
The Americano Cocktail
1 oz. Campari
1 oz. Martini Sweet Vermouth
1-2 oz. Seltzer Water
Pour Campari and Vermouth into a highball glass filled with ice. Stir. Top with seltzer and garnish with an orange wedge or lemon twist.
Of course, you can’t talk about the Americano without also mentioning the Negroni. Enter General Pascal Olivier de Negroni, Count of Negroni (1829-1913). As the story goes…Around the same time that the Americano received its name, an Italian nobleman by the name of Count Camillo Negroni began frequenting the Bar Casoni in Florence. There, he asked the bartender, Fosco Scarselli, to liven up his Americano cocktail with a splash of gin in place of the seltzer water. And thus was born the Negroni.
And of course, James Bond was a fan. In Fleming’s “For Your Eyes Only” the Negroni is featured along with the creamy Brandy Alexander. In this scene, Bond was to meet another agent, one whom he’d never met before. Instead of relying on the standard identifiers, such as a flower in the lapel or a certain hat, this agent used a drink:
“James Bond felt the inspection. The same surreptitious examination had been going on since he had met the man two hours before at the rendezvous in the Excelsior bar. Bond had been told to look for a man with a heavy moustache who would be sitting by himself drinking an Alexander. Bond had been amused by this secret recognition signal. The creamy, feminine drink was so much cleverer than the folded newspaper, the flower in the buttonhole, the yellow gloves that were the hoary, slipshod call-signs between agents. It had also the great merit of being able to operate alone, without its owner. And Kristatos had started off with a little test. When Bond had come into the bar and looked round there had been perhaps twenty people in the room. None of them had a moustache. But on a corner table at the far side of the tall, discreet room, flanked by a saucer of olives and another of cashew nuts, stood the tall-stemmed glass of cream and vodka. Bond went straight over to the table, pulled out a chair and sat down.”
The waiter came. “Good evening, sir. Signor Kristatos is at the telephone.’”
Bond nodded. “A Negroni. With Gordon’s, please.”
The waiter walked back to the bar. “Negroni. Uno. Gordon’s.” . . .
There had been no handshake. These were old acquaintances. In the same line of business, probably. Something like import and export. The younger one looked American. No. Not with those clothes. English. . . .
The Negroni came. The two men sat back comfortably, each one satisfied that he had to do with a man in the same league.”
The Negroni Cocktail
1 oz. Hendrick’s Gin
1 oz. Campari
1 oz. Martini sweet vermouth
Pour gin, Campari and vermouth into a rocks glass filled with ice. Stir well, serve with an orange twist. Or strained into a cocktail glass.
Greene’s lively presentation also featured Raymond Chandler, author of the great Philip Marlowe detective novels The Big Sleep (1939), Farewell My Lovely (1940), and The Long Goodbye (1953), as well as the screenplays for the classic films “Strangers on a Train” (1951), and “Double Indemnity” (1944). Chandler was a fan of a good drink, being quoted as saying “Alcohol is like love. The first kiss is magic, the second is intimate, the third is routine. After that you take the girl’s clothes off.”
In The Long Goodbye, the Gimlet makes several cameo appearances, notably:
“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.”
Ernest Hemingway also wrote of the Gimlet in “Green Hills of Africa:”
“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.”
2 oz. Hendricks gin
1 oz. Rose’s Lime Juice
Shake on ice until well chilled. Strain into a cocktail glass. Garnish with a lime wedge or wheel.
Moving on, Greene featured the Bronx Cocktail, which was featured in F. Scott Fitzgerald’s novel This Side of Paradise.
“Have a drink?”
Wilson, ponderously diplomatic, reached over and slapped him on the back.
“You’ve had plenty, old boy.”
Amory eyed him dumbly until Wilson grew embarrassed under the scrutiny.
“Plenty, hell!” said Amory finally. “I haven’t had a drink to-day.”
Wilson looked incredulous.
“Have a drink or not?” cried Amory rudely.
Together they sought the bar.
“I’ll just take a Bronx.”
Eric Felton said “When W.E.B. Dubois wanted to draw a caricature of a “gentleman” in his 1940 book “Dusk of Dawn,” he described the man as having “good manners, Oxford accent and Brooks Brothers to-order clothes. He plays keen golf, smokes a rare weed and knows a Bronx cocktail from a Manhattan.“
The Bronx Cocktail
1 ½ oz. Citadelle Gin
½ oz Martini Sweet Vermouth
½ oz. Noilly Prat Dry Vermouth
½ oz. Orange Juice
Shake well and strain into a chilled cocktail glass.
Greene then discussed the Whiskey Sour. In a 1951 article in the St. Petersburg Times concerning Harry’s New York Bar in Paris, bar owner Harry MacElhone noted that he “missed the good old days when Hemingway and Fitzgerald were customers, and that ‘Hemingway could down 20 whiskey sours at once sitting and then go back to his hotel to work.’”
Greene then went to tell the story of an ill-fated road trip taken by Hemingway and Fitzgerald, from Lyon to Paris, during which a whole hell of a lot of literary drinking took place. It seems that Fitzgerald’s wife Zelda had cut the top off of their car, so when it rained, Hem and Scott got drenched. They checked into a hotel to “dry out,” only literally, of course, and when Scott became convinced he was gravely ill from exposure, Hemingway treated him with a course of Whiskey Sours.
The Whiskey Sour
1 1/2-2 oz. Wild Turkey Bourbon
½ oz. Fee Brothers Rock Candy Syrup
½ oz. fresh lemon juice
Shake well with ice, strain into a chilled cocktail glass.
In Walker Percy’s Love in the Ruins, the frothy Ramos Gin Fizz makes an appearance:
Trays pass. I begin to drink Ramos gin fizzes with one swallow. At one time I was allergic to egg white bit that was long ago. These drinks feel silky and benign. Waiters too are dressed as Santa. They grin sideways from their skewed Santa hoods and shout ‘Christmas gif!”
“I see Lola clearly, holding her gin fizz.
I am glad to see you,” says Lola, who is five feet nine and in her high heels looks me straight in the eye and says what she thinks.
“So am I,” I say, feeling a wonder that there should be such as thing as a six-foot woman who is glad to see me. Women are mythical creatures. They have no more connection with the ordinary run of things than do centaurs. I see her clearly, gin fizz in one hand, the other held against her sacrum, palm out, pushing herself rhythmically off the wall. Women! Music! Love! Life! Joy! Gin fizzes!
The Ramos Gin Fizz
1 ½ oz. Citadelle Gin
½ oz. fresh lemon juice
½ oz. fresh lime juice
1 tsp sugar or ½ oz. Fee Brothers Rock Candy Syrup
1 oz. half and half or cream
3 drops Fee Brothers Orange Flower Water
1 egg white (pasteurized optional)
Place ingredients in a shaker with cracked ice. Shake vigorously for 2-3 minutes. Strain into a chilled Delmonico or short Collins glass. Top off with 1-2 oz. seltzer water.
Special thanks go to our sponsors, Gruppo Campari/Skyy, for providing Campari, Wild Turkey Bourbon, and Skyy Vodka, to William Grant & Sons, for providing Hendrick’s Gin and Lillet Blanc, to Cognac Ferrand, for the delicious Citadelle Gin, to Fee Brothers, for their Rock Candy Syrup and Orange Flower Water, and to our friends at Nike Communications, for donating Noilly Prat Dry Vermouth and Martini Sweet Vermouth.
Along with the wonderful volunteers of the Smithsonian Associates we would also like to thank our volunteers Luke Johnson, Dave Lord and Matt Keller for their help in preparing the cocktails.