Ernest Hemingway (21 Jul 1899 – 2 July 1961) was, among other things, a war correspondant, bullfighting aficionado, American expatriate, novelist, cat-fancier, fisherman, sub-chaser, Pulitzer and Nobel Prize winner and, for our purposes here, a rather serious drinker. Ernest, or Papa, began drinking as a teenager in his cub reporter days and continued, unabated, throughout his life. Toward the end of his life he was reportedly drinking the equivalent of a quart of whiskey a day.
Over the years Hemingway drank pretty much anything and everything, and so did the characters of his novels. In fact it would be easily possible to write an entire bar tending guide just from the descriptions in his novels.1
This severely attenuated list includes recipes, as best as I can determine them, for some of his more famous cocktails:
Death in the Afternoon
This drink, named after Hemingway’s metaphysical treatise on bullfighting,2 was reportedly invented by Papa with “some Brits after a spot of nautical unpleasantness.” He contributed the recipe to a 1935 collection of celebrity recipes:
Death in the Gulf Stream
Charles Baker, in his 1939 classic The Gentleman’s Companion3 included this drink prepared for him by Papa during a Jan 1937 visit to the author in Key West. Hemingway described it as a “picker-upper” Baker writes: “It’s tartness and its bitterness are its chief charm.” In other words – a typical Hemingway cocktail.
There is a letter, supposedly written by Hemingway, on the wall at La Bodeguita del Medio, that says “Mi mojito en La Bodeguita, mi daiquiri en El Floridita.” Experts, however, doubt that Hemingway was much of a mojito drinker (a drink too sweet for his tastes), and may have never set foot in La Bodeguita. Nevertheless, here is the classic La Bodeguita recipe:
Hemingway ranked dry martini drinking somewhere between bullfighting and big-game hunting in his list of manly pursuits. Papa called this martini, which he drank at Harry’s Bar in Venice, the Montgomery, after Field Marshal Bernard Law Montgomery. The joke goes that Montgomery would not attack unless he had a 15:1 advantage in forces, which is what Papa thought the gin-to-vermouth ratio was in this drink. It reality it is closer to 10:1.
The El Flordita, under the legendary cantinero Constantino Ribalaigua Vert, became known as “La Catedral del Daiquiri.” The Papa Doble, Hemingways’s famous daiquiri, was essentially a double of the Flordita house drink, substituting Maraschino for sugar.
n = 5
Cocktails with added sugar: n = 0
1. Which, of course, has been done more than once, consult Google books or Amazon. For something a little more scholarly see: Olihant, Ashley Y. “Hemingway’s Mixed Drinks: An Examination of the Varied Representation of Alcohol Across the Author’s Canon.” Diss. U of North Carolina at Greensboro, 2007. Here is the pdf.
2. Hemingway, Ernest. Death in the Afternoon. New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1932.
3. Baker, Charles H. The Gentleman’s Companion (2 vol). New York: The Derrydale Press, 1939. If you have an original copy of this you have both my envy and congraulations.
4. Throughout Spanish-speaking Central America Yerba buena simply refers to the local species of mint. In Cuba this would be Mentha nemorosa Willd. (AKA foxtail mint, hairy mint, woolly mint, et. al.). which is rather sweet and citrus-like.
5. It should be noted that there is simply no substitute for the Maraschino (and best of luck in finding it).
1 Oct 2009, updated 28 May 2010 ‧ Lists & Tables