Drinking Your Way Through Hemingway's Fiction

Ernest Hemingway at the Finca Vigia, Cuba 1946
Ernest Hemingway at the Finca Vigia, Cuba 1946

Alcoholic drinks and Ernest Hemingway go together in his life and his writing. What did Papa actually drink in real life? You'd think with his tough guy image there would be a lot of whiskey and beer, but he had a penchant for cocktails. Despite what they may have you think at Sloppy Joe's in Key West, he didn't like a mojito or sweet drinks. He did like daiquiris, at least during his Islands in the Stream period. Supposedly, he downed 17 in one sitting at the El Floridita in Cuba.

You could write a bartender's guide to hsi drinks - and someone did. To Have and Have Another: A Hemingway Cocktail Companion (playing off of Papa's novel To Have and Have Not which was made into a film with Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall) is a kind of mixing manual for for Hemingway enthusiasts who might want to drink their way through his fiction along with the characters.

While reading Islands in the Stream, you can try the two recipes included for the Floridita's "E. Henmiway (sic) Special" and the "Papa Doble." Both are daiquiris minus the sugar. Thomas Hudson in that book also likes a gumlet.

Frederic in A Farewell to Arms liked a "civilized" martini. (1 3/4 oz. Gordon's gin to 1/8 oz. Noilly Prat vermouth)

In the Sun Also Rises, Jake goes with a Calvados-and-gin combo called a Jack Rose.

Nick Adam in the short stories like "Three Day Blow" drinks plain old whiskey, which, according to the guide, is probably scotch. Scotch and soda was a favorite of Hemingway. Bourbon doesn't show up in the fiction but EH drank some Old Forester in real life. Author Greene speculates that he "decided to leave bourbon to Faulkner."

There are plenty of boozy myths about Hemingway's drinking. Hemingway did not invent the Bloody Mary, though a story persists that it was a drink he favored because it hid the booze from "that bloody wife, Mary,'

And he liked the un-Hemingwayish White Lady (gin, Cointreau, lemon juice) and champagne and champagne cocktails (scotch & champagne).

The book is full of background on the various drinks, ingredients, their histories and the fictional or characters connected to them.

On this cold, winter day, I might just go on an armchair gondola ride in Venice with my imagined Italian countess and sip a few Negronis while rereading Across The River And Into The TreesAs straightforward as a Hemingway sentence - one part gin, one part sweet vermouth, and one part Campari, stir, and serve over ice.

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