Monday, November 05, 2012

Hemingway's love of drinking

This is an article found at Food Republic
By Chantal Martineau

You may have heard: Ernest Hemingway enjoyed a tipple or two. In fact, the iconic writer liked his drink so much that another writer, Philip Greene, was inspired to pen To Have and Have Another, a book about Hemingway’s drinking habits and the libations that wove their way into his works. When Greene is not reading or discussing Hemingway, he is stationed at the Pentagon, where he works as a trademark lawyer for the Marines. A longtime Hemingway buff, he became interested in cocktails while researching his ancestors in New Orleans, including one Antoine Amedee Peychaud, the pharmacist who invented Peychaud’s bitters. Eventually, Greene co-founded The Museum of the American Cocktail. His book answers, among other things, the burning question: was Papa really the boozehound he was so rumored to be?
  1. Hemingway was notoriously fond of drinking, but he refrained from indulging while writing
    When asked in an interview if rumors of him taking a pitcher of martinis to work every morning were true, he answered, “Jeezus Christ! Have you ever heard of anyone who drank while he worked? You’re thinking of Faulkner. 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?”
  2. The mojito was not Hemingway’s favorite drink
    Hemingway lived in Havana and may have drunk mojitos, but their connection to the writer can probably be traced to the marketing efforts of La Bodeguita del Medio. A handwritten inscription allegedly penned by Hemingway on the wall of the now famous bar professing his love for the cocktail is likely a forgery, says Greene, who consulted a handwriting expert. As a diabetic, Papa took most of his drinks (including absinthe and double daiquiris) without sugar. So, the sweet mojito surely would not have been his cup of tea.
  3. Hemingway had several go-to cocktails, but his favorite was a dry martini
    The author “thought globally... drank locally,” explains Greene. His characters often drank what he himself quaffed in whatever city he happened to be in while writing. But martinis were a constant, and each seemed drier than the last. In Across the River and Into the Trees, Colonel Richard Cantwell orders a Montgomery Martini: 15 parts gin to one vermouth. In A Farewell to Arms, Frederic Henry muses of sipping martinis: “I had never tasted anything so cool and clean. They made me feel civilized.”
  4. Hemingway may have liked his martinis as dry as a bone, but he loved vermouth
    While recuperating from his wounds during World War I, he would ask friends to smuggle bottles of it into his hospital room, writes Greene. Sound familiar? The A Farewell to Arms protagonist did the same: “I sent for the porter and when he came I told him in Italian to get me a bottle of Cinzano at the wine shop, a fiasco of chianti and the evening papers.” One of his favorite drinks aboard his boat Pilar was a Vermouth Panache, a blend of sweet and dry vermouth with Angostura Bitters.
  5. Hemingway liked his drinks icy cold
    In a letter he wrote to his publisher, he described using tennis ball cans to make dense tubes of ice for mixing martinis, and was known to freeze not only his cocktail glasses but Spanish cocktail onions to keep them cold. He bragged that the method made “the coldest martini in the world,” and described it as “so cold you can’t hold it in your hand. It sticks to the fingers.”
  6. Hemingway did not invent the Bloody Mary
    There are many stories about the origins of the Bloody Mary. One such legend has it that the drink was first served to Hemingway in Paris. As the story goes, his doctors had forbidden him from having alcohol and his wife, Mary, was holding him to it. A bartender at the Ritz mixed him the vodka-and-tomato juice drink, full of booze that could not be detected thanks to the other strong ingredients. Having got the better of his “bloody wife,” the cocktail was christened after her. A number of sources have debunked this myth.
  7. Hemingway traveled extensively, but was most at home on a barstool
    From his experiences in World War I and Lost Generation Paris to safaris in Africa and fishing the Gulf Stream, from covering the Spanish Civil War and World War II to chasing German U-boats off the Cuban coast, Hemingway’s life was one full of adventure, Greene reminds us. “Don’t bother with churches, government buildings or city squares,” Papa once said. “If you want to know about a culture, spend a night in its bars.” 

I think what I love about this is his sense of ritual. The making of ice from tennis ball cans; the freezing of cocktail onions and glasses. I'm sure he would have cared about the shape and size of the martini glass, the length of the stem. Comme moi.

There is such pleasure in rituals and for those of us who aren't religious (yet who may hypocritically enjoy a bit of churchy stuff like stained glass windows, Christ-on-cross paintings and beautiful hymns) we can also find them in drinking, eating, bathing, sleeping, organising our cans in the pantry and making sure all our coat-hangers face one way in the cupboard. If you can call it a ritual, maybe it's more socially acceptable. No I don't drink my vodka out of the bottle, I like a nice glass, look at me I'm civilised.


Mr E said...

Martini Making 101 part1:

Making the perfect Martini requires several days of careful planning and preparation. The recipe and methodology described below is the result of many years of in-depth research and consultation with experts in the field.

It is highly recommended that this recipe be followed to the letter.

Step one: The Glasses.

A cocktail is only as good as the glass in which it is served. You will be judged on the quality of glassware as much as for the quality of the beverage it contains.


1: Riedel Vinum XL Martini Glass 250ml @ ~ $AU 140 a pair.

2: Riedel Vinum Martini Glass

140ml @ ~ $US 49 a pair.

3: (BBQ option.) Stainless

Steel Martini Glasses.
250ml @ ~$US 36 for 4.

Don't even think about Plastic Glasses.

Step two: Ingredients.

Pay attention, this part is critical.

It has been bought my attention, that even now there are people out there who still believe the true Martini Is made with Gin. These people are generally either "World of Wooster" fans, dribbling idiots, or members of the British Royal family (excuse the tautology).

Serving anything but vodka will have a huge negative impact on your social standing.

Recommendations Vodka:

1: Imperia: A Russian Vodka, beautifully clean but a little hard to get hold of, although I believe that some but not all Dan Murphy's Stores stock it.

2: Grey Goose: This was my favourite until I discovered the joys of Imperia.

3: Absolut: a cheap and cheerful Swedish Vodka that comes in a funky aluminium bottle.

4: Stolichnaya; okay as a last resort and particularly good for cleaning engine parts the next day.

Recommendations Vermouth:

1: Noilly Prat.

2: Noilly Prat.

3: Noilly Prat.

4: Cinzano: Honestly, Mr Hemingway, what the fuck were you thinking? If anything that poor benighted wog waiter did you a big favour by bringing you a bottle of
Chianti and some newspapers, at least then you'd have something to drink and something to throw up on the next morning.Cinzano!, Get a grip man.

Recommendations Sundries:

It's beyond me why certain people insist on putting toothpick skewered olives or God forbid onions in their Martinis. Fucking Philistines.

1: Lemons: In my world, the Martini in its purest form, is what is referred to in the bar trade as "straight up with a twist", meaning no ice and a twist of lemon peel. Nothing more is needed.

Mr E said...

Martini Making 101 part2:

Step Three: Preliminary Planning.

This involves some maths and also assumes that you have purchased the necessary glassware. If you have chosen Glassware Option 1 or 3, you will need around 240 ml of Vodka per drink per person and it's important to realise that this is the equivalent of 7.9 Australian standard drinks. Glassware Option 2 requires around 135 ml per person per drink, equivalent to 4.3 Australian standard drinks.

The universally accepted rule for how many martinis is "Enough" is as follows:

One Martini: Enough.
Two Martinis: Not Enough.
Three Martinis: Enough
Four Martinis: Not Enough.
Five Martinis: Enough.
Six Martinis: Not Enough.


This information is only useful in calculating the total amount of Vodka required, in practice only a single bottle of Vermouth will be required.

The Vodka should be purchased well in advance and placed in the freezer compartment of your refrigerator at least three days before the event. The Vermouth should go into the refrigerator section at the same time.

The glasses should go into the freezer compartment a minimum of 24 hours before the event as a minimum.

Step Four: Final Assembly and Serving

Timing is everything here.

1: Using a Vegetable Peeler, peel 10 to 15 mm wide strips of lemon peel, taking care to keep them as thin as possible to avoid any of the lemon pith which will destroy
the flavour of the finished drink. You will need two slices of peel per drink.

2: Remove the glass from the freezer, making sure that wherever possible you handle it only by the base to avoid adding any heat to the business end of the glass.

3: Add around a tablespoon of vermouth to the glass and an swirl the vermouth around the glass until the entire inside surface is coated. Shake the glass over the sink to remove any excess Vermouth that remains.

4: Take one of the prepared lemon peel slices and applying firm pressure rub the cut side around the interior of the glass. The interior of the glass should now have a slightly milky appearance.

5: Remove Vodka from the freezer and fill glass to the desired level. Remember throughout this process it is imperative that the glass be handled only by the base. For best results, regardless of how me guess you have, it's best to prepare and serve no more than two at a time, time and temperature are the enemy here.


Special thanks to John at the Mermaid Bar in King's Cross and to Dave at the fabulous Prescott Hotel in San Francisco without whom these delights would not be possible,

Melba said...

OMFG Mr E. You are amazing. I had one tonight and I broke several rules:

1. I loaded up my toothpick with as many stuffed olives as I could get on there

2. I included too much vermouth.

3. I used a cocktail shaker

4. The vodka was only in the freezer for a couple of hours

5. The vermouth wasn't refrigerated

6. The glass wasn't prepared properly

But I achieved success in the following:

1. I got the measure right for the vodka - 240ml (4 x 60 ml jigger thing). Actually, no I didn't. I think the big end is 30ml and the small end 15ml. That makes more sense. I feel about 3.95 standard-drinks tipsy, not 7.9.

2. I didn't use a plastic glass

Next time I will try with a twist, will do the vermouth coating idea and forget the shaker. It did make it cloudy (maybe too much vermouth, I do like it very very dry) and lost that lovely oily appearance of vodka in a glass.

I think I'll still be tipsy for hours! Time for bed and thanks again for the lovely comments. Best I think I've had for a long time.

Melba said...

PS I've heard that thing: one martini enough, two not enough, but not that three are enough and four not enough. Makes sense. Also, I've had Grey Goose before, it's beautiful.

Will look up the Noilly Prat.

And cocktail onions PHILISTINES! But the olives, please, at least I can have the olives if I do everything else right?

Melba said...
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sarah toa said...

Great post Melba. I like hearing Old Hem anecdotes.
Suffering after a cup win today, so I may wait a while before trying the martini thing ...

Melba said...

Oooh congrats Sarah hope the win was decent. Yes the martini thing - anticipation is more than half of it, and the ritual.

Glad to know there are some Old Hem peeps still out there, he gets a bad rap (wrap) most of the time.

sarah toa said...

1. I know he is not so sexy these days, but
2. he is still a flawed genius, and
3. you should have seen that champagne bottle spin around on the dance floor after I dropped it, and
4. Green Moon paid for it.

Melba said...

Not so sexy but there's something about a flawed genius. I really think he didn't deserve all the negativity - but partly he was to blame for exaggerating the persona. So what if he had lots of wives - I don't know that he was horrifically adulterous - just a serial monogamist? Sure, he was unfaithful but only with his next wife. I can live with that. Have you read any bios on him? I think I prefer reading about him to reading him.

Did you kiss someone when the champers bottle stopped?

Mr E said...

It is not possible to be a genius and still conform to the social norms that determine whether or not you are "flawed".

I have had the immense privilege of meeting with and learning from some significant geniuses over the years and none of them could have been considered within broader social norms to be considered "flawless" quite the contrary in most cases.

That is the price they pay for being what they are.

Dog bless them .........

Anonymous said...

I don't know the origin of the term "flawed genius", but I always thought it was a literary term. Like, to remind writers not to make their "genius" characters fucking boring.

Of course real life geniuses are flawed. They're just like the rest of us.

Mr E said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Mr E said...

Of course real life geniuses are flawed. They're just like the rest of us.

Sorry Alex,

But no, they're not.

I've had the privilege of meeting men and women whose ability to concentrate on a particular problem are far beyond the powers of mere mortals and arrive at an answer, and they are NOT us.

Sure, all of us are flawed but all of us are NOT geniuses.

Anonymous said...

As someone who has not spent time with geniuses, this fills me with curiosity, Mr E (how could it not?).

Outside of their abilities, I imagine most (all?) of them would have personal and professional lives, and interactions with other people and the wider world. So when you say that they are outside the social norms that determine a person as "flawed" -- how d'ya mean? Is it that their "gift" tends to dominate/encompass all aspects of their life, and if so, is it much different from non-geniuses that are afflicted by fixations and obsessions (I have known some of them)? Is it a moral/philosophical thing, like a Nietzschean Ubermensch type deal? Is it something else entirely? Perhaps it's something obvious when observed but difficult to explain?

Mr E said...

Jesus Alex,

For somebody who likes to portray herself as a simple country girl you certainly don't take any prisoners when it comes to asking questions.

I've been thinking about how to answer your question on and off throughout the day since reading your post early this morning, it's a very challenging question and am having real problems coming up with an explanation that does justice to your question.

It's one of those sort of "all of the above" / "none of the above" situations, so going to have to do a little sifting, a little distillation.

All I have so far is a bunch of loosely linked observations over a period of years and this is the first time I have been forced to unravel the common threads try to arrive at a position approaching quidity.

Let me sleep on it.the

Mr E said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous said...

... I need to know right know.

... baby, baby ... hmm, hmm, hm-hm, hmmmmm ...

... ah, poor old Mr. Loaf; what the fuck happened?

Mr E, I'm a country girl who simply wants to know things. I've chatted to Melba about this before, but my one frustration with my own mortality is thinking about all the interesting things I'll die without knowing or understanding properly.

Seriously though, take your time. Better to have a good answer than a quick one. And honestly, I'm grateful to be getting any answer at all.

Melba said...

That's your only frustration about knowing you are mortal, Alex? I'll tell you now, there will be HEAPS of interesting things you won't know but maybe you can understand properly everything you know about. This I think is admirable and worthy.

Mr E is taking a while isn't he? Maybe tonight you'll get an answer after a couple of martinis? I'll be watching in the wings.

Anonymous said...

I'll tell you now, there will be HEAPS of interesting things you won't know

I know, I know. Doesn't it piss you off thinking about all the knowledge out there that you won't get time to cover, the secrets of the past, the secrets of the future, and all those things yet to be discovered?

.. and then there's all the stuff you think you know that's wrong ...

As much as anyone, I hate having people I care about die; but when it comes to my own death, that's really the only thing that sticks in my craw.

Mr E said...

Hi all,

As part of the process towards an answer, I focused on four individuals, all of whom possess intellects that have just blown me away.

Graham, Neville, John and Stig, all of them having brilliant intellects, strong similarities and equally strong divergences.

The only main commonality I've been able to establish between the four of them is about Passion. All four share equal levels of passion for both the things that they care about and the things that they don't care about.

Of the four, only one could be described as having a massive ego.

Of the four, only one and a half of them were able to make large sums of money.

Of the four, none of them gave a damn about money. It was all about the work.

Graham invented the multitrack tape recorder, only to have his invention stolen by an American company that went on to become world-famous and make millions, although it did have an impact on its relationship with his patent attorneys, it never made him bitter. In my entire life I've never met a kinder, more generous and open spirit. He was always happy to answer any question I put to him in and is much detail as I needed. Like all true men of intellect, he believed in passing that knowledge forward.

Neville is a person of enormous intellect, whose mathematical formula are used worldwide and is regarded as one of the foremost experts in this field. Very much the old school boffin, trousers belted firmly just below his rib cage. A serious man who doesn't suffer fools readily but again, like Graham, would enter any serious intelligent question in enormous detail, freely and fully. Like Graham he too is passed on his knowledge in furtherance of the craft without condition.

John was an expert in computer technology and robotics who built up a multi-million dollar business based on pioneering work in the field of computer graphic manipulation and motion picture robotics, earning himself a total of four Academy Awards. Anybody who's ever watched an episode of Star Trek has seen his work. I had the privilege of working with John on a number of very silly projects. When he sold his studio in East Hollywood for a very large sum of money, he moved to a small city in Washington state and set up an organisation designing and building teaching aids for intellectually and physically disabled children.

Stig was a very different kind of individual to all the above. Brilliant mind, no social skills whatsoever, very guarded of his intellectual property and the slave to his own ego. A hard person to get to know, when first announced my intention to try and visit him in Stockholm, most people said "forget it, he won't see you". But they were wrong. The first thing that struck me as he opened the front door were his green teeth and incredibly bad breath. He lived like a vampire, sleeping during the day, and emerging at night to conduct his bizarre experiments. Weird thing was that while his personal hygiene was way short of the mark his house was totally immaculate. A smallish two-storey cottage across the lake from the town hall bought for him from the proceeds of his brothers Nobel Prize, converted to one of the most sophisticated audio laboratories I've ever seen. I ended up spending several days with Stig and found him to be an almost unlimited source of contradiction. One night we were walking down to Stig's favourite restaurant in the old town when Stig pointed out an old church up the hill and said "that's my favourite church", when I pointed out the fact that in previous conversations I'd gathered an impression that he had no interest in religion he replied "I have no interest in God, I only go there so I can sing!". "So why don't you join a choir?" Asked I. "Because I have a horrible voice and in church it doesn't matter" he replied.

More to follow.

Melba said...

I am rapt this conversation is taking place on my blog. Looking forward to the next installment Mr E.

Anonymous said...

Sorry I did not respond sooner. Have been preoccupied this last week or so. A marvellous start Mr E. Really. I look forward to hearing more and will reserve further comment until I've had time for a good think about it.

Melba said...

I've been pondering Mr E's original statement that geniuses live outside the social measures that decide whether someone is flawed or not (or something like that.)

I knew a boy once who was probably just a very bright person, not a super genius. He was in Mensa, yes, and he couldn't function socially or in day to day live very well. I recently heard that he is now dead; this doesn't really mean much, many non-smart people die. I don't know what happened to him, it might have been cancer for all I know, but my first thought was either drugs or suicide, because he'd always found things so difficult.

This was a guy who I don't think was of the ilk that Mr E is talking about. So even when I could see that he couldn't be contained by societal parameters, maybe Mr E's real geniuses are just so far outside or above or whatever any sort of social compartmentalisation that functions to class people flawed or not.

Here's hoping he comes back with more of the story.

Anonymous said...

I had a cousin of some sort. I think he was either one of my grandparent's first-cousins or grandparent's first-cousin's children. That makes him a type of cousin, doesn't it? Bugger it, not important, I'm going with cousin.

Anyway, he was obsessed with mechanical things; tinkering, experimenting, building, inventing. He lived in a small town and worked as a mechanic and general handy-man/mr-fix-it. He had few interests outside his work and rarely left his home/workshop. Eventually it became a junkyard and he spent his later years in and out of gaol because the council kept trying to clean it up and he kept filling it up with shit. But he was no genius. Just a competent mechanic of average intelligence with an obsessive nature. Decades of single-mindedness did not yield anything exceptional; and certainly nobody thought of him as being outside any kind of social measures.

I've known a few people like that, some of them much worse; but I don't believe that's the sort of thing Mr E is talking about. I'm sure Mr E would have also met people like my cousin and there is, obviously, some difference in the way people like him and a person of true genius can be measured. I'm keen to understand that difference.