Friday, July 18, 2008

Literary Libations

When one first thinks of writers and alcohol, it is hard-drinking Ernest Hemingway's weary visage that pops into view. Poor Hemingway, tormented by mental demons in an unfortunate era of shock treatment therapy, certainly drank in the same driven way he hunted, fished, attended bullfights and bar fights. His Havana days were spent well marinated in a variety of rum drinks, according to the entertaining and intriguingly-illustrated "Tropical Bar Book: Drinks and Stories", by Charles Schumann (NY: Stewart, Tabori and Chang, 1989).

Papa Hemingway apparently had certain drinks that he would only order at specific bars: Mojitos at the Bodeguita del Medio (lime juice, sugar, mint, crushed ice, white rum & soda water), and Daiquiris at La Floridita (crushed ice, lime and grapefruit juice, maraschino and white rum); the Daiquiris often ordered as doubles, hence the nickname "Papa Dobles".

Other tropical tipplers of literary note included the British ex pats that hung out at the Writers Bar in the Raffles Hotel at the turn of the century century Singapore, including Rudyard Kipling, Somerset Maugham, Joseph Conrad and Noel Coward. The Singapore Sling was invented at the Writers Bar, and according to the Tropical Bar Book, started out as a concoction of grenadine, gin, lemon juice and water. Present day recipes for the classic cocktail are significantly pinker and sweeter and include three liqueurs, gin, two juices and a dash of bitters. It does seem hard to imagine Kipling cozying up to the bar and slurping up one of these pastel potions through a pineapple and cherry garnished straw.

The Tropical Bar Book
features other snippets of author’s writings and drinking habits, including Graham Greene, Jane Bowles, and Malcolm Lowry, as well as an extensive collection of rum, tequila and other cocktail recipes, many of the author’s own devising. The topic of writers and their alcoholic fuels intrigues me so you can look for more Book Trout posts on this subject as future installments.

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