Books Have the Lowdown on Bottoms-Up

  • 8th May 2012

The classic cocktail is back, and it has tales to tell.

Often, those tales include the storytellers themselves. Alcoholic concoctions are legendary in the literary life: “You’re a rummy, but no more than most good writers are,” Ernest Hemingway is said to have told F. Scott Fitzgerald.

Readers who want to imbibe the heady lore, or learn to mix the drinks favoured by their favourites, will find plenty of inspiration in books about the art of the cocktail, whether they want to inhale a hot, steaming punch like Dickens, party like a 1930s flapper, or sip a gimlet, like detective Philip Marlowe in Raymond Chandler’s 1953 “The Long Goodbye.”

Marlowe’s gimlet, along with William Faulkner’s mint julep, Carson McCullers’ hot-tea concoction that was a precursor to the Long Island Ice Tea, and Fitzgerald’s Jazz-Age gin rickey, provide a few of the tales in “Hemingway & Bailey’s Bartending Guide” by Mark Bailey. Illustrator Edward Hemingway is Ernest’s grandson.

To get back directly to the source of Hemingway’s favorite, the daiquiri, readers can savor a reprint of the 1935 “Bar La Florida Cocktails.” Bar La Florida in Cuba, also called the Floridita, was where Papa drank the “Papa Doble” with friends including Spencer Tracy and Gary Cooper, Tennessee Williams, Ava Gardner and the Duke of Windsor. The Papa Hemingway Special was a daiquiri made with grapefruit juice.

Another retro reprint, Henry Craddock’s “The Savoy Cocktail Book,” was published in 1930. Craddock, the famous barman at the storied London hotel’s American Bar, left America because of prohibition, and is said to have invented the dry martini.

The recipes range from the topical (The Charlie Lindbergh Cocktail, the Coronation Cocktail, the nonalcoholic Clayton’s Temperance Cocktail) to the classics such as the Manhattan and the Sazarac, to the unusual, such as the Corn Popper.

For a true taste of Art Deco splendor, try Craddock’s invention the White Lady, with lemon juice, Cointreau and dry gin.

While some might date the popularity of the cocktail to the Jazz Age, it goes back quite a bit further. A New York newspaper had a discussion of “What is a cocktail?” in 1806. The first recipe guide might have been 1862’s “How to Mix Drinks; or, The Bon Vivant’s Companion,” which included that favorite of Dickens’ stories, the punch bowl.

In “Punch: The Delights (and Dangers) of the Flowing Bowl,” liquor historian David Wondrich celebrates the drink drunk by sailors in the 1600s, enjoyed as an old-fashioned tradition by Victorians like Dickens, and, according to Wondrich, making a comeback today as a cocktail alternative. Cheers.

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