I would not have been able to hang with Ernest Hemingway when it comes to drinking.
A few years ago I picked up a recipe book of Ernest Hemingway-inspired cocktails, To Have and Have Another. Some of the recipes are things that Hemingway is known to have enjoyed, other drinks are based on his work. The book is as much a biography of Hemingway’s love of alcohol as it is a recipe book; each recipe features a three or four page profile of Hemingway, his life, or his friends that relates to the recipe.
I made a drink out the book shortly after I bought the book, and nothing since. I honestly don’t even remember which drink it was that I made. Yet I’d still take the book off the shelf from time to time, flipping through it, reading a chapter here or there about Hemingway and his life.
Yesterday afternoon I went for a walk through Dallastown, five miles give or take. It was a nice day, bright but not hot, and when I returned to my apartment I sat outside in my Adirondack chair and set about enjoying the afternoon.
An idea occurred to me. “Perhaps,” I thought, “Ernest Hemingway would have had a drink on an afternoon such a this.”
I went to my kitchen, pulled To Have and Have Another off the shelf. I was limited, of course, to the alcohol I had on had — rum, scotch, beer, and cider. I quickly found a recipe that I could work with, one that Philip Greene, the author of To Have and Have Another, called the Josie Russell, named for a rum smuggling friend of Hemingway’s from the 1930s. Hemingway had the drink while at sea, and this seemed like exactly the kind of drink made for a sunny summer afternoon.
Rum? Check. Admiral Nelson‘s Spiced Rum.
Cider? Check. Graft Cider‘s Cloud City Amarillo District, which is also fermented with pineapple and lemon zest.
I got out a pitcher, mixed my ingredients, poured some of the cocktail into a beer goblet, and went outside to enjoy it in the sunshine.
“This is quite good!” I thought. It was sour with a kick of sweetness. It went down easily. You couldn’t even taste the alcohol in the drink.
I liked it. And I still had more in the pitcher.
I refilled my glass, went back outside, and enjoyed the drink in the summer afternoon.
My glass drained, I went back inside and poured out the last of the pitcher into my glass.
I resumed my seat outside and enjoyed the drink.
I finished the drink, took a deep breath, and decided the drink worked.
And then, five minutes later, the alcohol in the drink hit me all at once.
Of course it did. The cocktail “serves two or three.” And I’d had all three servings in half an hour, give or take.
Papa Hemingway, he could have taken that hit. Me? Not even a little. It knocked me on my bum, and I sat down on the couch inside and passed out for an afternoon nap.
The Josie Russell was a nice drink. I should have limited myself to just one drink, not all three.
And, on a tangential note, BBC Radio 3’s Sunday Feature just broadcast a program on Hemingway’s “The Killers” and the two film adaptations, one of them starring none other than Ronald Reagan in his last acting role. Worth listening to for Papa fans.