Drinking Like Hemingway

It's not Ernest Hemingway's writing that influenced me. The style is still amazing, and even Hunter S. Thompson, who copied Hemingway manuscripts just to hear the rhythm of the words on his typewriter, wasn't fool enough to imitate it.

I won't emulate his legendary blood-sport bravado, either. After running with the bulls in Pamplona, I detected the animosity that local Basques have for the hordes of American dimestore Hemingways in gaudy look-at-me shirts, who fancy themselves "aficionados".

Ernest Hemingway has influenced my drinking habits. Not the quantity, of course, but the way the man made his cocktails.

It was difficult to mix a Hemingway Daiquiri, also known by its misnomer, the Papa Doble (uh, it's not a double). The rum is slightly sweet, the grapefruit juice mildly tart, with sour lime, sugar, and Luxardo Maraschino. Usually, I calibrate drinks to the nearest 1/4 ounce, but the taste of Maraschino is penetrating, and after trying 20 variations, I narrowed it down to a teaspoon.

The final result was delicious, but I couldn't rest, because there was an elephant on the bar--the recipe for the true Papa Doble, which cocktail writers usually gloss over, or list as apocryphal. A.E. Hotchner, a writer and drinking buddy of Hemingway's, observed one being made. "A Papa Doble was compounded of two and a half jiggers of Bacardi White Label Rum, the juice of two limes and half a grapefruit and six drops of maraschino," writes Hotchner.

Translated to American citrus, that's 3 3/4 ounces white rum, 2 ounces lime juice, 3 1/2 ounces Texas Rio grapefruit juice, with the six drops of maraschino for sweetener. I blended it with ice, and tasted.

Whoa. The Papa Doble shut down my face for a long 10 seconds, and put my tongue's sour buds on blast. The second taste wasn't much easier, but halfway through, I enjoyed it, and by the end, I preferred it.

Why so tart? Hemingway's father suffered diabetes, so Ernest simply avoided sugar in his drinks. Brilliant move, at any rate. Once your palate adjusts to a lower level of sweetness, the flavor of liquor and other ingredients take up the slack, usually resulting in a better cocktail.

I went through my menu of sixty-nine cocktails, removing sweetness wherever possible, but ironically, not so much from the Hemingway Daiquiri, just half of a teaspoon of simple syrup, as Maraschino keeps the tartness at bay. Thank you, Ernest Hemingway.

Hemingway Daiquiri

  • 2 ounces silver rum (Flor de Caña, not Bacardi)
  • 3/4 ounce lime juice
  • 1/2 ounce grapefruit juice
  • 1 teaspoon Luxardo Maraschino
  • 1/2 teaspoon simple syrup

For simple syrup, shake equal parts sugar and water (not Houston tap) in a jar, wait 5 minutes, shake again. No need to boil. Shake all ingredients with ice and strain into a glass with crushed ice. Garnish with nothing.

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John Kiely
Contact: John Kiely