Monday, December 27, 2010



By Doc Lawrence

"I love to drink Martinis,
Two at the very most,
Three I'm under the table,
Four I'm under the host."
              Dorothy Parker

She loved Martinis, the original made with good gin and vermouth served in a Martini glass. Dorothy Parker, far and away one of America’s most gifted journalists, knew her way around the Manhattan cocktail crowd and somehow wrote brilliant pieces for The New Yorker while lifestyle copycats would have been immobilized. Her peers were no slouches.

It was Ernest Hemingway whose seemingly endless drinking provoked his friend Gertrude Stein to proclaim one of history’s most enduring lines: “You are all a lost generation.” Hemingway not only enjoyed good cocktails, preferring early on Absinthe and later on the Mojito, but he even invented one, the “Montgomery Martini.” Craig Boreth writes in his marvelously entertaining The Hemingway Cookbook:  Like James Bond with his Vesper, Hemingway, too, had his special martini: The Montgomery. Named after the World War II British General, Sir Bernard Law Montgomery, who would not attack unless he outnumbered the enemy fifteen to one, Hemingway's martini contains that same proportion of gin to vermouth. The Montgomery is a house special of Harry's Bar in Venice.”

Hemingway’s favorite ingredients, according to Boreth, were Gordon’s Gin and Noilly Prat Vermouth.

Ringing In 2011 With Love and Cocktails


You can, attests Jimmy Carter, Al Gore and Barrack Obama win the Nobel Prize without being a heavy drinker. But, winning it for accomplishments in literature suggests that Bourbon, whiskey and martinis are somehow on the trail global acclaim. William Faulkner, joined esteemed Nobel Laureates like Hemingway and the great South American novelist, Gabriel Garcia Marquez (One Hundred Years Of Solitude), by writing Southern classics accompanied by libations.

In Absalom, Absalom! one of  Faulkner’s masterpieces,  his characters  aren’t fueled with demon rum, although according to friends and family he absolutely wrote every word with a glass of Bourbon nearby.  Santiago, Hemingway’s character in The Old Man and the Sea isn’t propelled by alcohol either, but the author regularly was. A Hundred Year’s of Solitude doesn’t hinge at all on cocktails.

Not to sing the praises of cocktails beyond the pleasure of experience, a case, however, can be made that there is a spirits connection among some of the most accomplished writers and their enduring works.


It was a loose, often open-ended assemblage of writers who met regularly at the Algonquin Hotel in New York City including many prominent scribes and stars of the day like Dorothy Parker, Edna Ferber and Tallulah Bankhead. The cocktails were poured non-stop and many a good story was born during these marathon sessions.

What makes the Roundtable memorable, I think, is that the members, if not already successful were at the least emerging stars. The cocktails loosened their tongues, sharpened their wits and unleashed creative energy. It’s hard to imagine there was ever a dull moment.

With so many great writers and authors living in and around Atlanta (the biggest hit book so far on The New York Times fiction best seller list is The Help by Atlanta resident Kathryn Stockett), I wonder why there isn’t a local version of the Algonquin Roundtable, perhaps called the Peachtree Roundtable. The perfect place would almost have to be the Palm restaurant in Buckhead. The Palm’s ever-ebullient General Manager Willy Cellucci has the savoir-faire to accommodate such a motley group.

Author Margaret Mitchell drank martinis from Mason jars. She was famously successful and endearingly irreverent. Imagine opening a lunch meeting with a toast to Atlanta’s most renowned author and then engaging in all sorts of conversation for a few hours over libations. Would the next Margaret Mitchell or William Faulkner blossom from these hobnobs?

In social settings, cocktails play out much different than wine. I’ll go out on a limb and say that cocktails are a better fit in any gathering. People are not intimidated by ordering a martini. Or a Jack Daniel’s (Frank Sinatra’s favorite) on ice.

Why, asks Craig Boreth, has Hemingway remained the consummate drinking writer? “Because, for much of his life, he truly enjoyed drinking and it did help him to maintain his craft. The eventual devastation notwithstanding, the image of the smiling, boisterous Hemingway, drink in hand and surrounded by friends, is one of the lasting images he left behind. If we live in the moment, get caught up in his generosity and succumb to the charge he bestowed on a room upon entering, we may, with honor and respect, raise a glass to Ernest Hemingway and toast the good times. This may hint at another reason why the deleterious effects of drinking are often overlooked in Hemingway's case: he made it sound so damn intriguing.”

Meet me on New Year’s Eve at the watering hole. Bring along some good jokes and join the fun of living. To get everything going, let’s propose a toast once given by Oscar Wilde: “Work is the curse of the drinking class.”

No comments:

Post a Comment