Hemingway & Bailey's Bartending Guide to Great American Writers (3 page)

BOOK: Hemingway & Bailey's Bartending Guide to Great American Writers


In his novel
Tell Me How Long the Train’s Been Gone,
Baldwin’s young protagonist Leo takes one of his first drinks ever—whiskey with ginger ale. The Shandy Gaff is beer with ginger ale. Originally created in Great Britain, Shandies have been around since the late 1800s.

8 oz. lager beer or amber ale

8 oz. ginger ale soda

Pour beer into a chilled beer mug, add ginger ale.

Tell Me How Long the Train’s Been Gone,

the drinks. I wasn’t really permitted to drink, and, luckily, in those days, I didn’t like to drink; but this prohibition, like all of my parents’ prohibitions, was rendered a dead letter by the fact that my parents knew very well that I did whatever I wished, outside. Now, my mother said, “I’m making yours real weak, Leo,” and handed me a glass of ginger ale only very faintly colored by whiskey. “That’s just so you can feel part of the family,” she said, and handed drinks to my father and Caleb and sat down. Caleb and our father looked at each other, but neither of them smiled. I drank my ginger ale. I thought of a girl I knew. I tried to think of everything but the room I was in, and the people I was with.

Djuna Barnes

“I’ve wrestled with tigers until my nightdress was soaking wet, that is, struggling not to take a drink.”

Sharp-tongued and independent-minded, Barnes was a fixture on the Left Bank and a force to be reckoned with. Peggy Guggenheim claimed she averaged a bottle of whiskey a day. Walter Winchell said he saw her hit a spittoon from thirty feet away. Barnes enjoyed her lovers too, men and women alike. She must have packed in more than enough during her nights at Le Dome, Hotel Jacob, and the Dingo, because when she returned to the States, she spent the next forty-odd years as a recluse. Even a drunk Carson McCullers, who’d come around to pay homage at Barnes’s West Village apartment, was left to cry on the doorstep.


1892–1982. Playwright, journalist, novelist, illustrator, and short-story writer. Openly gay, Barnes was a key figure in 1920s and 1930s bohemian Paris. Her second novel,
with an introduction by T. S. Eliot, was noted both for its structure and candid portrayal of lesbianism. The book is considered Barnes’s masterpiece.


Popular in Paris between the wars, the French 75 was named after the World War I French-made 75mm howitzer. These were the years Barnes was living and drinking on the Left Bank and, from all accounts, a real pistol herself.

2 oz. gin

¾ oz. lemon juice

¾ oz. simple syrup

Top with champagne

Lemon twist

Pour gin, lemon, and simple syrup into a cocktail shaker filled with ice cubes. Shake well. Strain into a Collins glass filled with ice cubes. Top with champagne. Garnish with lemon twist. Often cognac is used instead of gin.


. I kept on walking. I was cold, and I was not miserable any more. She caught me by the shoulder and went against me, grinning. She stumbled and I held her, and she said, seeing a poor wretched beggar of a whore, ‘Give her some money, all of it!’ She threw the francs into the street and bent down over the filthy baggage and began stroking her hair, gray with the dust of years, saying, ‘They are all God-forsaken, and you most of all, because they don’t want you to have your happiness. They don’t want you to drink. Well, here, drink! I give you money and permission.’”

Robert Benchley

“Drinking makes such fools of people, and people are such fools to begin with, that it’s compounding a felony.”

Initially a supporter of Prohibition, Benchley did not have his first drink until he was thirty-one. This was at Tony Soma’s, in the company of Zelda and F. Scott Fitzgerald, Dorothy Parker, and Robert Sherwood. Decades (and countless drinks) later, Benchley and Fitzgerald found themselves together one afternoon at Benchley’s bungalow in Hollywood. Checking his watch, Benchley noticed that it was five o’clock and that the “small wagon” he was then on allowed for drinks after five. He insisted on stirring up a pitcher of cocktails. Fitzgerald, who at the time was on the wagon completely, tried to talk Benchley out of it. “Don’t you know drinking is slow death?” said Fitzgerald. To which, Benchley took a sip and replied, “So who’s in a hurry?”


1889–1945. Drama critic, humorist, newspaper columnist, and actor. A founding member of the Algonquin Round Table, Benchley was drama critic for
The New Yorker
for more than ten years. He wrote and acted in forty-six short films, including the Academy Award–winner
How to Sleep.


The Orange Blossom was the first cocktail Benchley ever tasted. Basically a Screwdriver with gin, the drink was a favorite long before vodka was king. There is a story of Zelda Fitzgerald drinking a thermos of Blossoms and getting lost on a golf course in Great Neck, but then there are a lot of stories about Zelda.

2 oz. gin

1½ oz. fresh orange juice

¼ oz. simple syrup

Orange wheel

Pour all ingredients into a cocktail shaker filled with ice cubes. Shake well. Strain into a chilled cocktail glass. Garnish with orange wheel.

From “Cocktail Hour,” 1938

who run tea-rooms not to put signs reading “Cocktail Hour” in the windows of their tea-shops at two o’clock in the afternoon. Two
is not “cocktail hour,” no matter how you look at it. The very suggestion is terrifying.

How would you like to be walking along a perfectly normal street, with the hot sun beating down on your new straw hat and a rather heavy corned-beef-hash-with-poached-egg from luncheon keeping step with you, and suddenly to look up and see, pasted on the window of a tea-shop, a sign reading “Cocktail Hour”? I am just putting the question to you as man to man.

If two
is “cocktail hour” in a tea-shop, what do you suppose four-thirty
is? No wonder those shops close early. By nine they would be a shambles.

John Berryman

“When not knitting or drinking, I often waste my time.”

After drinking copious amounts of alcohol, Berryman would be seized by the desire to recite his work. Often this meant late-night phone calls to anyone who would listen, sometimes even his students. In the South of France one time, after an all-night bender, he had difficulty finding an audience. He wished to recite the “Bradstreet” poem, his master-work. As it was five o’clock on Sunday morning, he had to settle for a French baker who’d just come to work. It was quite a recital—the sun rising, the bread rising, and Berryman nearing collapse. Unfortunately, the baker did not understand English.


1914–1972. Poet. One of the founders of the confessional school of poetry.
The Dream Songs
collection is considered Berryman’s most important work. The first volume,
77 Dream Songs,
was awarded the Pulitzer Prize; the second,
His Toy, His Dream, His Rest,
won the National Book Award.


The Bronx Cocktail was invented at the Waldorf Astoria by a bartender just returning from the recently opened Bronx Zoo. Apparently, he felt there was little difference between his bar and the zoo. Given the stories about Berryman, an avid gin drinker, it is easy to understand why. Too many Bronx Cocktails can turn anyone into a wild animal.

2 oz. gin

½ oz. dry vermouth

½ oz. sweet vermouth

1 oz. fresh orange juice

Pour all ingredients into a cocktail shaker filled with ice cubes. Shake well. Strain into a chilled cocktail glass.

For a sweeter version, omit the dry vermouth and increase the sweet vermouth to 1 ounce. And if you add a dash of Angostura bitters, the cocktail becomes an Income Tax Cocktail.

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