Friday, November 9, 2012

To Have and Have Another

If you snuck inside my head to determine the prototype for The Best Book in the World According to Nick, you would determine two things, posthaste:

1.  Nick loves books
2.  Nick loves booze

With that knowledge in hand, you would conclude that the Best Book in the World According to Nick would - of course - combine these two things.  Then you'd write To Have And Have Another:  A Hemingway Cocktail Companion by Philip Greene.

The good news for me?  Philip Greene already wrote it.

Mr. Greene - co-founder of the Museum of the American Cocktail, mixologist, consultant on all things drink-related, and a descendant of the Peychaud family (of bitters fame) - has the knowledge and lineage to have written this paean to Hemingway and the boozy course he set with the publication of his first novel, The Sun Also Rises. 

From Chapter 8 of To Have And Have Another:

(Fine à l'eau)
2 oz. Cognac
4 oz. club soda

Combine all ingredients in a collins glass filled with ice.  Stir.

To Have And Have Another is remarkable - all the more so because David Wondrich writes the introduction, and if he hasn't gone and written the perfect apéritif for the meal that is Mr. Greene's book, I can't think of what would be better.

To completely enjoy To Have And Have Another, it helps of course if you already like Hemingway's books, but even if you don't, you'll be rewarded with the anecdotes, the back-stories, the pictures of beautiful women with their handsome men (like the photo of Jane Mason on page 45, the Jane Mason who, Mr. Greene lets us know, was described by a Hemingway friend as "one of the wildest, hairiest, most drinking, wenching, sexy superwomen in the world..." and was proud to be the model for Francis Macomber's wife in The Short Happy Life of Francis Macomber and if you haven't read this story we're not friends).

If we are friends and you haven't read the story - please?  For me?  Get to ye olde bookshoppe and purchase a collection of his stories.  Then we can still be friends and you can read the finest story dear old Hem ever penned.

What I'm trying to say is the book packs a wallop.  It talks about Hemingway, the man, the writer, the drinker, the womanizer, and - finally - the suicide.  But it also talks about the words - it celebrates the words.  And with Hemingway, it's so easy to forget the words - so easy to mimic the style and the cadence - when, in the final final, Hemingway at his best was one of our best.

Let's remember that.

To Have And Have Not begins each of its chapters with a drink and its recipe - in much the same way that I used to begin each entry in Drinks With Nick.  So there's the celebration of the words, there's the celebration of good drinks, and there's the celebration of how Hemingway incorporated food and drink into his works - so well did Hemingway do this that you could savor the meals and taste the drinks as you followed along the word-path that he had so carefully constructed.

Mr. Greene also devotes care to give the history of the drinks he describes - many of them created by Hemingway himself.  The Cuba Libre was invented - so the story goes - around the turn of the last century during the time that the US was helping Cuba gain its independence.  Coca Cola was extremely popular in the States, and there was so much rum sloshing around Cuba, that when our business and military interests brought Coke to Cuba's shores, the two were bound to meet - and the Cuba Libre came to be.

Hemingway describes the Cuba Libre in To Have and Have Not.  Greene presents that moment - when Harry Morgan enters Freddy's Bar to see the proprietor.  There's a tourist at the bar - Mrs. Laughton - and she's described none-too-fondly by Hemingway.  After Mr. Morgan and Mrs. Laughton briefly spar, Freddy intervenes.

What will you have? asked Freddy.
What's the lady drinking, Harry asked.
A Cuba Libre.
Then give me a straight whiskey.

And that's why I love Hemingway.  So - here's to him, here's to Philip Greene's To Have And Have Another, and here's to you.


2 oz. rum
4 oz. Coca Cola
Juice of 1/2 lime

Combine rum, Coca Cola and lime juice in a tall glass filled with ice.  Stir and garnish with lime wedge.