The Top 10 Literary Drinks
Alcohol and creative genius often go hand in hand. Or at least glass in hand.
Authors who enjoy a glass or two will often pass on the predilection to their creations. Sometimes, when a really iconic character is penned, their drink becomes a representation of them; think of Bond’s vodka Martini, or The Big Lebowski’s White Russian.
We’ve looked for some of the most iconic character-drink pairings, although sometimes the author is better known for their alcoholic affections than their characters, such as with Ernest Hemingway or Hunter S Thompson.
If you can think of some other good ones, let us know!
Ernest Hemingway: The Sun Also Rises: Jack Rose
Hemingway often wrote about real life events. Given drinking was very much a real life event for him (ever heard of the Hemingway Martini?), it crops up frequently in his novels.
The Sun Also Rises focuses on Jake Barnes and his love interest, Lady Brett Ashley. Barnes is a flawed character, in many ways, but is eminently likeable, as is the Jack Rose cocktail. Made with an ounce and a half of applejack brandy, half an ounce of lime juice (or lemon juice) and a half an ounce of grenadine, it risks being a little sickly sweet if the ratios aren’t right, but, when made well, is a thirst quenching and well balanced drink.
Graham Greene: Our Man in Havana: Daiquiri
In this dark comedy set in Havana, struggling vacuum salesman, Wormold, is approached to work for British Intelligence. Wormold, who finds nothing to report back to his new employers, starts making up episodes to keep him in a job.
The book highlights the ridiculousness of the British Intelligence services and the futility of many of their missions. Set in the tropical, fantastical and utterly un-European Cuba, Wormold cuts a likeable character, despite his numerous and evident flaws.
Life in Havana shares no parallels with the Europe of that time, and trying to recreate English mannerisms comes across as ridiculous and somewhat surreal, such as Wormold’s regular mid-morning Daiquiris (comparable possibly to a short sharp G&T that might be drunk in England before lunch).
Now that we mention it, mid-morning Daiquiris aren’t such a bad idea… Shame we don’t have the Cuban weather to match…
Daiquiri fact file:
The main ingredients for a Daiquiri are rum, lime juice, and sugar. First created in Santiago, Cuba, in 1900s, the Daiquiri made its way from continent to continent by boat.
Charles Dickens: Pickwick Papers: Punch
The Victorian English, for all their hot flushes at the slightest glimpse of a female ankle or – God forbid – an ill-gained glimpse of a plump and supple calf, were not shy of their drink.
Dickens, a keen chronicler of life in all its forms high and low in the country, was not oblivious to this, nor impartial to the occasional tipple himself, as are his characters in the light-hearted Pickwick Papers.
The characters’ favourite indulgence is Punch, a vague term that covered a multitude of variations on the basic rum and fruit juice base. The only indication Dickens gives as to how to make a good rum punch is to include lemons but “as little possible of the white coating between the peel and the fruit”, and also to remove half of the peel if the peel is likely to stand for more than three hours as it will add bitterness.
Other indications include flambéing the punch to marry the flavours.
“When Mr. Pickwick awoke next morning, there was not a symptom of rheumatism about him: which proves, as Mr. Bob Sawyer very justly observed, that there is nothing like hot punch in such cases: and that if ever hot punch did not fail to act as a preventative, it was merely because the patient fell into the vulgar error of not taking enough of it.”
Raymond Chandler: The Long Goodbye: Gimlet
The dark and self-loathing story is buoyed grimly along by the equally pessimistic protagonist, Philip Marlowe. Written when his wife was dying, it was never going to be a light-hearted foray into the joys of life. The story all starts with Marlowe nursing a drink and a dubious friendship in a bar in LA; a Gimlet to be more precise.
Simple and strong, the drink is everything the story and its characters aren’t, rather it’s much like an unreachable ideal that everyone in the book hopes for.
According to Marlowe, a Gimlet should be made with one half gin, one half Rose’s lime cordial, served with ice.
Gimlet trivia: the name “Gimlet” comes from one of two origins; firstly the boring tool used to make holes in the barrels where the gin was kept in order to make the drink; alternatively it’s named after the British Royal Navy Surgeon General Sir Thomas D. Gimlette, KCB (served 1879 to 1913) who encouraged the sailors to drink it in order to keep up their fruit intake to ward off scurvy.
F Scott Fitzgerald: The Great Gatsby: Mint Julep
The refreshing nature of the Mint Julep is perfectly aligned with the heat and torpor that prevail in FitzGerald’s Long Island summer in The Great Gatsby.
When Daisy Buchanan starts talking about a Mint Julep, suddenly readers everywhere will want to drop their book, and mix themselves a drink. Definitely a good thing for an author to be able to do. Another factor that makes the drink so appealing is the illicit nature of the drinks; don’t forget Prohibition was in full swing at that time.
“The notion originated with Daisy’s suggestion that we hire five bathrooms and take cold baths, and then assumed more tangible form as ‘a place to have a mint julep.’”
Ingredients: bourbon, mint, sugar and water. Muddle the mint with the sugar, and serve very cold.
Hunter S. Thompson: Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas: Singapore slings (with mezcal on the side and beer chasers)
This is one we DON’T recommend you try at home, kids. Well, not the full complement of Singapore Slings with mezcal and beer chasers.
Hunter S. Thompson didn’t do moderation. Not one little bit. Nor did his characters. Given their multifarious tastes in drugs and alcohol, their choice of a specific drink is most likely quite arbitrary, but the scene where they drink them tends to stick in the memory;
“We had actually been sitting there in the Polo Lounge – for many hours – drinking Singapore Slings with mescal on the side and beer chasers. And when the call came, I was ready. The Dwarf approached our table cautiously, as I recall, and when he handed me the pink telephone I said nothing, merely listened.”
As we mentioned before, Thompson’s characters are prolific drinkers, and the Singapore Sling is but one of their libations on their trip; for a start the quart of Tequila, a quart of rum, a case of Budweiser, and a pint of raw ether, among a “whole galaxy of uppers, downers, laughers, screamers” and other substances in the boot of their car as they set off.
To recreate the pool-side scene exactly would probably prove too much of a challenge, so we’ll settle with just recreating the drink (if you’ve got a poolside – and weather to match – where you can drink this, we’d rather not know as we’ll be consumed with envy. Less so if you have a dwarf with a pink telephone).
2 parts gin
1 part cherry brandy
0.5 parts Benedictine
0.5 parts lemon juice
Top with pineapple juice
Shake well for foamy top.
Ian Fleming: James Bond: Vesper Martini, the first drink Fleming has Bond order
Most of you probably assumed we would go for the obvious vodka Martini, shaken but not stirred for this one. Just to keep you on your toes, however, we thought we’d go for the first drink Fleming ever has Bond order; the Vesper Martini. Unlike his usual, this Martini includes both gin and vodka (Bond preferred rye to potato vodka for the drink).
Here’s the passage where he first orders one:
“A dry martini,” [Bond] said. “One. In a deep Champagne goblet.”
“Just a moment. Three measures of Gordon’s, one of vodka, half a measure of Kina Lillet. Shake it very well until it’s ice-cold, then add a large thin slice of lemon peel. Got it?”
“Certainly, monsieur.” The barman seemed pleased with the idea.
“Gosh, that’s certainly a drink,” said Leiter.
Bond laughed. “When I’m…er…concentrating,” he explained, “I never have more than one drink before dinner. But I do like that one to be large and very strong and very cold and very well-made. I hate small portions of anything, particularly when they taste bad. This drink’s my own invention. I’m going to patent it when I can think of a good name.”
Truman Capote: Breakfast at Tiffany’s: Holly’s Martini
As one of the most instantly recognisable and iconic characters ever, Capote’s Holly Golightly is as good a lead as any in terms of drink recommendations.
Not only is everything about her tasteful to the nth degree, but she also knows how to party, so it’s a fair guess that her favourite tipple will be a good one. As it happens, she’s a fan of a vodka/gin Martini with nothing else, a drink Joe Bell the barman calls a White Angel. Sounds pretty good to us!
Agatha Christie: Hercule Poirot: Crème de menthe
Clearly alcohol can’t be that bad for you if the eminent detective M. Poirot treats his petites cellules grises to a glass of crème de menthe or syrop de cassis from time to time (not to mention the interminable bottles of Champagne with lunch and dinner).
While Poirot’s actor might change from Sir Peter Ustinov to John Moffatt, Albert Finney, Sir Ian Holm, Tony Randall, Alfred Molina and David Suchet, the predilection for crème de menthe remains.
Kingsley Amis: Lucky Jim: anything with alcohol in it.
See also Everyday Drinking.
Lucky Jim Dixon and Kingsley Amis had a lot in common. This is not particularly surprising given the former was the brain child of the latter. One of the major similarities is their attitude to drinking, which is to drink indiscriminately. When pushed to name a cocktail, he came up with (unsurprisingly) the Lucky Jim — 12 to 15 parts vodka to one part vermouth with two parts cucumber juice.
Realising this is less of a drink recommendation based on a literary character, we feel that Kingsley Amis definitely deserves a mention in the literature/drink world, especially thanks to his highly entertaining book Everyday Drinking. Read it. You won’t be disappointed.