Ernest Hemingway was Everyman’s wine and spirits lover


“As I ate the oysters with their strong sea taste and slight metallic taste that the cold white wine took away, leaving only the taste of the sea and the succulent texture, and I drank their cold liquid from each shell and sprinkled it with the crunchy taste of wine, I lost the feeling of emptiness and started to be happy and to plan. ” –A mobile party(1964)

The greatest gifts in life to Ernest Hemingway were his appetite and being born into a century that allowed him to indulge in it. No one has traveled further or immersed themselves so deeply in the culture of a place, learning the language on the streets, so that they can say with certainty: “If a man makes up a story, it will be. true in proportion to how much knowledge of life he has and how conscientious he is. “

Hemingway knew all the cafes in Pamplona, ​​all the hotels worth a visit in Switzerland, all the concierges in Paris, the perfect recipe for a Bloody Mary (which he says he introduced in Hong Kong in 1941) and the price of eggs. of marlin in the markets of Havana. . His page-by-page descriptions of the meals, wines, and spirits he and his fictional characters consumed were so exquisitely crafted that they became quintessential moments readers have always sought to conjure up in one place.

He knew a great deal about wine, which he called “one of the most civilized things in the world and one of the natural things in the world which has been brought to the greatest perfection, and he offers a greater range of things. pleasure and appreciation than possibly anything else purely sensory that can be purchased. ” He had incredible ability without getting drunk, although he did so often, and he could write descriptions with great accuracy of drinks like the sugar-free iced daiquiri at La Floridita bar in Havana: “The smoothie part of the drink.” was like the wake of a ship and the clear part was the look of water when the bow cut it when you were in shallow water on a marly bottom. It was almost the exact color. “He held the official record for the most daiquiris (which he liked without sugar) at La Floridita.

He liked his Martinis made with 15 parts of gin and one of dry vermouth, a mixture he called a “Montgomery” after the British Field Marshall, who liked to outnumber his enemy before attacking. Hemingway preferred Russian vodka, Gordon gin, and Bacardi rum, and called deusico, a Turkish coffee he tried in Constantinople, an “extremely poisonous drink that rots the stomach”.

As an ambulance driver in Italy during World War I, he drank cheap wine, writing: “At a retreat we drink barbera. Decades later, staying at the Gritti Palace in Venice, he enjoyed Valpolicella and drank it frequently with his friend Giuseppe Cipriani, owner of Harry’s Bar there. He discovered French wines while he was a correspondent in Paris, taking advantage of Montparnasse cafes like La Rotonde, La Cloiserie des Lilas and Lipp. In addition to good champagne, his taste fell on cheap and plentiful red wines like Cahors, of which he said: “If I had all the money in the world, I would drink Cahors and water. Likewise, Chablis was an inexpensive white wine at the time, and he liked it with lunch sandwiches, but he did not consider Châteauneuf-du-Pape “a lunch wine”. Her favorite rosé was Tavel. He was, however, duly impressed when a waiter from Madrid brought him a bottle of Château Mouton-Rothschild 1906.

After Hemingway started making a lot of money from his writings, he stayed at the two hotels that are still among the best in Paris: the Ritz and the Crillon. During his posting in 1944 to Collier’s, Hemingway and a group of GIs “liberate” the Ritz on Place Vendôme, emptying a pocket of German soldiers and celebrating by commanding 50 Martinis. After the war, he frequented the Ritz’s “Little Bar”, since enlarged and renamed “The Hemingway Bar”, where bartender Colin Field still keeps Papa’s memory etched and where they play old 78 rpm records on the phonograph.

Hemingway craved the glamor of the Ritz, which opened just a year before his birth, recalling the unadulterated fun he took “always to have.” [sic] at least two bottles of Perrier Jouet in the ice bucket and old Kraut Marlene [Dietrich] always ready to come in and sit with you while you shave.

But when Hemingway just wanted to meet some friends for a drink, he headed, like any American since 1919, to Harry’s New York Bar at 5 Rue Daunou (printed on the window, for the benefit of Americans, like “SANK ROO DOE NOO “). Adorned with American college pennants, this birthplace of the Bloody Mary (as the “Red Snapper”) was where Hemingway once dragged a former welterweight and his defecating pet lion down the street to have bothered customers.

Of course, Hemingway was the happiest in Madrid, and his spirit is palpable in this great city. Walk up Palace Street to Plaza Santa Ana and you’ll find one of Papa’s favorite tapas bars, Cerveceria Alemana, decorated with photos of famous bullfighters he knew well. Papa drank with them, gulping down a platter of Iberian ham, boiled prawns with mayonnaise and a salad of crispy potatoes, fried calamari in vinegar, and drizzled it with white mugs of Mahou beer. Cerveceria Alemana remains like that, sloppy, fast, unforgettable. His favorite Madrid restaurant was the old Botin, where he said he had already eaten the wonderful roast suckling pig with “three bottles of Rioja alta”. Botin, too, is as popular and reliable as ever, though now packed with tourists still drawn to Hemingway’s recommendation.

Alcohol was the fuel of Hemingway but also of his enemy; he endured periods of drunkenness and periods of abstinence. In Cuba and Florida he would get up early in the morning, write until noon (unless he was fishing or hunting underwater on his boat, Pillar) and only started drinking in the early evening with dinner. Barely a page of Hemingway is turned without reference to his drinking characters, but it was a time when drinking was standard behavior among Americans overseas.

Sometimes he drank just to drink, but in his prose no one wrote better about the pleasures of fine wine and fine spirits.


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