Death in the Gulf Stream: an underappreciated Hemingway drink

Ernest Hemingway was born on July 21, 1899. Were he still alive, he would be celebrating his 109th birthday just as Tales of the Cocktail wraps up. No doubt he would mark the occasion with a drink, or several. It should come as no surprise then that Tales of the Cocktail will see a seminar on Ernest Hemingway – writer and drinker extraordinaire. Phil Greene, in a session entitled The Hemingway Bartender’s Companion, will introduce some of the mixed drinks associated with this prolific literary and cocktailian figure.

There is surely no other writer with the same number of drinks associated with them. From absinthe to vodka, if it contained alcohol Hemingway drank it, and chances were he wrote about it too. Of all the drinks Hemingway enjoyed, the Daiquiri is probably the one in which his spirit endures most strongly. I wrote a post on the Daiquiri and Hemingway here. The post includes some cool photos so check it out if you haven’t already. Of course there were many cocktails Hemingway enjoyed besides the Daiquiri. Martinis featured prominently. He was also partial to absinthe topped with champagne, a mixture he dubbed Death in the Afternoon.

Recently I obtained a copy of Charles H. Baker’s Jigger, Beaker and Glass: Drinking around the World. Flipping the pages I was surprised to find a drink called Ernest Hemingway’s Reviver, or Death in the Gulf Stream. Interestingly, Baker and Hemingway appear to have been friends. Baker introduces the recipe as follows:

One January 2 years back we took MARMION in a howling northeaster along with the, then, 4 year bride, a companion, and an insane steward, and pointed her down to Key West to get some receipts from Hemingway for the cookery book. We fished the Gulf Stream by day, and ate and drank and talked half the night. Even by the second day we were withering slightly on vine, and along with raw conch salad, or ‘souse’ listed in Volume I, we got Hemingway’s other picker-upper, and liked it.”

Both men spent time living in Florida so I guess it makes sense that they should have known one another. No doubt their mutual interest in drinking helped.

Baker mentions that before trying this drink he had an aversion to Genever, which he considered to taste like “fermented radishes mixed with spirits of turpentine”. As someone who traveled the world to gather cocktail recipes, Baker was obviously no slouch when it came to drinking. His feeling the worse for wear and needing a “picker-upper” after an evening with Hemingway therefore speaks volumes. Meanwhile, the fact that Hemingway’s “picker-upper” converted Baker on the matter of Genever confirms that Hemingway was more than your average boozer. Papa’s drinks were generally pretty damn good.

Death in the Gulf Stream

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Recipe follows:

Take a tall thin water tumbler and fill it with finely cracked ice. Lace this broken debris with 4 good purple dashes of Angostura, add the juice and crushed peel of 1 green lime, and fill glass almost full with Holland gin. . . . No sugar, no fancying. It’s strong, it’s bitter – but so is English ale strong and bitter, in many cases. We don’t add sugar to ale, and we don’t need sugar in a Death in the Gulf Stream - or at least not more than 1 tsp. It’s tartness and its bitterness are its chief charm. It is reviving and refreshing; cools the blood and inspires renewed interest in food, companions and life.

Given my recent experiments with Genever I was pleased to come across this recipe. I made the drink up and found it to resemble a citrusy and summery pink gin. The drink is refreshing, aromatic, and a little bitter, with the Genever providing malty body and a slight funk. This is a good drink for appreciating the character of Genever. London Dry will make an serviceable drink, but will lack the essence of the original. Use an Oude Style Genever if at all possible.

To build the drink to best effect I suggest proceeding as follows: fill the glass nearly full of crushed ice; add two or three dashes of Angostura; quarter the lime, squeeze the juice from the wedges directly into the glass and drop each spent wedge into the glass; add a dash of simple syrup (if desired); top off with Genever and stir everything up; finish with a little more ice and a final dash or two of Angostura. Made this way the final addition of bitters will create a lacework effect in the ice on the top of the finished drink. To me this seems a nice touch.

2 Responses to “Death in the Gulf Stream: an underappreciated Hemingway drink”

  1. The Mixology Lab » Blog Archive » Hemingway Week: The Dutch Miracle Says:

    [...] Death in the Gulf Stream -adapted from Charles H. Baker’s “Jigger, Beaker and Glass: Drinking around the World” and Seamus Harris  [...]

  2. The Charles H Baker collection « The London Cocktail Guide Says:

    [...] Daquiri [...]

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