Monday, July 26, 2010

The Hemingway Way

At long last, the news you have been waiting for has arrived: this year's winner of the Ernest Hemingway look-alike contest has been named. That's right, folks... the annual Hemingway Days festival has wound to a close, and as such we finally get to find out which paunchy, bearded schlub gets to don the mantle of the great author/sportsman/masculine icon. Ladies and gentlemen, say hello to Charles Bicht, construction project manager from Vero Beach, who shall henceforth be known as the 30th Incarnation of the Papa.

"That f*cker doesn't look a thing like me."

As a big fan of Hemingway I'm going to go out on a limb here and say that having these late-middle-aged guys don khaki suits and engage in a wacky faux-Running of the Bulls on the streets of Key West doesn't really capture what the big guy was all about. Nonetheless, it's all in good fun, and in the spirit of honoring a remarkable man, let's focus on the positive: this provides us with the perfect occasion to run down some of the highlights of what we (and our food-blogging friends at A Plum By Any Other Name) like to call The Hemingway Way.

The Hair

Helps keep you warm when facing The Snows Of Kilimanjaro.
We'll warm up with something easy.  Since we're on the topic of beards, the always-excellent Kempt blog took this opportunity to post a feature on how to grow an appropriately Hemingway-esque beard. Let's be honest here: this post essentially boils down to "let your facial hair grow, until it grows long enough, and then eventually cut it." We'll let it slide this time, because honestly, that is a truly epic beard and it deserves to be featured.

The Style

You know who else has a simple, iconic style?

Hemingway's fashion sense is as iconic as it is simple. Even better, it couldn't be more suited to the current vintage trend that still is showing no signs of petering out (trust me on this one: it'll keep going until the economy rebounds). One word: khaki. Khaki pants, khaki safari suits, khaki shorts, you get the idea. The man also seemed to like white shirts an awful lot. I suspect that many of them were linen.

Bonus style points awarded for fish size.

Oh, and if you spend a lot of time on a boat, count on it getting cold from time to time. You'll need a good sweater to prevent hypothermia during those long nights trying to land that giant marlin. I suspect you'll be seeing some candidates as the Fall '10 lines roll out.

He can pull off a turtleneck. You... maybe.

Finally, in an interesting development, his estate has gone into the shoe business of late. The newly formed Ernest Hemingway Footwear Company purports to have sent their designers to study Hemingway's own closets and produce a line of shoes in his characteristic style, to be hand-sewn by the honest, simple, hard-working indigenous peoples of... wherever (El Salvador, in this case). Shoes won't hit the market until Fall '10 and are aimed towards the upscale market, but so far it looks like a pretty nifty and timely collection of mocs, boat shoes, and loafers with some interesting details (like American Bison hide on some pairs).

The Madrid loafer features a mini-lugged outsole for improved traction during bullfights.

The Booze

Whew, finally we made it down to the really important part. It's no secret that Hemingway was a heroic drinker. To wit:

Don't you drink? I notice you speak slightingly of the bottle. I have drunk since I was fifteen and few things have given me more pleasure. When you work hard all day with your head and know you must work again the next day what else can change your ideas and make them run on a different plane like whisky? When you are cold and wet what else can warm you? Before an attack who can say anything that gives you the momentary well-being that rum does?... The only time it isn't good for you is when you write or when you fight. You have to do that cold. But it always helps my shooting. Modern life, too, is often a mechanical oppression and liquor is the only mechanical relief.
                  -Postscript to letter to critic, poet and translator Ivan Kashkin (19 August 1935)

Cocktail guru David Wondrich summarizes the situation nicely in his Esquire write-up of a particular Hemingway fave: the Scotch & Lime. The man really, really liked to drink. A lot. And had a lot of favorite drinks. There's one drink, however, that stands out as being especially associated with him: The Hemingway Daiquiri. Now, if you don't know that much about rum cocktails, allow us to direct you towards RumDood. Sure, the name is... inelegant, but when you need to know about rum, he's the one you go to, much in the same way that you go to Mr. Goodwrench if you want car repairs or Mr. Clean if you want a shiny floor. The man IS rum. We can't outdo his fantastic treatise on the Hemingway Daiquiri.

He drank an awful lot, which may help explain the fringed vest.

Suffice it to say, this isn't the typical blended strawberry-and-guava concoction that you're used to sipping while lounging in your in-pool beach chair at the all-inclusive resort. This is a serious cocktail.

Recipe: The Hemingway Daiquiri
  • 2 oz. white rum
  • ½ oz. fresh lime juice
  • ½ oz. grapefruit juice
  • 1 tsp. Maraschino liqueur
  • 1 tsp. sugar
 Shake with ice and strain into cocktail glass. Serve frappe-style (fill glass with crushed ice).


However, as RumDood notes - there's not much evidence that the so-called "Hemingway Daiquiri" is actually the version of the drink that Hemingway liked. According to the definitive history of rum cocktails, he's been quoted as having preferred a daiquiri with no sugar and with double the rum: the (in)famous Papa Doble. Now mind you, most places you look will just refer to these two drinks interchangeably.  You know better. A mere two ounces of rum is NOT going to cut it as a double-portion drink. The problem is that there IS no accepted recipe for a Papa Doble. We took a logical approach and reasoned that if Hemingway liked the Scotch & Lime, he's okay with omitting some of the extraneous ingredients. Since there is no canonical source stating that he liked the Maraschino, we recommend that it be served this way:

Recipe: Papa Doble
  • 4 oz. white rum
  • 1 oz. fresh lime juice (or ½ oz. fresh lime juice & ½ oz. grapefruit juice)
  • 1 tsp. Maraschino liqueur (optional)
 Shake with ice and strain into cocktail glass. Serve frappe-style (fill glass with crushed ice).

Be warned: this will either grow you a beard or burn yours clean off. You better like rum if you mix it this way. In terms of choosing a white rum, our current favorite is Rhum Barbancourt. The rum itself is pretty good, but more importantly, it's one of the few lucrative exports of Haiti and the country needs all the help it can get.

Bottled by the honest, simple, hard-working indigenous peoples of... Haiti.

The Homage

We'll wrap up by noting that wearing the right shoes or drinking the right drink doesn't bring you any closer to Hemingway than winning the look-alike contest means that Charlie Bicht is now going to win a Nobel Prize for Literature. Hemingway was an original badass - if you don't read at least some of his writing, you'll never get it. I recommend starting with The Old Man and the Sea and taking it from there. To see how the legend lives on today, look no further than Dos Equis' inspired Most Interesting Man in the World ad campaign. We'll end with this inspiring interview and a quote that we think Hemingway would have approved of: "Any day above cement is a good one."

"I don't always drink beer, but when I do..."



  1. I think we are on our way by starting with 3 ounces of rum per drink. After all, it was a Monday. (But don't let Papa Doble hear me say that) Outstanding homage. Though, I feel I should be typing on a typewriter and not a mac.

    Looking forward to hearing more about the man behind the rum ... oh yes, and also many, many classics. Bravo M.K.O.R.. Welcome back.

  2. You are the wind beneath my wings, Plumby. Stay tuned for more Hemingway cocktail posts... Until then, make mine a Doble.