Sunday, September 01, 2013

The Hemingway Special is My Favourite Mixed Drink; Here's a Step-By-Step Guide to Making One

"Courage," Ernest Hemingway once wrote, "is grace under pressure." And then, of course, he shot himself.

Hello and welcome back to Slurpees and Murder, here on this glorious Labour Day Weekend! Everything's coming together just so: the sun is shining, the Blue Bombers are embarrassing themselves again playing, and we all have our kickin' weekend tunes queued up for the post-game loungearounds. All we're missing is something to drink -- but not for long!

I've put some time into teaching myself how to best mix a Hemingway, and in the spirit of weekend optimization, I'd like to take this opportunity to pass along my findings.

Ernest Hemingway, the legend goes, arrived in Cuba just as the El Floridita bar pioneered the frozen daiquiri; his suggestion to excise the sugar and double the rum resulted in the Papa Doble, and the addition shortly afterwards of grapefruit juice and maraschino liqueur created what we now know as the Hemingway Special.

The exact details, of course, are lost to time --

"A bar. A man. A drink. 'Those are the facts,' writes drink historian Ted Haigh in Vintage Spirits and Forgotten Cocktails, 'and from there the story goes straight to hell.'"

-- so we must move onward, then. Here, direct from my hiding spot in an old Lake Winnipeg barn-cottage, is how to make one!

Here is what all you'll need, clockwise from the far left:

- a glass, obviously
- the white rum of your choice
- maraschino liqueur, noted for being far less sweet than most other liqueur options
- grapefruit juice; non-pink is preferable to pink, but we'll get into that later
- lime juice
- maraschino cherries (optional)
- something or other to shake and strain it all in
- a shot glass or measurement equivalent (ancient cottage novelty golf-club handle optional)
- a straw (optional)
- ice cubes (absolutely not optional, it's been like fifty degrees out lately)

Start with three to six ice cubes, a judgment call depending on how much ice you'll want in the end product and how hot the weather is. (So you can see here that I'm going with a whole bunch of 'em.)

Onto the ice, add two shots of white rum.

Next, add the maraschino liqueur; you'll get the feel for how much you personally prefer as you experiment with the recipe, but I advise starting with three-quarters of a shot.

Incidentally, I have just now discovered that maraschino liqueur looks a bit like mercury when photographed. Huh! How about that.

The ideal balance of grapefruit juice will also vary from person to person, but I recommend one and a half shots as your starting point.

The original recipe calls for regular, rather than pink, grapefruit juice, and I've found that my experiments do bear this out. That said, finding non-pink grapefruit juice on store shelves is like watching the Blue Bombers win a game; you see it once, get unreasonably excited, and then never see it again all summer. (And, yes, they've just lost. If you were wondering.)

Pink grapefruit will do, is what I'm saying. Pour 'er in!

The last liquid ingredient is the lime juice, and this is also really the only one you have to be careful with. You can add or reduce the others to your taste, but lime juice is the turmeric of cocktails and should be handled as such; add, at maximum, half a shot. (Less if you like, but certainly not more.)

Your mixture, to this point, should look something tantalizingly like this--

--which we shall now pop a lid onto and shake vigorously.


Shake vigorously for about fifteen to twenty seconds, which serves both to combine the ingredients and to chill everything along the ice. With that accomplished--

--your next task is to strain the mixture into your glass.

"Now how," I'd thought to myself the first time I tried this, "how am I supposed to strain this without the appropriate specialized tools?" And then I realized--

--oh, yeah, duh. Right.

So! Keeping the upside-down lid pressed closely and securely, strain the liquid into the glass--

--and, that accomplished, deposit the remaining ice.

Garnish with a maraschino cherry, if available, and a straw, if available. Neither are dealbreakers, but it's fun to compare the difference between sipping from the glass and sipping from the straw. Give it a try!

(The one pictured here is a cottage straw, which means there is a reasonable chance it was purchased in the Chretien era, but fortunately a quick rinse will clear up any potential issues.)

And there you have it -- a perfectly-mixed, perfectly-proportioned Hemingway Special, just the right size and strength for your Long Weekend city adventures.

Today, however, I am not in the city.

Today I am out at the Lake.

Ahh, there, that's more like it.

Happy Labour Day Weekend, everybody!

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