Editor’s note: This excerpt is reposted from Smithsonian Magazine’s article “Slurred Lines: Great Cocktail Moments in Famous Literature.” Click here for the full article.
Cocktails are having a moment right now, but they’ve been iconic motifs in literature for the past century. They define characters, offering a window into their tastes and personalities—who could picture James Bond without his “shaken, not stirred” martini? Cocktails drive storylines, clearing paths toward delight, despair or some combination of the two. In some cases, they come to represent the authors themselves, whose lives were as colorful as their prose. And of course, each cocktail has a life of its own—the more obscure the origin, the better. Drinking might not make a great writer, but it does sometimes make a great story.
Read on for five famous cocktails and the literary moments they inspired:
Ramos Gin Fizz
The Ramos gin fizz is a New Orleans classic invented in 1888 by Henry C. Ramos of the Imperial Cabinet Saloon. The recipe calls for egg white, flower water, dairy and vigorous shaking for three to ten minutes. The drink became so popular in the 1910s that Ramos had to employ 20 to 30 “shaker boys” to keep up with demand. Despite its long prep time, the gin fizz is meant to be consumed quickly, especially as a cool refreshment on a hot summer day.
On one of histrips to New York, Louisiana “Kingfish” Huey Long had a bartender flown in from the Roosevelt Hotel in New Orleans, he said, to “teach these New York sophisticates how and what to drink.”
Watch a bartender make the Ramos gin fizz:
In Walker Percy’s Love in the Ruins, Dr. Thomas More defies his egg white allergy by downing gin fizz after gin fizz with Lola, his lover. “These drinks feel silky and benign,” he muses—until seven fizzes later, he breaks out in hives and his throat starts to close. More’s brush with death mirrors Walker Percy’s own: the writer once went into anaphylactic shock after drinking gin fizzes with (luckily for him) a Bellevue nurse. Percy later wrote in his 1975 essay, “Bourbon”: “Anybody who monkeys around with gin and egg white deserves what he gets. I should have stuck with Bourbon and have from that day to this.”
(The recipe below, along with all the others in this post, is courtesy of Philip Greene, co-founder of the Museum of the American Cocktail and author of To Have and Have Another: A Hemingway Cocktail Companion. Greene recently hosted the Smithsonian Associates seminar, “Literary Libations.”)
1 ½ oz Citadelle gin
½ oz fresh lemon juice
½ oz fresh lime juice
1 tsp sugar or ½ oz Fee Brothers rock candy syrup
1 oz half and half or cream
3 drops Fee Brothers orange flower water
1 egg white (pasteurized optional)
Place ingredients in a shaker with cracked ice. Shake vigorously for 2-3 minutes. Strain into a chilled Delmonico or short Collins glass. Top off with 1-2 oz seltzer water.
This article excerpt by Vicky Gan is reposted from Smithsonian Magazine.