"The Great Gatsby," which turned 90 years old on April 10th this year, captures a particular slice of American life in the 1920s: drinking culture during the era of American Prohibition. Lest we forget, Jay Gatsby's fortune was made as a bootlegger.
Beyond that, though, F. Scott Fitzgerald was a hard-drinking man: the epitome of the clichéd "Lost Generation" writer, which included luminaries like Ernest Hemingway, Hart Crane and Harry Crosby.
Fitzgerald biographer Andrew Turnbull wrote that "he drank the way Baudelaire describes Poe drinking—not as an epicure 'but barbarously, with a speed and dispatch altogether American, as if he were performing a homicidal function, as if he had to kill something inside himself, a worm that would not die.' There was a terrible deliberateness about the way Fitzgerald dosed himself with gin."
We are in no position to judge Fitzgerald's excesses, but rather offer these drink recipes up as a way to celebrate the incredible work that is "The Great Gatsby."
1. The Gin Rickey
Scott Fitzgerald was a gin man. He thought it couldn't be detected on the breath. As anyone who has been on a good gin-bender knows, not only can it be detected on the breath, it emanates in hot vapor from every pore. There were different kinds of Rickeys in the 1920s, but the Gin Rickey appears in "The Great Gatsby." Hopefully things will go better for you than Jay Gatsby… or the Fitzgeralds, for that matter.
Cut a lime in half. Squeeze juice into highball glass. Drop lime, pulp down into bottom of glass.
Pour in 3 ounces dry gin. Don't get fancy. Just a London dry gin.
Add ice and stir.
Top with soda water.
Enjoy the ride.
2. The French 75
You can't really beat anything that combines gin and champagne, can you? This light-hearted pick-me-up packs a bigger punch than you might think, so go easy.
In a shaker, combine...
1 ounce gin
4 ounces champagne
1/2 ounce simple syrup.
1/2 ounce lemon juice.
Shake gently (or you'll upset the bubbles and your shirt) and pour into champagne flute or coupe. Garnish with a twist.
3. The Sidecar
The Ritz Hotel in Paris claims ownership and invention of the Sidecar which appeared sometime after WWI. It's a cognac-based cocktail, with its alcoholic bite masked somewhat by the sweetness of orange liqueur.
The classic Sidecar is easy to remember. The ingredients appear in a 3 - 2 - 1 ratio as follows:
3 parts Cognac
2 parts Cointreau (or other orange liqueur)
1 part fresh lemon juice.
Shake with ice, pour into martini glass. Garnish with orange wedge. Call your designated driver.
4. The Manhattan.
Made well, the Manhattan is a fantastic balance of whiskey smoke, sweet vermouth, and bitters, with a finishing dose of tart sweetness supplied by its garnish: cherries.
Made badly, the Manhattan is like being stuck on the subway in July with a hangover... So please do this well before you make your way to West Egg.
We like Esquire's version, though we've altered it somewhat to fit our particular tastes.
In a shaker filled with ice, stir together:
1 ounce sweet vermouth.
2 dashes of bitters.
2 ounces rye or bourbon whiskey, but for God's sake use decent whiskey or you'll wish you had paid attention here. Esquire likes rye, but we've had great success with bourbon.
Strain into martini glass. Garnish with the best maraschino cherries you can find. These are especially good. Drink to the greatest city in the world.
5. The Green Light
We invented this. Go very easy: Green Chartreuse is 110 proof.
In a shaker, muddle mint leaves and two halves of a lime.
To that, add ice and
3 ounces of gin.
1/2 ounce of Green Chartreuse.
A splash of simple syrup.
Shake and strain into a martini glass.
Drink slowly and watch the world disappear as you are "borne back ceaselessly into the past."
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