to_have_and_have_anotherWith the cold weather approaching, we say goodbye to the summertime classics that inhabit Hemingway’s prose: the Gin and Tonic, the Tom Collins, and of course the Daiquiri. Fear not; although he lived most of his life in the warmer climes of Key West and Cuba, there are a good many cold weather drinks in my book To Have and Have Another as well.

You can start with the Hot Rum Punch. Hemingway developed an affinity for this one right after he and Hadley arrived in Paris in December of 1921. After all, a constant theme of his memoir A Moveable Feast was the struggle to stay warm during the cold Parisian winters, especially in his chilly flat. He often escaped to a café, ostensibly to write, but often just to warm up. He embraced this drink fairly early in his Paris days; in a December 23, 1921 letter to Sherwood Anderson, he writes:

“[W]e sit outside the Dome Café, opposite the Rotonde that’s being redecorated, warmed up against one of those charcoal brazziers [sic] and it’s so damned cold outside and the brazier makes it so warm and we drink rum punch, hot, and the rhum enters into us like the Holy Spirit.” (Selected Letters, 59)

The following winter the drink returns to the scene, this from a November 16, 1922 letter to Harriet Monroe: “The hot rum punch and checker season has come in. It looks like a good winter.”

You see this thread continue in his first true novel, The Sun Also Rises, published in 1926. Jake Barnes and Bill Gorton are en route from Paris to Pamplona, and stop for a few days of fishing in the Catalonian village of Burguete. In Chapter XI, they’re checking into a local inn, which is so cold, “you could see your breath.”

While Bill plays the piano to keep warm, Jake spies a cupboard full of liqueur bottles. Bill notices it, too, and suggests, “How about a hot rum punch? This isn’t going to keep me warm permanently.” Jake teaches the innkeeper how to make a hot rum punch, and he and Bill drink it and listen to the wind.

There are as many rum punch recipes out there as there are brands of rum. The recipe shown below is from Hemingway’s friend Charles Baker, Jr., author of the classic food and drinks two-volume set, The Gentleman’s Companion. It is Baker’s recipe for “The Oxford University Hot Rum Punch,” which he refers to as being “a classic that is simple & soothing & satisfactory, and dating back into the dim, distant past,” and “[m]ost excellent for anyone coming down with anything, due to the lemon juice.” Works for me. Cheers!


Hot Rum Punch

1 ½ 750 ml bottles Barbados or lighter Jamaican Rum

1 750 ml bottle Cognac

3 quarts boiling water

2 cups lemon juice

Brown sugar, to taste

Handful of cloves


Add all ingredients to a sturdy stockpot or crock pot, stir occasionally. Garnish each cup with a spiral of yellow lemon peel, careful to remove the white pith, as it contains unwanted bitterness.

to_have_and_have_anotherIf you read Hemingway’s Paris memoir A Moveable Feast, you’ll see the strong role that hunger played in his early writing style, how that feeling of wanting made his senses more acute.  Perhaps he’s exaggerating the “starving artist” image a bit, but he’s said many times how his writing style emulated that of the painter Matisse; he strove to paint with words a la Matisse, and wondered if Matisse also had an empty stomach while he created his works.  I think the same is true for thirst; Hemingway enjoyed drinking, of course, but it was generally a deferred gratification for him.

Hemingway is quoted, mostly on the Web, as saying, “Write drunk, edit sober.”  I don’t buy it.  Neither do most Hemingway scholars I’ve talked to.  Yes, Hemingway did like to drink, and drank quite a bit.  But he generally didn’t mix business with pleasure; drinks came after the work was done.  This sort of discipline was important to him.  He was an amateur boxer, and just as a prizefighter will go into a training regimen when preparing for a fight, Hemingway would adopt a similar approach.  His World War II comrade, Col. Buck Lanham explained:

“Before he wrote a book he’d go into training.  That is, he wouldn’t take a drink until noon…. He’d swim forty laps in the morning and forty laps in the afternoon in a huge pool.  And he’d look at his watch every two laps, waiting for that clock to move around.  When it was eleven on the dot, you could see his major domo come out of the Finca up on the hill and start down with this big tray and a huge shaker of martinis, what he called ‘Montgomerys.’ And old Hemingstein would look at his watch and say, ‘Well, Buck, it’s eleven o’clock.  What the hell, it’s twelve in Miami, let’s have a drink.’  And he would.  But it was real discipline for him to go that long in the morning without a drink.  He was disciplined about his work.” (Interview with C.T. “Buck” Lanham, from The True Gen – An Intimate Portrait of Hemingway By Those Who Knew Him, Denis Brian (New York: Dell Publishing,1988), 187)

You see this throughout his prose.  In Islands in the Stream, Roger Davis and Thomas Hudson engage in a somewhat half-hearted back and forth; they want “a quick one,” but refrain because “it isn’t quite twelve.”  They eventually cave, since Hudson’s work is done for the day, and Roger, after all, is on vacation.  The houseboy appears out of nowhere with a shaker, ready to make martinis.  Davis acknowledges that this strict code can be a bitch to adhere to: “It’s an awful nuisance some mornings when a drink would make you feel all right.”  Ahhh, the price of professional responsibility.

Hemingway poked fun at his rivals who did partake on the job.  During an interview, when asked if it were true that he mixed a pitcher of Martinis before work each morning, Hemingway exclaimed, “Jeezus Christ!  … Have you ever heard of anyone who drank while he worked?  You’re thinking of Faulkner.  He does sometimes – and I can tell right in the middle of a page when he’s had his first one.  Besides, who in hell would mix more than one martini at a time?” (Matthew J. Bruccoli, Conversations with Ernest Hemingway (Jackson: University Press of Mississippi, 1986), 168, from an interview with Hemingway by Milt Machlin, originally appearing in Argosy, September, 1958.)

So, if you want to learn more about how to drink like Hemingway, stick to the code, and get your work done first.  Unless, of course, you can figure out a way to bend the rules a bit.