With 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.