Have you seen the trailer for Baz Lurhman’s film adaptation of The Great Gatsby? It looks intriguing, if not a bit over the top, though this is Baz Lurhman after all! Of course I will go see it because it is a film version of my favorite novel and, in my opinion, the greatest American novel.
What, you didn’t read the book! Geez! OK, I’ll do my best to keep it simple. Well at least you have seen the movie, so I’ll...wait, you want to know what all this has to do with a blog about food? One word: cocktails.
You see, The Great Gatsby takes place in the golden age of the cocktail, it being the height of Prohibition. And the cocktail, or more generally, drinking, plays a large role in the book. What, you are asking for proof!?—no pun intended! OK, I’ll show you, Mr. Missouri.
You get only three chapters in when you read about the first great party of the book—the one where Nick and us readers meet Gatsby for the first time. And throughout the book, we are introduced to champagne, gin, bourbon, and even absinthe.
And don’t forget that one of the most dramatic scenes in the book occurs at the Plaza hotel where Daisy, Tom, Gatsby, Nick, and company have retired for some libations on a hot afternoon.
Oh that’s right you didn’t read the book....
Well, anyway, this is the scene where Daisy delivers one of her best lines:
“Open the whiskey, Tom,” she ordered. “And I’ll make you a mint julep. Then you won’t seem so stupid to yourself….Look at the mint!”
OK, OK, here’s the part that relates to this blog. I’m going to give you four classic cocktail recipes inspired by The Great Gatsby—four that you don’t see much anymore, but that should, without a doubt, be restored to their proper place at the bar.
This is the (un)official cocktail of New Orleans and dates back to the late 19th Century. It even has a role, albeit very minor, in the James Bond movie Live and Let Die, when Felix Leiter orders two of them and asks James Bond: "Where is your sense of adventure, James, this is New Orleans?! Relax!" (Yeah, thanks for recognizing my second movie reference!)
½ oz. rye whiskey (Rittenhouse or Bulleit are my two favs)
2 bar spoons of simple sugar (if you can’t make this, then you and Carrie Nation should hang out)
2 dashes of bitters (Peychaud’s or Angostura)
2 bar spoons of absinthe, to rinse the glass
a thin lemon zest, to garnish
Stir all the ingredients, except the absinthe, in a mixing glass filled with ice. Rinse a chilled double old fashioned with the absinthe. Strain the contents of the mixing glass into the double old fashioned and garnish with the lemon.
Daiquiri (The original, not that crappy frozen Spring Break Concoction)
I just want you to know that this is not that crappy, syrupy frozen concoction you had at that bar during spring break in 1991! Come on, you know which one I’m talking about! In fact, this was served to Ernest Hemingway at the El Floridita restaurant in Havana Cuba. (The non-Hemingway version would dispense with the maraschino liqueur and cherries.)
2 oz. light rum
¾ oz. fresh lime juice
½ oz. fresh grapefruit juice
½ oz. maraschino liqueur
½ oz. simple syrup
Maraschino cherries, for garnish
Combine rum, juices, liqueur, and syrup in ice-filled shaker; shake. Strain over crushed ice into a cocktail glass; garnish with cherries.
This a great cocktail. It is apparently named after a 75-mm French artillery piece used in World War I. And this drink is designed to hit you like a shell from that gun. The original recipe called for cognac, but the English, who abhor all things French, introduced gin into the mix. The best thing about this vintage cocktail is ordering it. Next time you are in a bar, order one and watch the bartender scramble for his Mr. Boston’s bar guide. I even ordered this in a French restaurant and they didn’t know what it was! You laugh. I’m not kidding! I guess the “French” in the name was redundant.
1 oz. gin
½ oz. simple syrup
½ oz. fresh squeezed lemon juice
Brut Champagne or a dry sparkling white wine
Lemon twist, to garnish
Combine gin, simple syrup, and lemon juice in a cocktail shaker filled with ice. Shake until well chilled and strain into a glass. Top with Champagne and garnish with a lemon twist to serve.
This one is said to have been invented at Harry’s Bar in Paris (still in operation) and named after an eccentric patron who would arrive at the bar in his chauffeur-driven motorcycle sidecar. This is another fun one you should order in a bar because it keeps our favorite bartender on her toes.
3 oz. cognac
1 oz. Cointreau (or triple sec)
2 lemon slices
Juice lemon, reserving rinds. Rub rims of two stemmed cocktail glasses with pulp side of lemon rind, then dip moistened rims into a saucer of sugar.
Fill a cocktail shaker with ice, add reserved lemon juice, cognac, and Cointreau; shake well. Strain into sugar-rimmed glasses and garnish each with a slice of lemon
So there you have it. Interested? Alright, then go grab yourself a straw hat, put on a seersucker suit and some white bucks, and kick back and relax.