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Serious Reads: To Have and Have Another, by Philip Greene
From Edgar Allan Poe to Truman Capote, Jack Kerouac to William Faulkner, there seem to be few famous writers who weren't known for, at some point in their lives, overindulging in drink. Ernest Hemingway was one such figure. His works include frequent references to drinking, and characters are often ascribed specific drinks as emblems of their personalities. Philip Greene, who is Treasurer of the Museum of the American Cocktail, researched Hemingway's personal history with dozens of drinks and chronicled those stories in To Have and Have Another: A Hemingway Cocktail Comparison.
Hemingway's favorite drink was reportedly a Mojito, but Greene disputes this common myth. He emphasizes Hemingway's love of gin and whiskey, particularly in the form of whiskey sodas and gin gimlets. These drinks came up frequently in Hemingway's writing—in fact, Greene provides an index at the start of each chapter detailing in which essays and chapters these drinks can be found. The whiskey soda is discussed in numerous chapters of fifteen separate works, including A Farewell to Arms, A Moveable Feast, and The Sun Also Rises.
Along with recipes, Greene also provides literary and historical context for the drinks. There are many colorful tales of Hemingway's excessive consumption with friends and other authors. On one occasion, Hemingway wrote that he and his friend Guillermo began drinking Daiquiris at 10:30 a.m. and continued drinking until nightfall. They each drank 17 double frozen daiquiris—each with 4 ounces of rum—and, as Hemingway reports, "both felt good."
To Have and Have Another is light and engaging, a fast read that works as both a dictionary of cocktails and a reference text on Hemingway's works and personal life. Once I delved into the book and Hemingway's history, though, I was a little saddened by the degree to which alcohol slowly took over his life. Greene does a good job of negotiating Hemingway's complicated relationship with alcohol, and the role it played a role in his erratic moods and the depression that eventually led to his death. Like many great writers, Hemingway's relationship with alcohol was likely abusive. But this book is still enlightening and provides a nice look at cocktail history—with plenty of warnings to enjoy the drinks in moderation, and not necessarily at Hemingway's level of consumption.
About the Author: A student in Providence, Rhode Island, Leah Douglas loves learning about, talking about, reading about, and consuming food. Her work has also been featured in Rhode Island Monthly Magazine.