Were he to have opted out of suicide and found some sort of fountain of youth, today, July 21, would have been legendary writer and prolific drinker Ernest Hemingway’s 177th birthday. Around the world, his devotees and disciples will shake up Hemingway Daiquiris in his honor. But, were he alive and were you to make Hemingway a birthday cocktail using our recipe, Hemingway would have turned his nose up at the drink that bears his name.
According to legend (and the book And a Bottle of Rum by Wayne Curtis), the Hemingway Daiquiri was invented when, one fateful day, Hemingway stepped into El Floridita in Havana, Cuba, to use the restroom. Upon emerging, Hemingway caught sight of a lineup of frosty Daiquiris on the bar. He asked if he could try one, and the bartender, smartly, said yes (Hemingway was a large, burly man, not to be refused). Hemingway’s verdict: “That’s good, but I prefer it without the sugar and double rum.” The bartender mixed one up to his specifications on the spot and Hemingway loved it. It was named the Papa Doble—a nod to Hemingway’s pet name amongst Havana locals—but Hemingway referred to it as a Double Frozen Daiquiri.
This was the drink he slurped down by the dozens—literally. He once drank 17 in one day, and according to a letter Hemingway wrote to writer Harvey Breit, he didn’t even get a hangover. In the correspondence, Hemingway implies that the cocktail’s sugar-free preparation and a steak sandwich were to thank.
If drinking 17 of one kind of drink in one day isn’t enough to convince you of Hemingway’s love for the Double Frozen Daiquiri, you simply have to pick up Islands in the Stream, his posthumously published novel in which the protagonist, the Hemingway-esque Thomas Hudson, drinks almost as many Daiquiris as Hemingway himself. In the novel, Hemingway writes, “This frozen Daiquiri, so well beaten as it is, looks like the sea where the wave falls away from the bow of the ship when she is doing thirty knots.” He goes on to write that it had “no taste of alcohol and felt, as you drank them, the way downhill glacier skiing feels running through powder snow and, after the sixth and eighth, felt like downhill glacier skiing feels when you are running unroped.” If that’s not love, we don’t want to know what love it.
So Hemingway, it can safely be said, was a big fan of the Papa Doble. But that wasn’t a Hemingway Daiquiri—it was an extra-boozy, extra-dry version of El Floridita’s house Daiquiri. The Hemingway Daiquiri today more closely resembles the E. Henmiway Special (the spelling error is cannon, per Philip Greene, who cites a 1937 edition of El Floridita’s cocktail manual in his book, To Have and Have Another), which was made with just two ounces of white rum (as opposed to the Papa Doble’s nearly four ounces), grapefruit juice and maraschino liqueur. Papa wouldn’t have wasted his time on something so low on rum.
But at least the E. Henmiway Special followed Hemingway’s no sugar rule. Modern day Hemingway Daiquiris are made with at least a quarter ounce of simple syrup—if not more. And Hemingway just plain didn’t like sugary drinks. Even before he was diagnosed with type 2 diabetes, Hemingway was anti-sweet.
In The Good Life According to Ernest Hemingway, A.E. Hotchner, who traveled with Hemingway, recalls that he once explained that he didn’t like going to other people’s houses because he couldn’t trust the food or drink. “The last time I accepted a dinner invitation was about a year ago,” Hemingway told Hotchner. “They served sweet Champagne, which I had to drink to be polite, and it took ten days for me to get it out of my system.”
So, today, drink a Daiquiri like Hemingway would have wanted—with double the rum and no sugar. Or, opt for his true drink of choice, a Whiskey & Soda.