Only Writers Fill the Real Barrel of Fun

Whiskey Barrel

The monkeys were already in the barrel

One of the books I’m reading is titled To Have and Have Another: A Hemingway Cocktail Companion. The book is a compilation of drink recipes based on cocktails mentioned in Hemingway’s works, or those known to have soothed Ernest’s throat during any dry spells behind the typewriter. From reading the book, you wouldn’t think Papa ever had a dry spell that he didn’t counter with a drink. Or four.

There’s a long history of associating writers with the sauce: Fitzgerald with his gin, Faulkner with his whiskey, Hemingway with his Definitivo (which combined equal parts vodka, gin, tequila, rum and scotch, bolstered with tomato juice and lime, a kind of Long Island Bloody Mary in Hell). So maybe this is associating Hemingway with any full bar—which he seemed to take as a challenge.

Literary Lights Liquored Up
Some literary pundits suggest that the liquor lubed their writing, giving it a flow whose force would be absent without the sweet succor of spirits. Heckfire, I’ve even put together a short video that shows how whiskey can improve your writing.

But that bit of legerdemain logic is tripped up by the old “correlation is not causation” adage: those guys just liked to get pickled, plain and simple. It probably didn’t improve their writing, but it did make them learn fascinating words like “jigger,” “muddling,” and “crapulous.” But that’s not to say that writers shouldn’t seek solace in pleasant refreshment. [Note to my business-writing clients: I never combine copywriting with cocktails. At least not at the same time.]

So, in the spirit of experimentation, thirst, and the quest to be aligned with my literary idols, I decided, along with the fair Alice-who-lives-in-this-place-we-call-home, to make some barreled cocktails. Barreling cocktails is a bit of a craze now: you take the ingredients of a standard charming cocktail, such as an Old-Fashioned, Negroni or Manhattan and put them in an oak barrel for a month or two, to take on some of the mellowing characteristics—vanilla, maple, honey, tobacco—that contact with toasted oak often lends to spirits. A number of hipster bars now offer barreled cocktails, the little darlings.

I’ll Take Manhattan(s)
Being a man believing no Manhattan should be left companionless, Manhattans were the clear choice. Thus, two nights ago, we alchemized the following:

⁃ 1.5 liters Bulleit Rye
⁃ 250 milliliters Bulleit Bourbon
⁃ 500 milliliters Martini and Rossi sweet vermouth
⁃ 3 tablespoons bitters: approximately half of which were Peychaud’s (New Orleans), half Rossard’s (Chile), and a generous splash of Fee Brothers West Indian Orange bitters (New York?)

Rye was the original right arm of a Manhattan, but I tend toward bourbon as the main kicker. But we had the jug of rye and proceeded thusly. We added the bourbon to lure the rye to sleep comfy in the barrel. No fancy vermouth here, just a basic, since we are relying on the barrel to bring the orchestra to tune. As for the bitters, I always like combining two bitters in a Manhattan, and the orange in volume is a bit too floral for me, but it added a nice top note to the combination. I wanted to put the aromatic combined bitterness on my hair.

As for the barrel of fun, that’s a nice 3-liter job (medium char) from Tuthilltown Spirits, makers of fine firewater, including the dandy Hudson Baby Bourbon. I bought the barrel for Alice’s birthday, for her efforts with moonshine (fun!) and the attempt to make our own bourbon (disaster!). We’ll shake up some of this barreled hootch into a couple of chilled glasses in a month or so, and get back to you on the results.

Or if you’re in the neighborhood, stop by and we can discuss what Hemingway really meant when he said: I drink to make other people more interesting.

Writers and Booze: Pardon Me While I Drink This Manuscript

Waiter, can you bring me a subordinate clause?

Waiter, can you bring me more ice and a subordinate clause?

Because I am the founder of the Bentley Paranoiac Dystopian Technique (BPDT), I have managed, at the one-month mark, to have made my stay in the beguiling Bahamas a time of substantial anxiety, temper and intolerance. Not only that, there was some bad stuff happening too. It is once again a lesson in attitude IS everything (almost), and that my attitude makes your basic murderous dictator look like the designer of the Princess Phone.

BPDT aside, I have noted in the past the reputation of writers as the self-medicating types. I’m talking about the storied boozy histories of Faulkner and Hemingway and of Dorothy Parker, the quarry of this quote:”Writer, thinker, drinker.”

Thus, I’ve seen that when my interpretations of this beautiful island become baleful, I’ve started longing for my gin-and-tonic bath. That usually happens around 11am. (When Alice and I were shopping in one of the local liquor stores, one of the tourists there told us that the low-alcohol version of the good native beer, Kalik, was fine for morning drinking, and provided a stepping-stone (if you could still step solidly) to the higher-proof noon-time brew.)

Links with Drinks
Well, I haven’t actually succumbed to the morning bottle-feeding routine, preferring to continue my “I’m strong enough to wait until 5” standard of excellence. Besides, I’ve got work to do, and I don’t have Hemingway’s constitution. But with all that in mind, I thought you’d enjoy my small collection of writerly links about drinks. They prove it is possible to hold a pen in one hand and a cocktail in another, however wobbly both may be.

Top Ten Drunk Writers

11 Drinks to Pair with Your Favorite Books

Greatest Books on Booze

How to Drink Like Your Favorite Authors

A Bar Pretending to be a Bookstore

Mind you, I’m not encouraging a headlong pursuit of boozy debauchery. Intemperate application of alcohol has created many a hell for many a soul. I just apply the stuff as an edge-smoother, and I’ve been edgy lately. I’m much more for the “moderation in all things” mantra rather than “why did I wake up wearing lipstick and heels?” Next time you’re in the islands, you can enroll in the BPDT program, buy me a drink, and I’ll tell you all about it.

One-Year-Old and Still Spitting Up Words

Indelicate as it may sound, what’s the worst thing about changing diapers on a writer’s blog? Obvious: it’s a load of smurshy adverbs and adjectives, plus what looks suspiciously like mashed-up peas. Why would I jar your sensibilities with such imagery? Because this blog is one year old, and it feels like screaming.

Well, perhaps just clearing its throat and smiling giddily for the camera. But instead of recounting my blogging triumphs and tribulations (oh, the hangnails!), and relating my tremulous beginnings, let’s have actual fun instead. Here, then are how three famous writers started their blogs.

Albert Camus
My blog was born today. Or maybe yesterday; I can’t be bothered. After the first few lines of the post, I felt exceedingly tired, and I put to rest. I answered the postman’s knock, and when he handed me a few fliers, I felt his look contained a judgment. I thought he was accusing me of something, perhaps even something indecent. I blurted out, “Yes, the blog, I’ll finish it. There is time!” But I closed the door on him without needing to see his reaction. Later, I felt poorly for having done it. Ennui.

Ernest Hemingway
He was an old man that blogged alone in a trailer off the California Coast, and he’d gone eighty-four days without a post. The first forty days a ragged old cat sat with him, waiting for the soothing sound of the keyboard. But even a cat loses loyalty after forty days. The old man was thin and gaunt with deep wrinkles on his knuckles from holding them over the keyboard. But still the words wouldn’t come. His mind always wandered to baseball, wondering why those damn Yankees were still in the league. But there was whiskey. The blog could wait.

Mark Twain
You don’t know me without you have read a blog called The Write Word, but that ain’t no matter. That blog is just as filled with lies as the rest of ’em, but it’s tolerable, if you’ve a taste for highfalutin hogwash. I’d just as soon blog about how a twist in a catfish tail tells you if you’re coming down with the gout, and whether spittin’ a glob of tobacco juice or a glob of vinegar is more likely to kill a roach. All that other hokum about blog traffic and targets is just fiddledeedee, and them other bloggers know it. My blog will be about graveyards and dead cats and haints—now that’s traffic! Lean on in now and I’ll tell you a story that will set your hair afire…

OK, they might not have done them exactly that way, but you get the idea. They were like all writers, common horse thieves who steal words and ideas. It’s just how they put them together that made the difference. Thanks for spending some time with me this past year.

I can’t wait for the terrible twos, when I really get to scream.