No. 16 - The Bar Tab Also Rises

🥴️ As Professor Daniel Hannah writes in the introduction to our edition of The Sun Also Rises, "the principal characters are perpetually, in the lingo of the text, 'tight'."

🍸 Indeed, alcohol figures into nearly every scene, underscoring how deeply intertwined these spirits were with Hemingway's own life and by consequence those of the roman-à-clef personas in his first novel.

Ernest Hemingway drinking whiskey, Valencia, Spain Robert Capa Monochrome

👨‍🍳 While our author certainly drank hard, he did so with the thoughtful gusto of a true gourmand. He called wine,

"one of the most civilized things in the world and one of the natural things of the world that has been brought to the greatest perfection, and it offers a greater range for enjoyment and appreciation than, possibly, any other purely sensory thing which may be purchased."

🔑 Thus, to understand both The Sun Also Rises and Hemingway himself, a knowledge of the types, characteristics, and histories of the drinks present in the book is key.

Here, Century Press presents a helpful glossary to readers of our upcoming edition:

Location: Pamplona, Spain 🇪🇸

🧚‍♂️ A highly alcoholic, green coloured, anise-flavoured spirit derived from wormwood, together with green anise, sweet fennel, and other medicinal and culinary herbs. When diluted with sugar and wateras is typicalabsinthe takes on a cloudy, louche appearance.

Absinthe Absente Bottle Sugar Cube Strainer Green Fairy Water Pour Over Dilute

⚰️ In his personal life, Hemingway was a major fan of this spirit, even inventing his own cocktail, which shares the name of his 1932 book, Death in the Afternoon. In the book he writes:

“Pour one jigger absinthe into a Champagne glass. Add iced Champagne until it attains the proper opalescent milkiness. Drink three to five of these slowly.”

☠️ All I have to say is Hemingway goes hard! Personally, I heard of the drink before the book, and I figured that if you wanted yourself to die in the afternoon, that's probably what you should drink.

🚫 You'll notice in The Sun Also Rises that all the absinthe drinking takes place in Spain rather than France. This is because in 1915 the sale of absinthe was banned in France due to some now de-bunked science experiments that suggested that the psychoactive molecule 'thujone,' present in wormwood, was eliciting violent, psychotic episodes in the populace. Turns out, this molecule doesn't impair brain function at low levels, and all people really need to perform dangerous acts is just plain-old alcohol!

Nevertheless, the ban of absinthe in France led to the prominence of our next liqueur...

Location: Paris, France 🇫🇷

Flavoured with star-anise and lacking any wormwood, Pernod is lower in alcohol, being bottled at 40%, and contains added sugar. 

Vintage Pernod Bottle Wooden Table

Hemingway writes:

"Pernod is greenish imitation absinthe. When you add water it turns milky. It tastes like licorice and it has a good uplift, but it drops you just as far."

💪 No doubt the high sugar content brings about that effect. Our eternal tough-guy later writes that in Spain, Jake takes his absinthe without sugar, enjoying the "pleasantly bitter taste."

Fine (à l'eau)
Location: Paris, France 🇫🇷

🥃 A frequent choice for our characters, a fine refers to a high-quality brandy, which can optionally be served with still or sparkling water. In France, quality is often determined by appellation d'origine contrôlée or 'controlled destination of origin,' signifying the product was produced in a certain terroir known for that item. In terms of brandy, this means Cognac or Armagnac.

Vieux Marc
Location: Bayonne, France 🇫🇷

🍇 After turning down a Basque liqueur that Jake Barnes describes as looking like "hair-oil," he opts for a Vieux Marc. Like a 'fine,' it's made with grapes, but specifically, it uses the pomace, the skins, seeds and dregs left over after the wine grapes are pressed. Strong and spiritous in contrast to the sweetened basque Izzarra, I'm not surprised this one's right up our narrator's alley. 

Vieux Marx Burgundy Brandy Vintage Aged 35 Years

Location: Pamplona, Spain 🇪🇸

🐂 Once our crew reaches the fiesta, it seems like they're ordering bottle after bottle of a spirit called Fundador. Similar to a Fine or Vieux Marc, Fundador (meaning 'Founder') is an easy-drinking brandy made from distilled wine. Dating back to 1730, this brandy is slightly sweet, and priced to sell.

Fundador Sherry Brandy Jerez Spain Small Glass Vintage

Turns out there's no shortage of ways to drink distilled wine! Let's move on to cocktails and wine.

Jack Rose
Location: Paris, France 🇫🇷

🌹 Posted up at the Hotel Crillon, Jake Barnes orders some Jack Roses from George the Barman. This cocktail, made with applejack (apple brandy), lemon juice, and grenadine, was super popular during the 1920s when The Sun Also Rises is set. While France has its own regional apple brandy known as Calvados, it's hard to know whether George is using an American spirit or the more local alternative from Normandy. 

Jack Rose Cocktail Bar Lemon Garnish Crystal Glass

Location: France (En Train) 🇫🇷

🚂 As Jake Barnes heads towards Spain with Bill Gorton on a train leaving Gare D'Orsay, they order some sandwiches and a bottle of Chablis. This white wine, made with chardonnay grapes, is known for its dry, flinty flavour. Now considered to be quite a prestigious region, the area was relatively unknown in the 1920s, and wouldn't even receive an AOC appellation until 1938. Given Hemingway's choice to name drop Chablis, I think he's definitely flexing his oenophile skills on his peers.

Location: Paris, France 🇫🇷

🤵‍♂️ With an ostentatious name to match his ostentatious personality, Count Mippipopolous becomes infatuated with Lady Brett Ashley and wants nothing more than to fete her with magnums of champagne. Jake Barnes hosts the two at his flat:

"I think you'll find that's very good wine," [Mippipopolous] said. "I know we don't get much of a chance to judge good wine in the States now, but I got this from a friend of mine that's in the business."
"Oh, you always have some one in the trade," Brett said.
"This fellow raises the grapes. He's got thousands of acres of them."
"What's his name?" asked Brett. "Veuve Cliquot?"
"No," said the count. "Mumms. He's a baron."
🥂 Veuve Cliquot, one of the oldest champagne houses in France, rose to prominence in the early 19th century through the efforts of Madame Cliquot, who invented the techniques for clarifying champagne and making rosé champagne.
Widowed at a young age (Veuve means 'widow'), she decided to take over her husband's business and was responsible for establishing Cliquot as the champagne of choice in royal courts throughout Europe. 
Madame Veuve Cliquot Portrait Widow Champagne Matriarch Oil Painting Sitting Chair
💃 Given Brett Ashley's strong independent streak, and her pending divorce, it begs the question whether this seemingly straightforward line of dialogue had some more deliberate meaning on Hemingway's part.
🤔 Thus, having a sommelier's command of alcohol doesn't just help us when we saddle up to the bar or try to impress a date. It also gives us an extended capacity to extract greater meaning and understanding from The Sun Also Rises' inebriated characters and their interactions.
🍷 So feel emboldened to pour a glass (or three, or five) in preparation for this next release—it's just research after all.
Cheers, Sante, Salud,
P.S. Printing is set to finish up in a few weeks, so grab your copy while pre-order pricing still applies!


  • Mel

    Very interesting, indeed, and so while you are lining up your ducks to get this novel published, I, meanwhile, will be lining up my glasses to follow along with the spirit, or spirits, of the book. And though it was Francis Bacon who said, “Some books are to be tasted,” it was, perhaps, Hemingway, who gave us the idea that some books are to be drunk. Cheers!

  • JEvFB Beckman

    Stay “tight”, my ( f )riends.

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