Literary Libations & Character Cocktails – Guest Post by Sarah Miller Hill

What better way to enjoy a mystery (especially about the Jazz Age) than with a cool vintage bevvie? Mottley’s favorite drink is the vodka gimblet, distinguished from its better-known cousin the gimlet by its use of unsweetened lime juice for a bracing tang. In the short story “Key of D,” Mottley also visits Harry’s Bar in Venice, home of the delightful Bellini — a perfect summer refresher.

For a broader overview of classic cocktails (with recipes!), we have a special contributor today. Sarah Miller Hill is a fellow jazz-age and mystery aficionado with quite a reputation as a mixologist. She’s been gracious enough to share some of her expertise in period drinks with us. Salut!

Sarah here:

Summer is in full swing and I hope many of us are enjoying our vacations. On these hot, lazy days there are those of us who enjoy a good book or old movie—and often wish we could visit with our favorite characters and experience the sophistication of a bygone era.  Sadly,  that isn’t possible but you can create the same cocktails—which makes you feel as if you are part of the plot!

THE-THIN-MAN-POSTEROne of my favorite movies is The Thin Man with Myrna Loy and William Powell.  In the first bar scene, Nick Charles is explaining the proper musical rhythm for shaking cocktails to the bartenders. He mentions several drinks before saying, “…the Bronx, a two-step”. A Bronx is one of the classics of New York City, and in the 1930s it was one of the top ten cocktails!

The Bronx: To make a pitcher—very handy at pool parties—you mix 12 oz. of gin, 6 oz. EACH of sweet and dry vermouth, and 20-24 oz. of orange juice (to taste). Chill, shake to a two-step for 30 seconds, and either serve with or without ice. Garnish with an orange peel.

AffairtoRememberIf romantic movies are more to your taste, few can compare to An Affair to Remember starring Cary Grant and Deborah Kerr. While on the cruise ship back to the United States, there is a scene where Terri McKay enters the restaurant bar alone—she orders, “Champagne cocktail, please.”  You too can impress your guests (and pretend dreamy Nickie Ferrente is just around the corner) with this elegant cocktail:

Champagne Cocktail: For each champagne flute or coupe, add one sugar cube, 8-10 drops of bitters, such as Angostura, and then top off with pink or regular champagne.

gatsbyA novel that captures those long, hot, languid days of summer is The Great Gatsby. Alcohol is a pivotal plot point, and what Daisy and the others drink the most is gin.  Before the final, fateful excursion to New York, what drinks are served? Tom Buchanan brings out a tray of Gin Rickeys—a great make-it-yourself drink for parties.

Gin Rickey: You set up a cocktail station with a bowl of limes (halved), chilled gin, ice, and soda water.  Fill each 8 oz. glass with ice, squeeze half a lime in it, add a jigger of gin, and fill to the top with the soda water.   Guests can go back and repeat the steps as often as they like.

Burt_Bacharach_-_Casino_Royale_(1967_soundtrack)And finally, a nod to James Bond.  In the first 007 novel, Casino Royale, James Bond describes the only cocktail he has before dinner—which he names “Vesper” after the woman who eventually betrays him. A word of warning…this cocktail is more of a novelty drink and is extremely strong!

To impress your action/adventure friends, let them know each Vesper contains three oz. gin, 1 oz. vodka, and ½ oz. Lillet Blanc. Shake 30 seconds and pour into a chilled glass. Garnish with a lemon slice.

Thanks, Sarah!

What’s your favorite summer cocktail? Your favorite classic or vintage drink? Let me know in the comments!



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