Hemingway’s Papa Doble

Is Life a Caberet?

I’ve never been much of a fan of rum. Either the rum I’ve had has been of inferior quality, or perhaps I’ve never had the mixologist skills to make a quality daiquiri. I’m intrigued by this tale however:

Lillian Ross made her career with a New Yorker profile of Ernest Hemingway that suggested his thirst was prodigious. And she made John O’Hara mad: “The most recent, and most disgusting, example of the intrusions into Hemingway’s private life was made by a publication that reported on Hemingway’s drinking habits, somewhat in the manner of a gleeful parole officer,” complained the man who had all but invented the New Yorker-style short story. “But for Eustace Tilley to raise an eyeglass over anybody’s drinking is one for the go-climb-a-lamppost department.”

Truth be told, no one did more to play up the heroic magnitude of Hemingway’s drinking than Hemingway himself. Whenever someone made the pilgrimage to Havana to be introduced to the novelist, Hemingway would meet him at La Florida bar, affectionately known as the “Floridita.” And there, with much bravado, Hemingway would boast of the sheer quantity of alcohol he could consume in the form of Papa Dobles — the double frozen Daiquiris made to his particular specifications.

[From Hemingway’s Daiquiri – WSJ.com]

According to Eric Felten, the Papa Doble recipe was mistranslated for years to use lemon instead of lime:

Cocktail scholar Philip Greene (a government intellectual-property lawyer in Washington) was able to track down the source of the mistake: a recipe booklet the Floridita published in 1937 as a promotional giveaway. Like a volume in the Loeb Classical Library, the Floridita pamphlet presented its text in the original language on the left with a translation on the right. But the copy editing wasn’t all it could be. For starters, the Papa Doble is listed as the ” ‘E. Henmiway’ Special.” The English recipe specifies the “juice of ½ lemon.” But the Spanish original next to it specifies “Jugo ½ limón verde” — which isn’t lemon at all, but lime.

It’s an error that has been repeated for decades. Nearly 10 years ago, Michael Palin of Monty Python fame filmed a television special chasing down Hemingway’s adventures, and at one point he sat himself down at the Floridita bar to work his way through a succession of Papa Dobles. Mr. Palin’s description of the recipe is “basically rum, lemon and sugar over crushed ice, with a Maraschino cherry.” Unfortunately, not only did Mr. Palin repeat the lemon error — he compounded it with a raft of his own errata.

Parenthetic note: I’ll have to look for the Michael Palin documentary, I’ve seen several of those, and they are well done, and a lot of fun. Final note, perhaps the proportions are slightly different – more lime, and more grapefruit:

After meeting Hemingway over Daiquiris in 1948, A.E. Hotchner went on to drink innumerable Papa Dobles at the Floridita with the great man himself, and he paid attention to what Constante was doing. “A Papa Doble was compounded of two and a half jiggers of Bacardi White Label Rum, the juice of two limes and half a grapefruit and six drops of maraschino,” Mr. Hotchner writes. That’s four times the lime juice of the 1937 recipe, and far more than the scant teaspoon of grapefruit juice originally called for. I don’t know which recipe is the truest, but I like the results when you split the difference, combining the two ounces of rum specified by the original recipe with a little bit of extra citrus. The texture is also important. Mr. Hotchner recounted that the Daiquiri ingredients were “placed in an electric mixer over shaved ice, whirled vigorously and served foaming in large goblets.” Hemingway himself described a properly beaten Daiquiri as looking “like the sea where the wave falls away from the bow of a ship when she is doing thirty knots.”

Sounds like a good experiment for Memorial Day (hopefully much better than this one, yikes)

here’s my attempt: though didn’t have maraschino. Delicious actually.
Papa Dobles
[click to embiggen]

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