There’s this story about Zelda Fitzgerald drinking herself silly and dancing naked at a cocktail party. Everybody seems to think she was a real swinger, a partier cut out for the Jazz Age which was a time ruled by moral bankruptcy draped in innuendo and drenched in gin and whiskey.
Studs Terkel wrote this quaint little book called “Giants of Jazz.” Dubbed as “young adult,” it’s the kind of book in middle school libraries that kids flip through but never bother to checkout. In it, Terkel profiles the likes of Louis Armstrong, Billie Holiday, John Coltrane, among others. One of my favorite anecdotes is found in the profile of the Jazz Age pioneer, Bix Beiderbecke. The cornet player died at the tender age of 30, done in by a cold brought on by the excess of “bathtub gin.” The term is defined as homemade booze and originated in the 1920s after Prohibition became law.
Terkel writes, “Bix Beiderbecke didn’t die of a cold. He died of everything!”
It’s almost impossible to believe that this isn’t how Zelda herself died—or her husband, F. Scott. Certainly it’s how Fitzgerald’s greatest hero, Jay Gatsby, was done in.
“George Wilson didn’t kill Gatsby, old sport. The Gats died of everything!”
The only way to truly celebrate people like Zelda or Gatsby or Beiderbecke is to attempt to live like them, if only for an evening. Grab the nearest flapper and put your dancing shoes on—which, in this case, can double as your drinking shoes.
- 2 ounces of gin
- .75 ounces lemon
- .75 ounces simple syrup
- 2 dashes of Angostura Bitters
As Fitzgerald once said “First you take a drink, then the drink takes a drink, then the drink takes you.” Refreshing and crisp, the barebones recipe is idiot-proof. Shake with ice and strain into a cocktail glass. This very basic twist on a Gin Sour could take you all the way back to Paris with Ernest Hemingway driving a gold car and Zelda giving you a handy in the backseat.
- 1.5 ounces gin
- .75 ounces lemon
- .50 simple syrup
- .25 Luxardo maraschino liqueur
Rinse your finest cocktail glass with crème de violette and then combine your ingredients in a separate shaker. Shake and strain into the glass. Garnish with a Luxardo cherry.
You can control the sweetness by lowering or raising the simple syrup. I love “step-down” recipes where each ingredient is essentially half of the amount of the previous component. This gives a drink balance, in my humble, drunken opinion. This drink is perfect for a summer party where you get naked and dance to Jay-Z quoting “Gatsby” lines. I bet Leonardo DiCaprio would agree with me and he knows all about perfection. After all, he has played both 1920s icons Howard Hughes and Jay Gatsby flawlessly. Until he plays Josephine Baker, however, I won’t be impressed.
“If that was true he must have felt that he had lost the old warm world, paid a high price for living too long with a single dream.”
- 2.25 ounces of rye
- .75 ounces of lemon
- .75 ounces of orange juice
- 1 teaspoon of grenadine
Peppery and citrusy with a touch of sweetness from the grenadine, this is an underrated whiskey cocktail. And judging from the lines taken straight from “Gatsby,” apparently Jordan Baker and Nick Carrawy quaffed a few on Jay’s lawn: “Every Friday five crates of oranges and lemons arrived from a fruiterer in New York—every Monday these same oranges and lemons left his back door in a pyramid of pulpless halves.”
Between the Sheets
- .75 ounces light rum
- .75 ounces Cointreau
- .75 ounces brandy
- .50 ounces lemon
- .25 ounces simple syrup
This is another drink that you can tweak as you make it. Taste it out and see if you should add a bit more sweetness or up the brandy, because brandy is delicious. Of course I always sub in cognac for brandy because I’m a dickish, Tom Buchanan-level snob. Cognac tastes like apples and pears dipped in gold and what I’d imagine true love would taste like if it were tangible (or existed at all). You know what I’m talking about, Daisy Buchanan.
The French 75
- 1 ounce gin
- .5 ounces of lemon
- .5 ounces of simple syrup
- Top with bubbly
You can’t have a Gatsby lawn-party without a bubbly cocktail and this gin-based legend is the way to go. I picture this saucy harlot carrying one off in a blur of opal, beads, and venereal disease: “Suddenly one of these gypsies in trembling opal seizes a cocktail out of the air, dumps it down for courage and moving her hands like Frisco dances out alone on the canvas platform.”
Tags: The Great Gatsby