Today marks the 90th anniversary of The Great Gatsby‘s first publishing.
It surely needn’t be said, but The Great Gatsby was written by author F. Scott Fitzgerald — and even though it wasn’t all that popular at the time of its publishing, it’s now now regarded as more than just a literary classic. It’s a contender for the title of “Great American Novel.”
Before sex and drugs and rock ‘n’ roll there was sex and booze and raucous jazz parties.
Of course, the novel’s not all champagne and swanky parties. Its themes of friction between social classes and one’s attempt at re-making himself a la “The American Dream” make sure it endures. There are extramarital affairs and characters pining for others who are married and gluttonous excess and, eventually, murder.
But intermingled with all that are the drinks!
As much a reflection of the times as Fitzgerald himself, booze flows throughout The Great Gatsby. Cocktail history oozes from the book, even when Fitzgerald isn’t specifically talking about a drink or drinking. Take for instance the Seelbach cocktail, named for the Seelbach Hotel. No one actually drinks it in the book and it’s never mentioned, but Fitzgerald’s characters Tom and Daisy Buchanon had their wedding there.
I’ve written about the Seelbach cocktail before. Click here for that post.
The book does mention two drinks by name though, the Gin Rickey and the Mint Julep:
Before there was a “Gin Rickey” or a “Lime Rickey,” there was just simply: “The Rickey.”
The Rickey was created in the 1880s in Washington, DC by a bartender and a Democratic politician named Colonel Joe Rickey.
This first Rickey was whiskey-based (bourbon/rye). The gin version didn’t catch on for another decade, but became a prohibition staple.
The drink is mentioned in Chapter 7 of The Great Gatsby
With a reluctant backward glance the well-disciplined child held to her nurse’s hand and was pulled out the door, just as Tom came back, preceding four gin rickeys that clicked full of ice
Gatsby took up his drink.
“They certainly look cool,” he said, with visible tension.
We drank in long, greedy swallows.
This story in The Telegraph from 2013 has more info, not just about the Gin Rickey but about the Mint Julep and other drinks of the era — and writes about the same Gin Rickey scene that I posted above:
“The drink appears in a scene set on a boiling summer’s day, when Daisy orders her husband Tom to ‘make us a cold drink’ — using his absence to murmur to Gatsby of her love for him.”
Kentucky Derby day is fast approaching and soon the Mint Julep will be on the forefront of everyone’s mind.
The drink is also mentioned in Chapter 7 of The Great Gatsby, and in tandem with Gatsby getting called out on his “Old Sport” saying no less!
“All this ‘old sport’ business. Where’d you pick that up?”
“Now see here, Tom,” said Daisy, turning around from the mirror, “if you’re going to make personal remarks I won’t stay here a minute. Call up and order some ice for the mint julep.”
Another Item Of Note:
As someone who works in the industry, I do so appreciate that Nick Carraway takes the time to remark upon the prep work that goes into getting ready for cocktail service:
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. There was a machine in the kitchen which could extract the juice of two hundred oranges in half an hour if a little button was pressed two hundred times by a butler’s thumb.
Thirsty For More?
— Here’s the full 2013 article by The Telegraph (which I cribbed from earlier in this post about Gatsby‘s gin rickeys and mint juleps).
— This link goes to a blog post from 2012 which has beverage recommendations based on specific excerpts of The Great Gatsby.
—If that’s not enough, you can drink along with the 2013 movie. There are plenty of game rules online, just click here, here or here.