Because most philosophies that frown on reproduction don't survive.

Monday, August 21, 2006

Gimlet with a Dash of Bitters

One of the enjoyable things about the Wall Street Journal is the weekend drinks column, which is written to appeal to those with a conservative turn of mind and a preference that all things be rooted in some sort of cultural reference. Thus, when a column of a couple week back sought to discuss the Gimlet, the discussion opened thusly:

"Will you have lime juice or lemon squash?" Francis Macomber asks at the beginning of the Hemingway story that bears his name.

"I'll have a gimlet," replies Robert Wilson, the ruddy professional hunter Macomber has hired to help him shoot animals in Africa.

"I'll have a gimlet too," says Macomber's wife, Margot. "I need something," she says -- the first indication that the safari has gone wrong.

"I suppose it's the thing to do," says a defeated Macomber. "Tell him to make three gimlets." And in his over-agreeable acquiescence, Francis has revealed the nut of the story: He is a man who isn't able to stand his ground. As Hemingway puts it, "he was thirty-five years old, kept himself very fit, was good at court games, had a number of big-game fishing records and had just shown himself, very publicly, to be a coward."

Macomber's ruthless wife enjoys the power that the knowledge of her husband's cowardice brings; promptly, brazenly, she cuckolds the poor fellow with Wilson.

From this promising beginning he moves on after a bit to the Raymond Chandler:
[I]n "The Long Goodbye" Marlowe is introduced to the Gimlet by Terry Lennox, an ever so polite Anglophile with problems, among them the fact that he is married, off and on, to an heiress whose sexual morals would make Paris Hilton blush. Marlowe and Lennox are at an L.A. bar called Victor's drinking Gimlets, but Lennox isn't completely happy with his cocktail: "What they call a Gimlet is just some lime or lemon juice and gin with a dash of sugar and bitters," he says to Marlowe. "A real Gimlet is half gin and half Rose's Lime Juice and nothing else. It beats martinis hollow."
This of course got me curious about two things: 1) Making a Gimlet and 2) What exactly Mr. Lennox's wife had been up to.

One of these seemed quicker to fix than the other, so I picked up a bottle of Rose's Lime Juice and a bottle of bitters. Experimentation proceeded. Whatever exactly may have been the cause of Mrs. Lennox's lack of inhibitions, I believe I can report that it was not strictly speaking the fault of her husband's choice in drink, since this has not resulted in any notable misbehavior on the part of MrsDarwin.

Now first of all, Mr. Lennox had more problems in life than his marriage if we could drink anything that was 50% Rose's Lime Juice. The stuff pours like syrup and tastes at least as sugary as limey. There must be limits. I'm inclined to about a 1:4 ratio of Rose's to gin. This is enough that the drink provides an interesting blended taste of gin-ish-ness and lime and sweetness, with neither side winning out. However, the lime still plays strong enough notes this is not the place to pull out a really top shelf gin. Stick with something under $20 a bottle unless you just don't care.

Of course, Chandler's hero found himself, by the end of it all, trying a bit not to care as well, though finding it difficult:
Philip Marlowe's Gimlet-drinking routine comes to an abrupt halt when his friend's heiress-wife turns up dead in her love nest and Lennox lams it south of the border. But when the shamus thinks he finally has the whole mess of who killed whom sorted out, he allows himself a sort of commemorative drink: "I drove out to Victor's with the idea of drinking a gimlet," Marlowe recounts. "But the bar was crowded and it wasn't any fun. When the barkeep I knew got around to me he called me by name." The bartender seemed to recall how Marlowe took his drink: "You like a dash of bitters in it, don't you?"

"Not usually," Marlowe replies, "Just for tonight, two dashes of bitters."

I find a dash or three of bitters really makes the drink. The WSJ columnist suggests calling this a Marlowe -- it clearly can't be a Lennox, given that character's instructions for mixing the drink. Though MrsDarwin still seems to prefer the simple gin an tonic -- perhaps it has to do with those intriguingly mentioned morals which Ms. Hilton and Mrs. Lennox share and MrsDarwin does not...

Now for step two, I really need to read The Long Goodbye one of these days. My familiarity with classic American stuff like Chandler is not what it should be.

1 comment:

Bruce McMenomy said...

What kind of bitters? There really are quite a number. Angostura? Peychauds? Orange bitters? Cardamom bitters (good with whiskey, but, I think, less appropriate for a gimlet)? Something else?