The Classicist: A Toast to F. Scott Fitzgerald
Drinking, if done well and stylishly, can lead to literary inspiration. Or at least not impede it too much. Take that great chronicler of wealth and society F. Scott Fitzgerald, for instance, whose 112th birthday is about to be celebrated; some of his best work was clearly done under the influence. Just look at Tender Is the Night (1934). Of course the intemperate author, left entirely to his own devices, might have been less poetical in his consumption of alcohol and thereby rendered a less perfect work of art. But his great friends, patrons and mentors Gerald and Sara Murphy, upon whom Tender Is the Night is based, showed him how to do the thing properly.
The beautiful, rich and clever Murphys, central figures of expatriate social and cultural life of the Jazz Age in France, held court at their villa on the French Riviera in Antibes - this was long before the Russian billionaires arrived, before there even was such a thing in fact - and dispensed cocktails at the dazzling dinner parties immortalized in the book. Gerald tried to limit his guests' consumption of same in order to prevent the gatherings from devolving into total inebriation, though Fitzgerald usually managed to down more than his fair share. This often led to breakages, shouting matches and even suicide attempts, proving Murphy right.
The Fitzgeralds of course, were legendary boozers. When they later lived in shabby gentility in Great Neck, Long Island, they would drive back and forth to Manhattan for binges in a second-hand Rolls-Royce. Their houseboy would frequently find them passed out on the lawn in the morning, the car more or less in the driveway. For Murphy, however, drink-making was a stylish ritual imparted by his father, owner of the Mark Cross luxury goods company.
Gerald immortalized it in his 1927 painting "Cocktail," now in the Whitney museum in New York. Asked what he was mixing in his silver shaker, Gerald would reply, "Oh, just the juice of a few flowers." The line was later borrowed by the Murphys' friend, The Philadelphia Story author Phillip Barry, for his movie Holiday (1938) in which it was said by Cary Grant. What Gerald was actually concocting was something he called a "Bailey" and makes an incredibly delicious and refreshing summer drink. We recently tracked down the recipe and present it here for your imbibing pleasure:
Gerald Murphy's "Bailey"
1/5th grapefruit juice
1/5th lime juice
Sprigs of mint
Put gin and torn mint sprigs in an ice-filled shaker. Add grapefruit juice, stir, and garnish with whole mint sprig.