Legend has it that the Death In the Gulf Stream cocktail was one of Ernest Hemingway's favorite drinks. The drink first appeared in Charles Baker's Gentleman's Companion. The description of the drink in Baker's book is brilliant:
Take a tall thin water tumbler and fill it with finely cracked ice. Lace this broken debris with 4 good purple splashes of Angostura, add the juice and crushed peel of 1 green lime, and fill the glass almost full with Holland gin... No sugar, no fancying. It's strong, it's bitter—but so is English ale - strong and bitter, in many cases. We don't add sugar to ale, and we don't need sugar in a Death In The Gulf Stream—or at least not more than 1 tsp. Its tartness and its bitterness are its chief charm. It is reviving and refreshing; cools the blood and inspires renewed interest in food, companions, and life.
Note: In the 1930's and 40's "Holland gin" is what they called Genever and we used Bols Genever, and it worked well.
If you are not familiar with Genever, think of it like the grandfather of Gin. One of Holland's many famous exports, Genever has the juniper and botanical nuances of Gin, but a more complex aged-like character that makes it stand apart thanks to one of its key ingredients being malt wine. That maltiness gives Genever its aged-like flavor and a more unusual taste than Gin.
Papa and His Drinks
Ernest Hemingway was known to enjoy a drink, but there are a lot of myths around what he actually drank. "Papa" as he preferred to be called since his mid-twenties was well known to drink a dry Martini, and he was also famous for drinking Daiquiris, but most people don't know that he didn't particularly like sugar in his drinks, which meant that his Daiquiri was usually nothing more that rum and lime juice. This is probably what attracted him to the Death in the Gulfstream cocktail, it has a forward malty-juniper flavor accompanied by a lot of tart lime and bitters.
The drink should be fairly tart and slightly bitter, but it needs a little sweetness... just not too much!
3 (yes, three) ounces Bols Genever
1 whole medium lime cut into eighths (to be muddled)
1 ½ ounces of Classic Gum (Gomme) Syrup
4 dashes of Angostura or other aromatic bitters
When we say that the cocktail should be fairly tart, we are talking fairly tart. It is the juice of an entire medium-sized lime, after all, and the peel too in a single drink, plus four dashes of Angostura bitters, which has one of the healthier "dashers" in our opinion, AND three ounces of Genever, so you are getting a seriously boozy drink with loads of tart bitterness.
But how tart is "too tart"?
Ok, we can hear some of you already... The drink should be tart but not overwhelmingly sour. This is where our good friend Classic Gum (Gomme) Syrup comes in.
Depending on how limey your lime is, you may need to tweak the amount of syrup to suit your palate. Remember, it is supposed to be tart and limey, and a little bitter, so about 1 ½ ounces of Classic Gum Syrup did the trick for us. Anything more and we found it took away from the spirit of the cocktail. Your mileage may vary, but if it was good enough for Papa, it is good enough for us!
In the book To Have Another: A Hemingway Cocktail Companion, cocktail historian Philip Greene, takes you on a journey through the history of Papa's drinks of preference. He also gives us a look at how and why Papa drank what he drank and when. It is a very interesting view of a very interesting man.
Assembling the Cocktail:
Add all ingredients to a shaker and shake with ice for 20 to 30 seconds, it should be damn cold, just like Papa liked 'em.
Place your Whiskey Ice Co. Spherical Ice Ball in the double old fashioned glass strain cocktail mixture over the top.
Garnish with at least four Luxardo Cherries and you'd better eat about four or five more, just to be safe.