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 high society F. Scott Fitzgerald, for instance; some of his best work was clearly done under the influence. Just look at the soaking-wet 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, iconic figures of the Jazz Age in France, held court at their villa on the French Riviera in Antibes (Villa America, as it was dubbed) where they would hold legendary dinner parties. Gerald tried to limit his guests’ consumption of the hard stuff 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.
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 death-denying 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.
Murphy immortalized drink-making as a stylish ritual in his 1927 painting “Cocktail,” now in the Whitney in New York. Asked what he was mixing in his silver shaker, Gerald would always 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 in which it was said by Cary Grant). What Gerald was actually concocting was something he called a Bailey; “invented by me,” Gerald wrote to Alexander Woollcott, “as were a great many other good things.” Indeed.
Gerald Murphy’s “Bailey”:
1/5th grapefruit juice
1/5th lime juice
Sprigs of mint
The mint should be put in the shaker first. It should be torn up by hand as it steeps better. The gin should be added then and allowed to stand a minute or two. Then add the grapefruit juice and then the lime juice. Stir vigorously with ice and do not allow to dilute too much, but serve very cold, with a sprig of mint in each glass.