Wednesday, June 11, 2014

“To Have And Have Another”– Book Review




If you’re a fan of cocktails or Ernest Hemingway or (like me) both, then “To Have And Have Another” by Philip Greene is a must read for you.

Both a quick and fun read, this book is a compendium of many different types of cocktails that Hemingway either referenced in his writing or enjoyed himself (and frequently, both).  In addition to containing the name and recipe of each cocktail, “To Have And Have Another” is extensively annotated with the short stories and novels where the drink was mentioned.  Greene uses an effervescent writing style to provide not only a history of the cocktail but also how it came to be known by Hemingway; it’s clear from his descriptions that he had a great deal of fun both researching and writing his book. 

What makes Greene’s book particularly delightful is the fact the chapters can be read out of order; if there’s a specific cocktail you want to learn more about, then you can read that chapter by itself and not have to worry if you’ve missed anything vital in any previous chapters.  Alternatively, if you merely want to locate drinks connected to a particular novel or short story, then it can easily be done by looking at the Suggested Reading section at the beginning of each chapter.  There are also quite a few photographs of Hemingway from the good old days and old post-Prohibition advertisements of various spirits. 

Why should you read this book if you’re not a big Hemingway fan?  Well, if you don’t admire the writer, my first question would be, “Just what the hell is wrong with you anyway?”.  But be that as it may, even if you don’t care that much about Hemingway – but you are a big fan of cocktails – then there’s still plenty here to love.  Clearly, the author has a strong passion for both aspects – cocktails and Hemingway.  When you consider his background, it’s no wonder; Greene is one of the founders of The Museum Of The American Cocktail in New Orleans. 

Despite the fact that the author is a Hemingway enthusiast, he is not in denial about the writer’s many flaws and shortcomings.  Greene admits that Hemingway indulged in drink to excess, which may account for the many personal problems the man encountered in his life.  Where Hemingway may have had discipline when it came to writing, he appeared to lack discipline when it came to drinking.  That said, the author is instead addressing people who are not out of control when it comes to their admiration of either Hemingway or fine cocktails.  

Although the chapters may be read in any order as alluded to earlier, they are not randomly organized; instead, they appear in alphabetical order based on the name of the spirit or cocktail that is the focus of that particular chapter – it starts with Absinthe and ends with the gin-based cocktail called The White Lady.  As to which one was my favorite chapter, it’s hard to say.  I love the drink called Death In The Afternoon (named after the Hemingway book) so I enjoyed that one quite a good deal.  Additionally, the chapter on Martinis was quite good; although the chapters in this book are generally short, this was by far the longest chapter. 


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