Story and photos by Daniel Djang
Dream Guest is a dineLA series that asks chefs and bartenders who they’d most like to see walk into their restaurant or bar, and what they’d serve this special guest.
Eric Alperin is the co-owner of The Varnish, the acclaimed craft cocktail bar discreetly located inside the historic Cole’s French Dip in Downtown LA. The Varnish was named the Best American Cocktail Bar at the 2012 Tales of the Cocktail Spirited Awards, the cocktail and spirits industry equivalent of the James Beard Awards.
Alperin, a Spirited Awards nominee for American Bartender of the Year, said his Dream Guest would be Ernest Hemingway. And what cocktail would he serve Papa?
When asked about his choice for Dream Guest, Alperin said that he shared something with the great author: no, not his writing gifts but rather “his drinking habits.” Alperin's father recently shared a quote about how Hemingway, after becoming world famous and wealthy, looked back and realized his greatest stories had come from a time when he was struggling to make ends meet. It was an insight that resonated with The Varnish partner.
The two may have some other qualities in common as well. “I love challenges,” said Alperin, who has run with the bulls in Pamplona (“You’re young, you’ve just read The Sun Also Rises...”), spent three months on a boat fishing in Valdez, Alaska, and gone skydiving numerous times. Hemingway would no doubt approve, though as Alperin noted, “We don’t know if Hemingway did all those things he wrote about in his stories, or if some of them were just that, stories.”
What is certain is that Hemingway would frequently quench his prodigious thirst in the bar at El Floridita in Havana, Cuba. The “cradle of the daiquiri” was immortalized in Hemingway’s novel Islands in the Stream. Bartender Constantino Ribailagua would make different versions of the daiquiri for Hemingway, including the infamous Papa Doble (a sugarless daiquiri with a double shot of rum) and La Floridita #3, the Hemingway Daiquiri that Alperin would serve to its namesake.
And what would Alperin say to his legendary customer? He’d give Hemingway a good-natured jab and ask him, “So...how does it compare to Constantino’s?” We’ll never know the answer, but thanks to the following recipe you can enjoy one of Hemingway’s favorite cocktails, a perfect warm weather sipper or any time you feel like doing some armchair traveling.
- 1.5 oz light rum (Matusalem)
- 1 oz fresh grapefruit juice
- .5 oz fresh lime juice
- .75 oz Maraschino Liqueur (Maraska)
- Shake ingredients well with ice.
- Strain into a chilled cocktail glass.
- Garnish with a maraschino cherry. (Luxardo)