It’s September 24 and that means it’s F. Scott Fitzgerald’s birthday. Perhaps America’s drunkest author of all time, he was famous by his mid-20s, forgotten by the time he turned forty and dead four years later. That’s one wild ride and for this occasion we’ll mix up a Gin Daisy as Drink of the Day.
Fitzgerald published four novels, four collections of short stories and 164 short stories. His success while alive was confined to a short period in the 1920s, and while considered one of the greatest 20th century American writers he wasn’t fully appreciated until after his death. He was the archetype of famous authors who drank heavily, a substantial list we discussed on John Steinbeck’s birthday when we mixed the Jack Rose.
Ignoring the details of his early life, time at Princeton and failed attempt to become a successful writer in New York, he ultimately decamped to the top floor of his parents’ house. There he rewrote his first rejected novel manuscript as This Side of Paradise, an autobiographical account of his time at Princeton and failed romances.
This Side of Paradise was an instant success when published in 1920 and in a matter of months became a cultural sensation. Critics swooned and magazines published his previously rejected articles. One of his lost loves, Zelda, even married him.
Life was suddenly good and the couple fully embraced the Roaring Twenties, becoming legends of hedonistic excess and highly questionable behavior. In 1924 they moved to Paris, where Scott worked on his magnum opus, The Great Gatsby. (For our younger readers who may only know the Leonardo DiCaprio movie, the novel is well worth your while.) This was, as Hemingway coined it, the era of the Lost Generation in Paris that we discussed with respect to the Green Isaac Special on his birthday.
Scott called the summer of 1925 “1,000 parties and no work.” Zelda kept up with him, and together their behavior put off even their closest friends. In a letter to their mutual editor, Hemingway wrote:
“Please don’t under any circumstances give Scott our Paris home address. Last time he was in Paris he got us kicked out of one apt. and in trouble all the time (Insulted the landlord – pee-ed (sic) on the front porch – tried to break down the door at 3-4 and 5 a.m. etc.). I am very fond of Scott but I’ll beat him up before I’ll let him come and get us ousted from this place. When I heard he was going to Paris it gave me the horrors.”
Too wild for Hemingway? That’s hardcore.
Fitzgerald was a raging alcoholic from his college days onward and ultimately drank and smoked himself into a terminal spiral. He made a drunken fool of himself at parties, was hospitalized for alcoholism 8 times and thrown in jail a few more. His writing declined, no more big successes were there, he was largely forgotten and ultimately reduced to being a contract writer for the Metro-Golden-Mayer film studios in Hollywood. He died in Los Angeles of a heart attack at the ripe old age of 44.
So where does that leave us in terms of our Drink of the Day? No, this sad tale doesn’t mean we should put the bottle away. Rather we’ll embrace Daisy Buchanan, a key character in The Great Gatsby, and call for a Daisy cocktail.
Daisies are a family of cocktails we mentioned when discussing the history of the Margarita, but they boil down to being the template for a sour (spirit, citrus, sweetener) with soda water added. Originally the sweetener was most often a liqueur, but by the time the 20th century rolled around grenadine was more commonly used.
You can make a Daisy with any spirit, and you should feel free to substitute in rum, brandy, whiskey, agave spirits or even vodka. Today we’re going to mix up a Gin Daisy as gin was Fitzgerald’s favored spirit, something he apparently believed would not be detected on his breath.
- Highball or Double Old Fashioned Glass
- 2 oz Gin
- 1 oz Fresh lemon juice
- 1 tsp Grenadine
- ½ tsp Simple syrup
- Club soda
- Garnish: mint or fresh fruit (optional)
- Add gin, lemon juice, grenadine and simple syrup to your trusty shaker.
- Add ice and shake until frosty cold.
- Strain into glass filled with crushed ice.
- Top with club soda.
- Garnish to your heart's content.