This cocktail was invented by Hemingway and appeared in the first of the posthumously published novels, Islands in the Stream.

It was one of the 332 works found by wife, Mary, after his death and one of the most finished pieces. The book follows painter, Thomas Hudson, through a trilogy of books Bimini, Cuba and At Sea. Hemingway used his three sons as inspiration for the characters of Hudson’s sons. All three are killed in the book, two in a car accident and one in the war.

Phillip Greene wrote in his fantastic, To Have and Have Another, that this was his first Hemingway drink when he was on Sanibel Island, Florida reading Islands in the Stream. He had the ingredients so mixed a Green Isaac Special and that inspired him to write his book.

In the first part of Islands in the Stream, Bimini, Hudson and the three children are fishing on Hudson’s boat with his friend Roger Davis. While Roger and the boys spear fished the reef Hudson lay on the boat and asked the first mate, Eddy for a drink.

“Do you want a drink with coconut water? I got some water coconuts.”

“Very good.”

“Want a Green Isaac Special?”

“Fine. Make it a Special.”

“Eddy came aft with the tall cold drink made of gin, lime juice, green coconut water, and chipped ice with just enough Angostura bitter to give a rusty, rose color, he held the drink in the shadow so the ice would not melt while he looked out over the sea.”

Hemingway moved to Key West in 1931 and a week after moving he wrote to his publisher, Max Perkins, “Will plant more limes and coconuts. Wish you could plant a gin tree.”

The name of the drink comes from the Island of Green Isaac, which is one of a pair with Little Isaac, north of Bimini in the Bahamas. In each of the three acts in the book it is described differently; in “Bimini” it is called the Green Isaac Special; in “Cuba” it is described as a Tom Collins with coconut water and bitters and in “At sea” it is a Tomini.


60mL London Dry Gin
120mL green coconut water (not coconut milk)
Juice of 1 lime
2 – 4 dashes of Angostura bitters to taste

Put all ingredients in a cocktail shaker. Shake and pour over ice in a Collins glass. Lime peel as a garnish is optional.

When I first came across this drink I thought they sounded like a strange combination of ingredients. However, it is a fabulous drink. It is very refreshing but could be a little dangerous as it does not taste like it contains 60ml of gin. I usually drink it with Tanqueray gin. However, as the flavour of the coconut water and bitters can be subtle (depending on the level of bitters) it is worth trying out gins with more pronounced flavours. A great summer cocktail by the pool.

Special note: coming in at around 100 calories you might describe this as a health drink as much as a cocktail.

Feature image: Photographed by pausestudio. Image via Shutterstock.