Weekend with Hemingway – A Farewell to Hemingway

This cocktail is one from the Hemingway stable and appears in the second volume of The Gentleman’s Companion by Charles H. Baker. During the years of Prohibition in America (1920 – 1933) Baker travelled the world exploring food and alcohol, culminating in his two-volume, work, The Gentleman’s Companion: volume one, The Exotic Cookery Book and volume two, The Exotic Drinking Book. On his travels, Baker became friends with many of the world’s great celebrity drinkers such as William Faulkner and Hemingway.

Apart from being a play on the title of Hemingway’s first great novel, A Farewell to Arms, the name of the drink comes from being invented on a night Baker saw off Hemingway and bullfighter, Sidney Franklin on a plane to New York heading ultimately to civil war Spain. Perhaps they joked he may not come back.

Baker writes, “There is no reason to this drink. It just happened because Ernest prefers kirschwasser, and it was a muggy, half-breathless sort of night. The cherry syrup sweet of course can be varied to taste…We’ve later found that raspberry syrup is very decent, also.”

Kirschwasser (or Kirsch) literally means, ”cherry water.” It is a clear eau de vie (a fruit brandy – meaning water of life) and is generally made from Morello cherries which originated in the Black Forrest region of Germany. Although a brandy, it is mostly drunk cold in a small glass as an aperitif. However, if you are willing to spend on some high-quality kirsch you might enjoy it more like a traditional brandy warmed in the hands.


75ml kirschwasser

15ml cherry syrup

Juice of one lime

Soda water

Shake kirsch, cherry syrup and lime juice with ice in a shaker. Pour (with the ice) into a tall Collins glass, top up with soda water and garnish with lime peel.

This drink is referred to by Baker as, “…a sort of KIRSCH Collins.”

Hemingway acquired a taste for Kirsch during a skiing trip to Schruns Austria in 1924. He and, first wife, Hadley, with baby Bumby, spent two months in Schruns. He grew a beard and didn’t cut his hair during this period and the locals called him “The Black Christ.”

On his return to Paris, he would reward himself with a drink. “Up in the room, I had a bottle of kirsch that we brought back from the mountains and I took a drink of kirsch when I would get to the end of a story or toward the end of the day’s work.”

Apart from the odd Cherry Ripe or a rum-soaked cherry in a Manhattan, I am not a big fan of cherry flavoured things. The first Rum Collins I drank had a cherry bobbing around in the glass and I didn’t like it one bit. However, this cocktail is not nearly as sweet or even cherry-like as I thought it would be. I had it mixed for me by the fabulous Felix at the Everleigh bar in Fitzroy, Melbourne. There are a lot of great cocktail bars in Melbourne but this one gets the nod from me.

Kirsch is surprisingly un-sweet and the bitterness of the lime takes the edge off the syrup. However, I did find it quite sickly so as Charles H. Baker suggests, it may be a good idea to vary the amount of syrup according to your taste.

Feature image via Serhiy Shullye. Image via Shutterstock