There are two ways to toast 20th century literary giant Ernest Hemingway in the city this July, which marks the anniversary of his birth (July 21) and death (July 2): Pull up a stool at one of his favorite local watering holes — the Minetta Tavern in Greenwich Village or Costello's in midtown — or order a cocktail that draws inspiration from the swashbuckling writer's life and deep, deep love of booze.
A flashy rum elixir on the new writer's cocktail collection menu at Bedford & Co., the restaurant below The Renwick Hotel at 118 E. 40th St., channels Papa Hemingway's bold persona and his predilection for Caribbean liquor.
Bedford & Co. head bartender Tommy Warren said he intended the Bumbu Punch — one of five cocktails he crafted in dedication to the authors who once crashed at the Renwick's predecessor, the Hotel Bedford — to be "unquestionably over the top."
"It’s a rum drink through and through, down to the glass, the umbrella, the crazy straw," Warren explained. "We wanted somebody to see it from across the table and say, ‘What is that? I want one.’”
The "eye-catching conversation piece," as Warren described it, is a loose interpretation of the notoriously hard-drinking Hemingway's go-to libations. With a house outside Havana, Cuba, Hemingway undoubtedly imbibed his fair share of the island's rum. Rumors, some debunked, say that he loved minty mojitos and that his eponymous frozen daquiri — less sweet and more alcoholic — transpired as a result of an off-the-cuff request he made at Havana's La Florida bar.
Hemingway liked to boast about how many Papa Dobles he could down in one sitting, so it would appear the macho scribe had no insecurities about his penchant for a less-than-masculine lime slurpee; some of Warren's clients aren't quite so confident, like a 30-something professional who ordered the Bumbu Punch without knowing what to expect.
"I had this poor guy here by himself," Warren said, "and he was like, 'What is this?' He was so embarassed. He crumpled the umbrella, and thew it on the bar.”
Still, he did enjoy his cocktail, a concoction of passion fruit, pineapple and two kinds of rum, including the Bumbu with notes of banana.
Other boozy author tributes on the menu at Bedford & Co., some priced at $13, others at $14, include crowd favorite The Zelda, a spicy margarita, and the Gertrude Stein, a mellow mix of Pimm's, chamomile syrup and lime juice.