Grand Rapids International Wine, Beer, and Food Festival
Nov 18 & 19, 2022

Serving Up Cocktails & Conversations in Hemingway Hall – by Philip Greene

Serving Up Cocktails & Conversations in Hemingway Hall – by Philip Greene

Like many, I was introduced to Hemingway in high school. I read his story “Big Two-Hearted River,” where Nick Adams is backpacking in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. I’d taken a similar trip the summer before, so it really spoke to me.Like many, I was introduced to Hemingway in high school. I read his story “Big Two-Hearted River,” where Nick Adams is backpacking in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. I’d taken a similar trip the summer before, so it really spoke to me.

His descriptions are so vivid: fishing for trout, the rugged landscape, how Nick made his camp and cooked over the fire, the aromas of the campfire, the pine trees and ferns, the sounds of the river, the way his canned spaghetti bubbled in the pan, how the hot food burned his tongue. Hemingway described it so compellingly, I wanted more. See, that’s how he connects with readers – they feel like they were there. He said as much in a 1933 letter: “I am trying, always, to convey to the reader a full and complete feeling of the thing I am dealing with; to make the person reading feel it has happened to them.”

He was also a bit of a bon vivant, a global traveler and adventurer. He embraced it at an early age. At age 9 he wrote in his diary, “I intend to travel and write.” At 19, after being wounded in Italy during World War I, he encouraged his sister, “don’t be afraid to taste all the other things in life,” since “there’s a whole big world out there full of people who really feel things. They live and love and die with all their feelings. Taste everything, Sis.” At 24, as a foreign correspondent in Paris, he wrote, “I have discovered that there is romance in food when romance has disappeared from everywhere else. And as long as my digestion holds out I will follow romance.”

One final Hemingway quote is relevant: “If you are lucky enough to have lived in Paris as a young man, then wherever you go for the rest of your life, it stays with you, for Paris is a moveable feast.” For me, it wasn’t Paris; it was its American cousin.

I went to law school at Loyola New Orleans – that was my “Paris.”  It’s where I learned to cook, about the rich culture, history and folklore of the city’s food and drink, its restaurants and bars.  From this I became a so-called “cocktail historian.” I guess it helps if you’re lucky enough to discover you’re related to the inventor of Peychaud’s Bitters. So, the knowledge I had about him, the Sazerac and New Orleans’s rich drinking lore gave me an entrée into the cocktail world.

My first book, To Have and Have Another: A Hemingway Cocktail Companion, was a confluence of these interests: Hemingway’s rich life and prose, and the history and folklore behind the drinks. I felt uniquely qualified to write it, and was extremely lucky that no one had already written it.

My second book, The Manhattan: The Story of the First Modern Cocktail, was another chance to dig deep into cocktail history, to explore the history and folklore of the Manhattan, but also the profound impact the drink had on the Golden Age of bartending, the late 19th century to Prohibition, and the key role vermouth played.

Now I’m fortunate to have been given the opportunity to write about another fascinating era, Paris in the 1920s, also from a cocktail perspective. If you enjoyed Woody Allen’s film “Midnight in Paris,” I think you’ll like my next book, A Drinkable Feast: A 1920s Paris Cocktail Companion, which I finished writing in early October. It will be published by Penguin Random House in late summer, 2018.

At the Grand Rapids International Wine, Beer & Food Festival (a culmination of Cocktail Week GR) I’ll be presenting on Hemingway’s favorite drinks, using the amazing rums of Papa’s Pilar, from the Hemingway Rum Co. I’ve had the honor of working with Pilar since 2013 and it’s been a wonderful partnership. Please be sure to visit their beautiful new distillery in Key West, where Hemingway lived in the 1930s. I’ll be making and demonstrating several authentic Hemingway cocktails: his famous Daiquiri, using the authentic 1937 recipe from the Floridita in Havana. Also, the Cayo Hueso la Floridita, a previously-unknown highball variation of the Daiquiri that Hemingway’s friends in Key West gave me. I’ll also do the Josie Russell, a drink Hemingway and Joe Russell (owner of Sloppy Joe’s) invented out on the Gulf Stream. Probably a few others, we’ll see.

Two offerings of “To Have and Have Another” will be presented on the Meijer Food Stage – once on Friday at 9pm and the other on Saturday at 5pm. There is no charge for these demonstrations and samples will be provided.

I’ll also be presenting a few Manhattan-themed short workshops, using the great products of Coppercraft Distillery, locally-made in Holland, Michigan (find us in booths 326 and 327 in “Hemingway Hall”). The Manhattan’s simple, classic format of spirit, vermouth and bitters offers a great chance to create new recipes. Space is limited to the first 12 people to step up and tasting tickets are required for sampling.

Mixing Cocktails in Hemingway Fashion will be offered from 6:30-7pm on Friday and from 2:30-3pm on Saturday; The Manhattan: The Story of the First Modern Cocktail will be presented from 7:30-8pm on Friday and 3:30-4pm on Saturday.

I’m very fortunate to have a “hobby” that’s turned into a sideline. I love my job as a trademark and Internet lawyer, but being able to research and write about things like Hemingway, Paris and cocktails, I mean, if you’d told me 15 years ago that I’d be doing this, I’d have thought you’d had a few too many!  It’ll be a blast to come up to Grand Rapids for the Festival. My wife, daughters and I only recently discovered Michigan, and recently bought some almost-waterfront property up near Northport, on the Leelanau Peninsula. It’s beautiful country, and you can certainly understand why great writers like Hemingway and Jim Harrison found it so compelling.


Philip Greene is an authority on the life and favorite drinks of Ernest Hemingway, and has presented on this topic before the Smithsonian and Kennedy Center in Washington DC and at the Hemingway Home in Key West, as well as other locales around the world.

He is a Brand Ambassador and consultant for the Hemingway Rum Co., and their line of award-winning rums under the Papa’s Pilar brand. He is one of the founders of the Museum of the American Cocktail in New Orleans and has presented at events such as Tales of the Cocktail and Manhattan Cocktail Classic, as well as programs for the Smithsonian Associates, the Hemingway Society, the International F. Scott Fitzgerald Society and the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington DC, as well as other notable institutions.

Greene is also on the Board of Directors of the National Food & Beverage Foundation as well as the Museum of the American Cocktail’s Founders Board. Outside of the world of cocktails, Greene is a Trademark and Internet Counsel to the U.S. Marine Corps, based at the Pentagon in Washington DC.