On this, the last weekend of the summer, I suggest a toast in honor of “the golden couple,” (pictured) Gerald and Sara Murphy, who imaginatively embellished the grand art of the summer soiree.
The Murphys’ seaside salon at Antibes hosted a circle of friends who defined art and literature in the 1920s — regular guests included not only F. Scott Fitzgerald and his wife, Zelda, but Hemingway, Picasso, Cole Porter, Dorothy Parker, Archibald MacLeish and Robert Benchley. This pantheon sunned the days away at the beach and enjoyed impeccable dinners under the grand silver linden tree that framed the garden at the Murphys’ Villa America. But before dinner, they were treated to cocktails, usually cocktails of Gerald’s own invention, who one close friend, Philip Barry, taking note of Gerald’s way with a cocktail shaker, described as being “like a priest preparing Mass.”
Murphy was fastidious in the preparation of drinks. But also just the least bit coy: When asked what he put in this concoction or that, he would invariably reply, “Just the juice of a few flowers.” (Gerald’s florid mixological phrase so impressed Barry, he worked it into the script of “The Philadelphia Story” in a scene between Tracey Lord (Katherine Hepburn) and ex husband, Cary Grant, who makes her a Stinger as a hangover cure. Hepburn asks what’s in it, and Grant flippantly replies: “The juice of a few flowers.”
The Bailey cocktail was the most prominently featured of the juiced drinks served to the Murphys’ illustrious guests during those long ago lazy days at the cap d’antibes in the 1920’s.
Gerald Murphy’s Bailey Cocktail
1½ oz gin
½ oz grapefruit juice
½ oz fresh lime juice
1 tsp simple syrup (optional)
1 sprig mint
Gerald Murphy’s instructions:
“The mint should be put in the shaker first. It should be torn up by hand as it steeps better. The gin should be added then and allowed to stand a minute or two. Then add the grapefruit juice and then the lime juice. Stir vigorously with ice and do not allow to dilute too much, but serve very cold, with a sprig of mint in each glass.”
Painting: Cocktails, Gerald Murphy, 1927. Whitney Museum of American Art in New York. [Note: Gerald Murphy was so grateful to Philip Barry for immortalizing his florid mixological phrase in The Philadelphia Story, he made a gift of the painting to Barry’s widow, Ellen, at the time of the playwright’s death.]