Today is Dorothy Parker's 120th birthday. Apart from being a brilliant writer and Wisecracker, Parker is also one of the true icons of drinking culture, a famous lover of cocktails. Many of her most famous quotes are about the pleasures and pitfalls of drinking.
Kevin Fitzpatrick, who runs the Dorothy Parker Society, has long been thinking about Parker's status as a famous drinker, and this November he's releasing a book that celebrates her influence on cocktail culture. Under the Table: A Dorothy Parker Cocktail Guide promises to give us "an intoxicating new look at the doyenne of the ripping riposte through the lens she most preferred: the bottom of a glass."
"The reason I wanted to write the book is that since I run the Dorothy Parker Society, I'm always looking for new ways to bring readers to her work," Fitzpatrick says. "I've found that if people like the Speakeasy Era, they might also be drawn to the books, music, fashion, dances, and cocktails of the Prohibition era. Since 1999, we've been having regular speakeasy parties, and we've always had vintage cocktails on the menu, such as the French 75, Manhattans, Horse's Neck, Florodora, and Ziegfeld. When my editor approached me to write the book, my friends and I already had a list of cocktails that we try every month."
There's quite the L.A. tie-in as well. Fitzpatrick explains, "There is a section of the book about Hollywood, where Mrs. Parker lived off and on for 30 years. She helped found the Screenwriters Guild, lived at the Garden of Allah and Chateau Marmont, and was nominated for 2 Oscars." There are a number of cocktails in the book that pay tribute to that part of Parker's life, including the Stone Fence, which is mentioned in the dialogue of Smash-Up, the 1947 film starring Susan Hayward.
Both Hayward and screenwriting team Dorothy Parker and Frank Cavett earned Academy Award nominations for the film. "In one of the best scenes, Hayward walks behind the bar in her Sutton Place apartment and grabs a bottle of brandy," Fitzpatrick says. "The dialogue of the Universal Pictures script is inflected with Parker." The scene goes like this:
Angie: Hey, you know what a Stone Fence is? (Smiling)
Mike: You mean a Stone Wall.
Angie: I mean a Stone Fence, brother. It's sort of like an ice cream soda, with conviction. Bartender, will you please get me a cocktail shaker with some shaved ice, and some brandy, and some whiskey, and some Cointreau? What you need, Mike, is a Stone Fence. Just about the most colossal drink you've ever drunk. Drank. It puts poise in apathetic people, if you know what I mean. And after the second one your spine turns to solid platinum. You take one part brandy and two parts rye... (she drinks a jigger of rye).
"The Stone Fence dates to the Colonial period and was made by farmers in the winter using hard cider," Fitzpatrick explains. "This is the most common recipe, which uses brandy, just like Angie drinks it onscreen, but substitutes apple cider for her rye."
The Stone Fence
From: Under the Table: A Dorothy Parker Cocktail Guide by Kevin Fitzpatrick.
Note: If you prefer, you can replace the brandy with applejack, bourbon, rum, rye, or Scotch. I used 1/2 brandy and 1/2 rye, and that worked very nicely. You can also substitute club soda for the cider.
Makes: 1 drink
2 oz. brandy
½ oz. lemon juice
2 dashes Angostura bitters
fresh apple cider
1. Into a chilled old-fashioned glass filled with cracked ice, pour brandy and bitters.
2. Top with cider, and stir gently.
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