Happy Birthday, Raymond Chandler!
In Follow Her Home, debut novelist Steph Cha drops a number of allusions to Chandler’s private detective novels. At one point, her character even references the gimlet recipe from my favorite Chandler novel.
To help you mix the literary cocktail this week, I caught up with Cha to get a recipe and review of the Raymond Chandler Gimlet.
The gimlet is Terry Lennox’s drink from The Long Goodbye. He tells Marlowe, “A real gimlet is half gin and half Rose’s Lime Juice and nothing else. It beats martinis hollow.” That recipe is now iconic – look up “gimlet” in Wikipedia and see what pops up. I’m not actually much of a gin drinker, but I made a gimlet just to see what it tastes like.
The answer is, uh, not that good! I used two ounces of gin and two ounces of Rose’s Lime, shook it with ice and strained it. (And by “I” I do mean “my fiance,” who is less lazy than I am.) It came out looking like Gatorade and I swear, maybe it was just the association, but it even tasted kind of Gatorade-ish to me. That same sweet lime-adjacent taste, I guess. If I were to try again (and I probably will, since we now own Rose’s Lime Juice), I’d probably cut the lime in half. Chandler can feel free to roll in his grave, but the man was a writer, not a mixologist.
Cha also explained how the gimlet got a cameo her book:
I threw in that gimlet moment for funsies and foreshadowing, and I knew it would be immediately recognizable to Chandler readers, not at all so to anyone else. I’m glad you noticed it – I like the idea of winking at my readers. I remember watching Brick in theaters and feeling this immense gratification when Nora Zehetner whispers something in Joseph Gordon-Levitt‘s ear and he says it was “a dirty word” – it was a scene snipped right out of The Continental Op, and I was so happy Rian Johnson rewarded me (me personally and no one else, I’m sure) with that allusion.
If you want more cocktail options, this GalleyCat editor created a variation on The Thin Man martini last summer–try our recipe at this link.
Studio 360 hosted a Fuzzy Novel competition last summer, collecting more than 100 cocktails mixed by listeners and named after famous books.
I’ve read enough Chandler that this part was kind of easy. I’ve internalized a lot of his material, his language, geography, motifs, etc. I don’t mean that I can replicate it at will or anything like that – just that when I love a novel (or a movie, or a person), I carry it pretty close to the surface. I will never hear a Chandler quote without my spider sense tingling, and many things in daily life remind me of his work. So if a woman bats her lashes and I think of Carmen Sternwood, think how much heavier that connection has to be when I’m writing a character informed by Carmen Sternwood.
That said, I did check the source material every time I wanted to reference Chandler. The idea of being clumsy with this particular objective really mortified me, so I was careful. I was pretty sure where to look, though, and what I wanted to borrow.
(Small’s Gimlet with Koval Chrysanthemum Honey image via swanksalot)