10 January 2012


It's hard to picture Nick and Nora Charles--or at least William Powell and Myrna Loy--without a martini shaker ready at hand.  Isabel Bolton's Do I Wake or Sleep reminds us that in that New York of the 1939 World's Fair and the cocktail party, drinking of such proportions was not just a comic exaggeration.  In this passage, Millicent Munroe, having downed three fast Martinis (sic), is starting on her fourth (remember, these are essentially glasses of gin, with the merest sublime ghost of Vermouth wafted over them):

"This..should be her last--and she would sip it very slowly, very slowly indeed; for certainly the rarest, the most multiple perceptions dawned upon one--all the minute subtle behavior and gymnastic of the heart set so actively in motion by these beneficent beverages, duplicating, extending your speculative faculties, your thoughts flowing one into the other and each flashing such penetrating light on the one that followed it, and being so observant and watching everybody with so much attention--chimes ringing, lights flashing, vistas extending, widening, opening up, and associations linking this with that--accumulating what a wealth of remarkable ideas, bringing you what an excess of initiation--insight."

Absinthe, yes; the nectar of the gods, maybe; but a martini?!

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