Monday, January 11, 2016

The Victor Social Club On Hutson Alley--Enjoy A Double Dose Of Hemingway In Your Daiquiris

Ernest Hemingway was an American novelist, short story writer, and journalist. He published seven novels, six short story collections, and two non-fiction works, most of which were produced between the mid-1920s and the mid-1950s. He won the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1954. Additional works, including three novels, four short story collections, and three non-fiction works, were published retrospectively. Many of his works are considered classics of American literature.

Hemingway was a seasoned traveler. His journeys took him from Key West to Cuba and distant places like Kilimanjaro, Venice and Paris. To get a real taste of local life, he advised, "Don't bother with churches, government buildings or city squares, if you want to know about a culture, spend a night in its bars." Hemingway did exactly that, and in the process acquired a self proclaimed reputation.

Hemingway was well known for drinking. Many of his stories and most famous quotes are laced with references to drinks and drinking. In The Sun Also Rises, Jake Barnes has a Jack Rose while waiting in vain for Brett. In A Farewell to Arms, Frederic Henry has a couple of "cool and clean" Martinis; they made him "feel civilized." In For Whom the Bell Tolls, it is the ritual of dripped absinthe that gives Robert Jordan’s temporary solace from the rigors of war. And in "Islands in the Stream," young Tom Hudson made a drink for his father, with the assurance, "I put lime, bitters, and no sugar in it."--Hemingway did not like sugar in his drinks. "Always do sober what you said you'd do drunk. That will teach you to keep your mouth shut" and "An intelligent man is sometimes forced to be drunk to spend time with his fools” are just a sprinkling of quotes ascribed to Hemingway.

During an extended stay in Cuba, whenever someone made the trek to Havana to be introduced to the novelist, Hemingway would meet them at La Florida bar, affectionately known as the "Floridita." A. E. Hotchner, the playwright and biographer who wrote "Papa Hemingway," reported after shaking Hemingway's "thick and square" hand, the first round of giant Daiquiris arrived. Hemingway himself described a properly beaten Daiquiri as looking "like the sea where the wave falls away from the bow of a ship when she is doing thirty knots." The giant Daiquiris, christened Papa Doble, were double frozen Daiquiris made to Hemingway’s particular specifications. Hemingway boasted to have "made a run of sixteen here one night."

Hemingway, as far as I know, never visited Charleston, but his drink has found its way into one of its drinking establishments. The place is The Victor Social Club and the drink is called The Hemingway. The sophisticated social club is quietly tucked away off of busy King Street on classy Hutson Alley.

Part of a multi-establishment concept of Holy City Hospitality called the Hutson Alley Project, it is flanked on both sides by Michael's on the Alley and Vincent Chicco's. Originally, there were hints of another registered name to be called The Blue Marlin Bar, but it appears the idea was woven into the character of The Victor Social Club. A prominent feature of the club's ornamentation is a huge painting of a marlin mounted high above its bar. It fits the Hemingway theme--The Old Man and the Sea, one of his most famous works, tells the story of Santiago, an aging Cuban fisherman who struggles with a giant marlin far out in the Gulf Stream off the coast of Florida.

Hutson Alley is beautifully adorned by a brick lined, patterned-cement walkway with evenly spaced palm trees and black light posts while green, leafy vines cover the building's aged red brick walls. Each establishment has its own glass door entrance and each is marked by a rustic, sliding steel door leftover from the building's honored past. Although, each has their own entrance, they share one central kitchen headed by Executive Chef Aaron Lemieux.

As you step through The Victor Social Club's entrance, you're greeted by a room with vaulted ceilings, exposed brick, and a most engaging bar. Nautical paintings highlighting more of Hemingway's favorite fish adorn the outer walls, intimate table settings for two line its perimeters, and a grouping of cozy, black couches set in a circle embellish the middle of the spacious room--perfect for socializing. For private events, it offers rooms that can be transformed to host professional gatherings or celebratory affairs.

The Victor Social Club menu features classic cocktails, icy cold beers, as well as an extensive wine list. Holding to the Hemingway theme, a New Happy Hour Menu combines Cuban inspired fare with innovative cocktails. Available Monday-Friday between 4-7pm, the new menu delivers an array of flavors from fresh local ceviche to a pulled pork Cuban sandwich.

Some of the elite clubs of Charleston's past included the St. Cecilia Society, the Charleston Club, the Huguenot Society, the Carolina Yacht Club, Emerald Social Club, the Annex Club, and the Harmony Social Club. Today's Victor Social Club pays homage to the social club legend of eighteenth-century Charleston with some Papa Hemingway whirled vigorously in.

Both Michael's on the Alley and Vincent Chicco's are on the list for Charleston Restaurant Week--January 6-17, 2016.

Want to try Papa Doble in true Hemingway fashion? Combine two and a half jiggers (or 3 3/4 ounces) of Bacardi White Label Rum, the juice of two limes and half a grapefruit, and six drops of maraschino, all placed in an electric mixer over shaved ice, whirled vigorously and served foaming in large goblets.

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