Friday, August 12, 2011

Glamorous Couple, Glamorous Drink

Juice of a Few Flowers Cocktail

Sara and Gerald Murphy were the "it" couple of Paris in the 1920's .  They were one of the most glamorous couples at that time.  They had looks, they had style, they had money, and they had taste.  They were friends and supporters of some of the most talented artists during this time period -- Hemingway, the Fitzgeralds, Picasso, and Cole Porter. Their generosity to their friends knew no bounds and they were enthusiastic supporters of the arts.  Gerald himself was an artist.

I have been reading the fascinating story of Sara and Gerald Murphy, "Everybody Was So Young" by Amanda Vaill. This biography of the Murphys is also a definitive account of Paris in the '20s, a tale that includes Hemingway, the Fitzgeralds, Picasso, Cole Porter, Dorothy Parker, and John Dos Passos, all at the exciting time when their careers were taking off.  The Murphys were the golden couple that everyone wanted to be around.  Most of the men were half in love with Sara.  Their parties were legendary.

Gerald Murphy invented a cocktail called "Juice of a Few Flowers" which he would serve to their guests at their villa in the South of France.  I just came upon the recipe in a cookbook by Ina Garten.  She tells the story of the Murphy's inventing this drink and serving it at their parties, limiting the guests to two drinks before dinner.

Gerald and Sara Murphy (seated on the left) with Pauline Pfeiffer, Ernest and Hadley Hemingway

Gerald and Sara Murphy at their beach, La Garoupe, in the south of France

The following passage from "Everybody Was So Young" paints a vivid picture of a day in the life of the Murphys in the south of France:

"Sara had a phrase, 'Dinner-Flowers-Gala,' derived from the notation carried on ships' menus for the captain's dinner: it was Murphy language for any special occasion, and there were many...usually dinners for eight to ten.  First there were Gerald's special cocktails on the terrace, cocktails that he claimed contained 'just the juice of a few flowers,' sometimes a concoction of brandy, liqueur, lemon juice in stemmed glasses whose rims had been rubbed with lemon and dipped in coarse sugar...

These Gerald mixed, Philip Barry said, like a priest preparing Mass, and he served them ritually; you were only allowed two cocktails, and you were not offered anything else to drink before dinner.  During cocktails the children would come down in their bathrobes and sing a song, or dance... afterwards they would go up to bed.  And then there wold be dinner under the linden tree, by candlelight, the women in their beaded dresses and the men in their dinner jackets, with everyone so young and merry and clever."

Gerald and Sara Murphy with Cole Porter in Venice in 1923

The Murphys were generous hosts to their friends, giving parties that were the stuff of legend.
Antibes, France which the Murphys helped put on the map as a glamorous destination 

At their Villa America in Antibes they hosted Picasso, the Fitzgeralds, Hemingway, Cole Porter and others and gave them an enchanting experience on the French Riviera, an experience that many of these writers immortalized in their books.  The Murphys often put their friends up at  nearby hotels and payed for it themselves. Their generosity knew no bounds.  When Hadley and Ernest Hemingway arrived at Villa America with their sick son, the Murphys paid all of their expenses including the child's doctor's bills.  They are credited with making the Cote d'Azure chic. Before they moved there, no one came to the French Riviera in the summer.  The Murphys made it the glamorous spot that is is today.

Here is a description of a typical day with the Murphys at their beach in Antibes from "Everyone Was So Young."  Vaill is using quotes from Fitzgerald's novel "Tender is the Night" which was based on the Murphys.

"It was their friend F. Scott Fitzgerald who described the Murphys best.  There was Sara, her face 'hard and lovely and pitiful,' her bathing suit 'pulled off her shoulders' and her brown back gleaming under her rope of pearls, 'making out a list of things from a book on the open sand.'  And there was Gerald, her husband, tall and lean in his striped maillot and a knitted cap, gravely raking the seaweed from the beach....  On the 'bright tan prayer rug of the beach,' they and their friends swim, sunbathe, drink sherry and nibble crackers, trade jokes....'  Their very presence is 'an act of creation'; to be included in their world is, Fitzgerald says, 'a remarkable experience.'" 

Linda and Cole Porter

Zelda and F. Scott Fitzgerald


So come on, let's add a touch of glamour to our weekend!  A chilled "Juice of a Few Flowers" should get us off to a good start.

Juice of a Few Flowers Cocktail

1/2 cup freshly squeezed orange juice
1/2 cup freshly squeezed pink grapefruit juice
1/4 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
1/4 cup freshly squeezed lime juice
1 cup good vodka, such as Grey Goose
Extra lemon juice
Granulated sugar
Fresh mint sprigs

Combine the orange juice, grapefruit juice, lemon juice, lime juice, and vodka in a pitcher.  Dip the rims of 4 martini glasses first in a dish with lemon juice and then in a dish with sugar.
When ready to serve, place ice cubes in a cocktail shaker, add the cocktail mixture to fill the shaker three-quarters full, and shake for about 30 seconds.  Pour into the sugared martini glasses and garnish with a sprig of mint.  Serve ice-cold.


  1. In my very favourite movie, The Philadelphia Story, Cary Grant brings a drink out to Katharine Hepburn to help get her eyes open on her wedding day. She asks him what it is and he replies..."just the juice of a few flowers". Philip Barry, who was a frequent guest of the Murphy's, wrote those lines.

    Wonderful post and fabulous photographs.
    Made me thirsty.

  2. I love a French 75...this does look like a great concoction.
    Imagine living back in the 1920's...
    what an era to experience, it must have been a very heady time to be alive and of course money helped!

  3. Ah, the Murphys, what a life they led.
    I'm definitely going to try that cocktail.

  4. I have been so immersed in this time period, I have read "The Paris Wife," The Moveable Feast," Everybody was so Young," and am now reading "Tender is the Night". Although I don't usual drink hard liquor, this looks too good to not try. I am sure all fresh juices will be the best! Thanks for your research Sunday.

  5. thank you for your lovely comment and also thank you for bringing this book to my attention! i'm on the last chapter of the great gatsby (for the 30th time) and i'm sad that it is ending. i will pick this up for sure. the cocktail sounds delicious too. great pictures too.


  6. I just love the fashion styles of the '20's. Sometimes I think my daughter and I would have fit in well during that time period. We read "The Great Gatsby" for school and then watched several movie versions and delighted in all quirks of the '20's.

  7. The Vaill book is one of the best biographies I've read and your post has made me want to re-read it. Loved the story of Gerald raking the seaweed from the beach!

  8. I have to re-read this, as Tender is the Night is one of my all time favorite books, and one that I do read over again fairly regularly. Going to try the cocktail too - looks so refreshing!

  9. Marvelous post!! I just recently saw Midnight in Paris and have been meaning to get the Amanda Vail book so this is just perfect. I totally remember the line from Philadelphia Story that Pamela referenced - had no idea of the origin - just love making all those connections. Will most definitely have to try this one!!

  10. Love this. Am reading The Paris Wife so it just fits perfectly with where my head has been!

  11. This is the time period, through literature in high school, when I became convinced that the smell of fresh bread, steamimg coffee, the cafe lifestyle,
    the intense enjoyment of the present and even the most mundane elements of daily life existed on a different level in Europe, and particularly, in Paris.
    Every moment seemed more real and authentic.They were really "living",
    while we were numbed by our mass, quantity versus quality of life culture. We were moving too fast to see and experience what was actually there in front of us. These writers showed me there was a different kind of life to be lived, and way to see the world. I guess it's really a dream from which i have still yet to awaken. Thanks for helping to keep me in that warm glow.

  12. Love hearing about these people from the past!

  13. wonderful post and subject! I've also (recently)been intrigued by their story and love of life and just wrote a post on the book, Living Well is the Best Revenge. (My interest in Hemingway and the recent Paris Wife led me there). I'm now curious how they lived their later years and look forward to reading their daughter Honoria's book on... after villa america.

  14. I can't wait to try this drink. At the first sign of nice weather I think I'll mix up a batch. I've been reading "The Paris Wife" with all the same characters. What a time it must have been. Next on my list is "Everybody Was So Young" and of course a bit of Hemingway!