Served by Gerald Murphy in his garden in the South of France in the Twenties, the great and good of the literary and art world enjoyed more than their fair share of The Juice of a Few Flowers, says Sarah Hyde
Cocktail Recipe: The Juice of a Few Flowers
Eke out summer days with The Juice of a Few Flowers, a cocktail created by Gerald Murphy in his garden for F Scott Fitzgerald
Imagine if a cocktail could transport you to a time and to a place, where would you go and how would you get there? Eat me, Drink me, and take me to Villa America, home of Sara and Gerald Murphy on the Cap d’ Antibes in 1928.
Like many other young Americans, Sara and Gerald Murphy had arrived in France as refugees of prohibition, lured by favourable exchange rates which made Paris a carefree and easy place to live during the Twenties.
The Murphys seemingly stumbled on the idea of summering in the south of France, having been invited there in 1922 by Cole Porter, Gerald’s best friend from Yale. As legend has it, in 1923, they asked the Hotel Eden Roc to keep some rooms open for them over the summer. During their time there, they discovered the small bay of Garoupe beach with its magnificent view of the mountains. If, they found, they removed the layers of seaweed, white sand materialised, bordering the crystal waters – a perfect sunbathing spot. Later their story was immortalised by F Scott Fitzgerald in Tender is the Night.
It was the garden at Villa America that had first attracted the couple when they were looking for a home. Previously owned by a naval officer who had been based in the near East, the grounds hosted a magnificent collection of plants and exotic flowers running wild, including oleanders, tulips, roses, mimosa, heliotrope, jasmine, camellias… nightingales sang though the night.
For Gerald, this garden made a magical backdrop for the perfect cocktail and he concocted ‘The Juice of Few Flowers’ mixed with gin. The fruit juice was sourced from the citrus grove Ferme des Oranges which the couple had annexed for house guests.
At the appointed hour, drinks were served on the grey and white marble terrace under the magnificent Linden tree. You can almost hear the tinkles of laughter on the terrace, the rattle and shhhh of the cocktail shaker, the scratch of the needle over the latest jazz record and the clatter of Sara’s famous pearls.
The Murphys were consummate hosts, mixing their neighbours – the elegant Riviera set – with artists, Picasso and Leger were regular guests, and legendary literary friends such as the Hemingways, the Fitzgeralds and Dorothy Parker, all of whom were rather heavy drinkers. Rumour has it that if they were left unattended with the cocktail tray, things could easily get out of hand. Gerald, in the unenviable position of ringmaster, limited guests to a two cocktails before ushering them into supper. Nothing could be more challenging to a civilised dinner than ‘Zelda and Scottie’ acting out. Seen through this prism Dorothy Parker’s witty maxim about martinis reads like a bad weather warning:
‘I like to have a martini, Two at the very most. After three I’m under the table, after four I’m under my host.’
Gerald created cocktails with the precision of nuclear fusion. Citrus juices were meticulously measured and carefully shaken over ice. The bittersweet freshness of pink grapefruit, lemon and lime was utterly modern and fresh. The iced juices cut through the sunburn and saltiness of the day and were sweetened by a fairy dusting of coarse sugar glittering like rough diamonds around the rim of the glasses. Just about the colour of summer sunset, Juice of a Few Flowers carefully delivered the requisite measure of gin.
The Recipe for the Juice of a Few Flowers
- ½ ounce lime juice
- ½ ounce lemon juice
- 1 ounce pink grapefruit
- 1 ounce orange juice
- 1 ounce gin
Shake the ingredients over ice and serve in a martini glass rimmed with lemon juice dipped in coarse crystalised sugar…
In this instance, we suggest using the delicious Scilly Spirit Distillery Island Gin whose distinctive citrus and juniper notes with pepper, and subtle spice of cardamom and cassia, work brilliantly and evoke the exotic garden at Villa America.
Imagery by Mark Cross. Main image: Gerald Murphy, left, with his wife Sara and friends on a beach at Cap d’Antibes, the French Riviera, late 1920s.