Except for the televisions over the bar, F. Scott Fitzgerald himself might have fit right in at Thornwillow Press’s party for A Fitzgerald Companion, a slim and precious homage by Steve Garbarino to one of his heroes, whom he calls “the literary mascot of the Jazz Age.” The Great Gatsby scribe’s favorite drinks were served as a combo played Jazz Age tunes. And, of course, the Washington area is Fitzgerald’s home, after a fashion: He and his wife, Zelda, are buried at St. Mary’s Church in Rockville, Maryland. Their only daughter, “Scottie,” lived in Georgetown, wrote for the Washington Post and other publications, and was an occasional participant in and chronicler of the social scene. (She died in 1986.) Garbarino, a contributing editor at Vanity Fair and a culture writer for the Wall Street Journal, has his own connection to the area: “I spent the summers in Rehoboth, which led to a love of DC,” he said.
Aimed smartly at the Christmas stockings of Fitzgerald fans, the 32-page volume was handmade with love at publisher Luke Ives Pontifell’s tiny press in upstate New York. “You can touch the type, you can feel it—on very beautiful paper,” said Pontifell, the book in one hand and an Old Fashioned in the other. There are only 250 signed and numbered copies, $65 a piece, and another 26 partly leather-bound special editions in a clamshell box, at $585. Both are available at the Thornwillow boutique at the St. Regis.
Garbarino, who described himself as “the bearded guy with the very fat Michael Caine glasses,” said the book was inspired by a story he’d written on New York bars Fitzgerald liked in his time and bars he would possibly like today, and by the puzzle of our enduring fascination with Fitzgerald. “People relate to him,” said Garbarino. “Fitzgerald walked that weird line of telling a cautionary tale but going, ‘Ain’t we havin’ fun?’”
And why wouldn’t we? Waiters passed marinated scallops with caviar, gougères, pork belly canapés, and calamari sliders. The bartenders stayed busy pouring Champagne, mixing Old Fashioneds, Sidecars, and French 75s—still standards on the St. Regis cocktails list.
If you want to replicate the good life at home, note that Garbarino includes a few recipes for what he calls “bee’s-knees-terrific signature drinks.” He gave us permission to republish this one, called Fitz’s Gin Rickey.
Fitz’s Gin Rickey
1 medium glass
1 lump of ice
Juice of ½ lime (or to your liking)
2 ounces gin (same as above)
Carbonated water (club soda/seltzer water)
Pour gin and lime juice into chilled highball with ice. Stir gently while topping with soda water. Leave rind of lime in glass. Garnish with lime wheel (not wedge). Serve with two straws.