Benefit brings Hemingway to life

Bartender Shane Runyon, who was brought in by author Philip Greene, makes a tray of drinks called a Gimlet, to honor Ernest Hemingway's time in Africa, during a talk by Greene about Hemingway's life and the cocktails Hemingway drank and mentioned in his stories using photos and excerpts from his book "To Have and Have Another: A Hemingway Cocktail Companion," during an evening hosted by The Santa Fe College Foundation, at Cellar 12 in Gainesville. Proceeds from the evening went to benefit the Santa Fe College student scholarship fund.

Brad McClenny/The Gainesville Sun
Published: Friday, July 12, 2013 at 10:11 p.m.
Last Modified: Friday, July 12, 2013 at 10:11 p.m.

A downtown Gainesville restaurant transformed into a literary haven Friday night as guests gathered to hear about the rich life of beloved and award-winning author Ernest Hemingway, “as seen through the bottom of his glass.”

This from author Philip Greene, who, along with author and artist Raul Villarreal, transported a room full of guests to another time and place through the writing and cocktails of Hemingway.

The event was a benefit for the Santa Fe College scholarship fund, and was held at Cellar 12, which became a sensory summary of Hemingway’s life and the three places he loved most.

The heads of an impala and a ram adorned the walls, harkening back to the period of Hemingway’s life spent hunting game in Africa.

Accordion music piped in above the heads of guests as they came in, evoking Paris in the 1920s, the preferred locale for Hemingway and fellow drinker F. Scott Fitzgerald during Prohibition in the United States.

Palm trees stood in each corner of the room, while cigar boxes sat at the center of each table, representing the Cuban paradise of Hemingway’s estate, the Finca Vigia, located just outside Havana.

While guests sipped on a few drinks that were central to some of Hemingway’s best known works — the Jack Rose, the gin gimlet and the daiquiri — Greene spoke of the detail with which the author wrote about food and drink.

“He wrote with his whole being,” Greene said.

Contrary to popular belief, however, Greene said Hemingway was very disciplined about writing sober.

Villarreal, whose father, Rene Villarreal, spent 20 years as Hemingway’s groundskeeper at the Finca Vigia, supported that claim.

While he was working on a novel, Hemingway tried to never take a drink before noon, Greene said.

But by 11 a.m., Rene Villarreal would emerge from the house with a martini, and “Papa” Hemingway would shrug and accept.

Both authors hung around after their presentation to sign copies of their books.

Greene’s, “To Have and Have Another: A Hemingway Cocktail Companion,” was the main focus of the evening.

The author and cocktail connoisseur said that for his book he relied heavily on Raul Villarreal’s book, “Hemingway’s Cuban Son,” which Raul penned with his father Rene.

“It was a really life-changing experience,” Raul Villarreal said. “As an adult, I started to really appreciate (my father’s) life.”

Villarreal said he hoped guests would leave the event with a different perspective on Hemingway’s life and his work.

Michael Curry, associate vice president for development at SF College and deputy executive director of the SF Foundation, arranged the combination cocktail party-fundraiser after meeting the two authors through a Hemingway email list.

Curry said SF College sold 75 or 80 tickets to the event, and between one-third and one-half of the ticket sales will go toward the scholarship fund.

Pia and Randy Brown came from Ocala to attend.

The couple are great fans of Hemingway, and they have a Hemingway cat — a breed with a greater-than-average number of toes — named Lulu.

“I think this is a very fun event,” Pia Brown said. “I love Hemingway. I just love to be with others who love Hemingway.”

Contact Erin Jester at 338-3166 or

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