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News from Under the Table: How to Drink Like Dorothy Parker

By Harriet Staff

Dorothy Parker

Uh, yes: a martini, please? Who’s that? Oh, Ms. Parker! So lovely to see you! …Eh, we’re a few years late. But Kevin Fitzpatrick of The Dorothy Parker Society, offers up a few suggestions if you’d like to start drinkin’ like a [Dorothy Parker] -champ! Fitzpatrick is the author of Under the Table: A Dorothy Parker Cocktail Guide.

Time and again the finest female poets led a life that was echoed in what they put down on paper. The enigmatic Emily Dickinson. The scandalous Edna St. Vincent Millay. The tragic Sylvia Plath and Sara Teasdale. In their league is Dorothy Parker, crafter of devilish light verse and ballads about love, loss, and Champagne. Something I’ve learned about Parker in the dozen years I’ve run the Dorothy Parker Society is that many don’t discover her work in literature classes, they come to her first by her reputation. First they learn the quotes and bon mots, which leads to finding her books. What many discover is a woman easy to identify with: she loved her gin, boyfriends, and dogs, and that’s what she wrote about. Scores of quotes associated with Parker zoom around websites about missing deadlines and drinking too much. One of the most popular:

I love a martini–
But two at the most.
Three, I’m under the table;
Four, I’m under the host.

Whether Parker actually ever said it is a matter of debate, but most agree with Carleton Young: When the legend becomes fact, print the legend. When I was writing a guidebook to Dorothy Parker cocktail recipes, it was not a stretch to fill a book with tasty drinks that have a tie to Parker and the Prohibition era. The recipes quickly piled up that called for bourbon, brandy, gin, and rum. The stories about figures from Parker’s circle are a who’s who of great drinkers of the past: Robert Benchley, Irvin S. Cobb, Ernest Hemingway, and Florenz Ziegfeld. Parker put references to alcohol in many of her stories and poems; when she moved to Hollywood her 1930s screenplays often featured cocktails and protagonists clinking glasses.

Drink up!

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Posted in Poetry News on Thursday, November 7th, 2013 by Harriet Staff.