Drink of The Week: Eugene O’Neill’s Gibson

The Gibson

The Gibson is as basic as they come, a pure shot of gin to the veins. It’s a perfect choice after a busy day when things may or may not have gone exactly your way, say, when the guide was late, you snapped two rods, and it hailed and rained on your ass for two hours straight, which is when you discovered that the protective coating on your rainjacket had melted off when your spouse put it in the dryer on Cottons/High! Pour the gin, follow with vermouth, spear a few onions and drop them in. Wait three minutes, if you can, stir and sip.

This was the favored drink of playwright Eugene O’Neill who was born with a chip on his shoulder after being delivered into the theater world where he developed a disdain for commercial realities. He strove to create works of integrity and did so with brilliance. His credits include, The Iceman Cometh; The Emperor Jones; and The Harry Ape.

It’s amazing that O’Neill got anything done because he was wilder than any of us. He went to Princeton for a year but got crazy on absinthe, pulled a gun on a friend, destroyed all his furniture, and called it quits. Then he moved into a drinking den above a gin distillery where he swilled raw whiskey for breakfast. When his money ran out it’s reported that he drank wood alcohol mixed with sarsaparilla and benzine. Those experiences come through in The Iceman Cometh.

You have to wonder how much that mixture messed with his head. He was married three times, the first time to Kathleen Jenkins. But he left her to travel and when he returned she was pregnant. He left again, to Buenos Aires, without ever seeing his son. Kathleen divorced him and when O’Neill finally came back from traveling he moved in with, get this, his slacker father and his morphine-addicted mother. Not surprisingly, many of his works focus on struggles for personal identity and family disasters.

Here’s the part you really have to read: from The Iceman Cometh, 1940

I’ve watched many cases of almost fatal teetotalism, but they all came out of it completely cured and as drunk as ever. My opinion is the poor sap is temporarily bughouse from overwork. You can’t be too careful about work. It’s the deadliest habit known to science, a great physician once told me. He practiced on street corners under torchlight…I remember well his saying to me, “You are naturally delicate, Ed, but if you drink a pint of bad whiskey before breakfast, every evening, and never work if you can help it, you may live to a ripe old age. It’s staying sober and working that cuts men off in their prime.

I raise one to O’Neill, a guy who lived his words.

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One Response to Drink of The Week: Eugene O’Neill’s Gibson

  1. PJ says:

    It’s “Hairy” Ape, not “Harry.”

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