During these long hot summer days I have found myself sitting down with a volume of Somerset Maugham's "South Seas stories," with a gin and tonic properly by my side.
These veddy British stories were written immediately after WWI, at the beginning of the end of Britain's empire. His fantastically witty and dramatic stories are mostly about colonial types sent to Samoa, Malaysia, Borneo and other tropical places to share their part of the "white man's burden." (Mind you, these stories are nearly 100 years old.)
Pith helmet wearing colonial administrators at far flung, jungle clad outstations and their wives have all sorts of tragic romances and intrigues, doing battle with cholera outbreaks, scheming "Chinamen" and over zealous missionaries, as they wait for the English mail to be delivered by tramp steamers. Central to their lives, and to carrying on with civilization in the jungle, is to have their "boy" bring them cocktails at 6 o'clock sharp on the mosquito net-covered verandah.
And boy could they drink:
The "stengah," whisky and soda - which type of whisky is never indicated - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stengah shows up in "The Book Bag" and others, either as a nerve-calming agent or the choice of cigar smoking sea captains;
"Gin pahits" (gin and bitters) http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gin_pahit make their appearance throughout "Rain," "Force of Circumstance" and others, and seem to be the go-to cocktail;
The "Million Dollar Cocktail," apparently invented by the same guy who made up the Singapore Sling at the Raffles Hotel is mentioned in "The Letter." http://www.mademan.com/mm/how-make-mi... which apparently put the drink on the cultural map.
I can't remember the title of the last story I read, a comic one, about a helpless drunk reformed by a spinster, but the local governor in this one is Dutch and he drinks "Holland gin," which I had never heard of before -
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jenever Apparently it tastes like something between London dry gin and whisky.
Finally there is zero mention of any ice anywhere. I don't know if in 1920 in remote places ice makers just didn't exist. Probably not, but I can't imagine gin not being served cold.
Just thought I'd share. Cheers.