This is the the world famous and luxurious Continental Palace Hotel as it appeared in downtown Saigon, circa 1975 — sometime before the North Vietnamese Army took over the city. The picture was lifted from a now defunct Web site which dated the image from 1975, so I have to take their word for it. By the looks of the VW Beetle taxi, the date is close. Or close enough.
From 1951 to 1953, the bar in the Continental was where Graham Greene wrote THE QUIET AMERICAN, a novel presaging the US’s well-intentioned bumblings in Vietnam, which had him in trouble with the Feds for the rest of his life. It was this same hotel and bar where Hunter spent his days in Vietnam: trying to sleep in Room #37, drinking with the US press corps, and not writing what was supposed to be “Fear and Loathing and the Last Days of Saigon.”
Most, if not all, of the time Doc languished in Indo-China was captured on audio tape — only some of which made it to Disc 5 of THE GONZO TAPES. This collection has been a true mine of information . . . esoteric bits of life and syntax that never made it into the published works or any of the biographies.
On one of the Saigon tracks, Hunter has flown to Hong Kong for some reason (possibly because his tape recorder broke and he needed a new one) and is catching up on notes. In his ramblings is mention of a drink he often has at the Continental’s bar: gin, fresh-squeezed orange juice, and lime juice.
Being a gin drinker, this sounded to me like an instant winner. And it is. Gold medal, baby, all the way.
As there was no proper recipe or moniker for this glass of magic, neither from Hunter or anywhere on the Interwebs, I now formally bestow upon it the name of the hotel bar. Henceforth and forever it will be known as “The Continental Shelf.”
So let it be written. So let it be done.
Fill a 12 oz. glass with ice cubes. Pour in:
2 oz. gin
Top with fresh orange juice, leaving room enough for the squeezings of half a lime. Pour into a shaker. Shake once. Gently pour back into glass. If there is room, add more ice. Toast your friends. Drink. Repeat. Repeat again.
You’ll never know what hit you . . .
(Special thanks to The Other Brad for being a willing test subject and for the use of the juice machine. Mahalo.)