To paraphrase Oscar Wilde, drink is the curse of the writing classes.
Few occupations are as synonymous with hard-boozing and 9-5 inebriation as that of the author. And not without reason.
Name a famous author and, chances are, they found themselves emptying a bourbon bottle faster than an ink bottle at one time or another. Some chalking it off to the trappings of fame, others the dreaded curse of writer's block, and then those who simply loved the sauce.
Here are the literary geniuses who, for better or worse, enjoyed a drink or two...
007 is more reckless than you might imagine. Yes, he checks into hotels using his own name, making him arguably the least secretive secret agent of all time, and yes, he's slept with enough women to warrant his own sexual health clinic, but possibly putting him at more peril than a Walther PPK to the back of the head, a 2013 university study of Ian Fleming’s works found that the spy drank on average between 65 and 92 units a week, working out to around four times the recommended limit. This over-consumption was on par with that of his pen-father Fleming - a man also plagued by demons of war, loss and geopolitical secrets, who on occasion polished off a bottle of gin a day. Well, until Fleming’s doctor suggested bourbon was narrowly better for his health. You only live twice, after all.
Drink of choice - Gin Martini
Shaken, not – oh you know the rest...
“A man shouldn’t fool with booze until he’s fifty, and then he’s a damn fool if he doesn’t,” once counselled William Faulkner, who fooled with the stuff well before his tender years. Keeping a bottle of whiskey within reaching distance was a key part of the author’s writing process (he also claimed he liked to work at night when he'd get some many ideas he wouldn't remember them all in the morning) with Jack Daniels the usual label of choice. Take a trip to his hometown of Oxford, Mississippi, and you might even spot a bottle of the stuff on his gravestone.
Drink of choice – Mint Julep
Faulkner was partial to a Mint Julep, serving it with whiskey, sugar, ice and some crushed mint, all in a metal cup. The recipe was left at his Rowan Oak estate.
F. Scott Fitzgerald
Just like as his intoxicating description of high-society's excess left readers breathless, F. Scott Fitzgerald demanded the same of his boozing, favouring gin because he believed it could not be detected on the breath. Gin, among other drinks, provided the lubricant for much of the social antics displayed by he and his prankish wife Zelda (also pictured) during their years together. Fatefully, it was also alcohol that led to the couple’s implosion. Not that they weren’t toxic without booze, with Scott once writing a letter to Zelda saying, “We ruined each other”.
Drink of choice – Gin Rickey
Through the roaring Twenties and massively depressing Thirties there were any number of Rickeys available (scotch, rum, applejack), but gin was the one that endured. Particularly for Fitzgerald, who would’ve taken it with 80ml gin, 2tbsp lime juice, club soda and fat lime garnish in a tall glass.
Beer. Depression. Cocaine. Typewriting. Suicidal musings. The late-seventies and early-eighties must have been one nightmarish smog for Stephen King, relying on his vices to keep the real horror at bay during a period where he it got so bad that he's since claimed he can't remember writing Cujo. Textbook alcoholic author, one of King's biggest anxieties was the prospect of losing his creative spark if sobriety were ever to win out, which of course, following an intervention at the end of the decade, it did, not sullying his fearsome literary output one bit. He later admitted, “I always drank, from when it was legal for me to drink. And there was never a time for me when the goal wasn’t to get as hammered as I could possibly afford to. I never understood social drinking, that’s always seemed to me like kissing your sister.”
Drink of choice - Beer
Beer - his biggest vice of all - was almost always consumed at home. “I didn't go out and drink in bars, because they were full of assholes like me,” he told The Guardian recently.
Hunter S. Thompson
Never one averse to standing out from the crowd, Thompson liked his drink liked he liked his journalism: strong, in-your-face and not always neat. It was once noted, at his first meeting with a major publisher, that he downed 20 glass of double Wild Turkey then ‘walked out as if he’d been drinking tea’. In fact, Wild Turkey became such a staple for the writer that he even cajoled the brand into Fear And Loathing In Las Vegas among other landmark works.
Drink of choice - Wild Turkey Bourbon and Dry
As we say, Thompson, one of the most famous livewire celebrities to court that famous Kentucky bourbon, didn't always want it neat. He’d often take his Wild Turkey with ginger beer.
No one can accuse Truman Capote of failing to mix business with pleasure. The man himself even went so far as to describe his writing process as such: “As the afternoon wears on, I shift from coffee to mint tea to sherry to martinis - I don’t use a typewriter. Not in the beginning. I write my first version in longhand”. Ever the extrovert, when not working, the schmoozer’s social activities tended to revolve around some type of upmarket watering holes like the revolving carousel bar inside New Orlean’s Hotel Monteleone - a favourite.
Drink of choice - Large Vodka and Orange
A screwdriver, essentially, despite the fact he referred to is as his 'Orange drink’.
“There is no bad whiskey - there are only some whiskeys that aren't as good as others.” Treating the stuff like a modern day blogger would Red Bull, Raymond Chandler would have been the first to admit that he didn’t control his drink, it controlled him. When he was commissioned to whip up the screenplay for The Blue Dahlia in 1945, he got writer's block, forcing him to tell his new studio employers that the only way he could finish the script was to do so while blind drunk, which he duly did. The story goes that Paramount honcho John Houseman, who was earlier invited over for a lunch by Chandler (and by lunch we mean a small meal which involved three double martinis, three brandies and a crème de menthe), was the one who found Chandlder passed out at his desk having finished the script, all neatly stacked next to some empty bottles.
Drink of choice – Gimlet
"Half gin and half Rose's lime juice and nothing else”, as described in Chandler’s 1953 classic The Long Goodbye.
Edgar Allan Poe
Conjuring up excruciatingly grim poetry and bloody literature fit for a Tarantino flick was not the only thing Edgar Allan Poe was partial to. The literary icon also favoured Brandy at a bottle at a time. Having moved to West Point in 1830, Poe’s roommate Thomas Gibson recalled Poe as ‘seldom without a bottle of Benny Haven’s best brandy' - Benny Haven being Poe’s local watering hole. Couple this with his bizarre taste for Eggnog – yes, that drink vile enough to warrant its own torturous use in The Pit And The Pendulum - and it’s surprising that his most-speculated demise came from rabies, rather than the constant battering he gave his pickled liver.
Drink of choice - Eggnog
Poe's eggnog was a family specialty. The recipe was passed down through generations and comprised of seven eggs, sugar milk, whipping cream, brandy and nutmeg.
How could we forget old Oscar? The playwright’s charming one-liners on the subject of alcohol were only matched by his love for quaffing it. After reportedly developing a habit for drinking it during a stay in Paris, one of his big loves was absinthe; putting up with its mule-kick aftertaste to reap the rewards of its hallucinatory-like nature. His other love? Fully befitting his stature of a man who had a taste for the finer things in life, it was champagne, even in his darkest hour. Morphine lacking the appropriate effect, he eased the pain of his final few days with a melange of opium, chloral and champagne, causing him to quip the bittersweet line, “And now I am dying beyond my means.”
Drink of choice - Iced Champagne
Served as dry as his wit we’d imagine.
[Images: Rex Features, Wiki Commons, Hunter S. Thompson Archive]