How to Drink Like Kerouac, Hemingway, and Other Famous Writers

By Carrie Anton August 13th, 2014

Writing can be an incredibly taxing endeavor. Regardless of whether you’re a freelancer, an author, or someone living out an Ernest Hemingway fantasy, sometimes a little liquid courage can help coax out the right words.

Many famous writers were known for their extreme drinking habits, and to this day, the stereotype of the drunken, genius author still carries weight in pop culture regardless of its credibility. The topic got us curious: What exactly did these writers drink to get the creative juices flowing?

Jack Kerouac

Drink: The Margarita

Kerouac, the captain of the Beat Generation, took to tequila thanks to his many trips through Mexico, a country he loved just about as much as his liquor. As the story goes, the words “Kerouac, go home” were written above the bathroom urinal at the White Horse Tavern, a New York hot spot for the writer, to remind him to stop drinking and head home.

“Don’t drink to get drunk. Drink to enjoy life.”

William Faulkner

Drink: Mint Julep

Awarded the 1949 Nobel Prize for Literature, Faulkner took his writing—and his drinking—very seriously, mixing the two to hammer out novels and short stories. It is said that Faulkner kept a bottle of whiskey (which he used liberally in his Mint Juleps) nearby, and needed the drink just to get words on the page.

“There is no such thing as bad whiskey. Some whiskeys just happen to be better than others. But a man shouldn’t fool with booze until he’s fifty; then he’s a damn fool if he doesn’t.”

Ernest Hemingway

Drink: The Mojito

Known to be a heavy drinker and an alcoholic in his later years, Hemingway featured a collection of cocktails and adult beverages in his novels and stories. Thanks to his love of Havana, Cuba, where he was a regular at La Bodeguita del Medio, we now know of his fondness for mojitos. Although, he wasn’t exactly picky about other booze either.

“Drinking is a way of ending the day.”


Hunter S. Thompson

Drink: Chivas Regal or Wild Turkey on the rocks

Best known as the father of Gonzo journalism, Thompson may be better associated with a wide array of drugs than simply with alcohol. However, that didn’t stop him from pairing the uppers and downers with a stiff drink. According to biographer E. Jean Carroll, Thompson began pounding Chivas Regal at 3:05 a.m. and continued drinking throughout the day.

“I hate to advocate drugs, alcohol, violence, or insanity to anyone, but they’ve always worked for me.”

Edgar Allan Poe

Drink: Brandy

Getting sauced may seem apropos for someone dark like Poe, best known for his tales of mystery and macabre. However, his drinking may have been less about a foreboding demeanor and more about his college social circle. Turns out peer pressure and a party school—University of Virginia in the 1820s—turned Poe into a brandy fan. When Poe left to go to West Point in 1830, his roommate noted that Poe was rarely seen without a bottle of brandy in hand and had already developed a drinking habit.

“I have absolutely no pleasure in the stimulants in which I sometimes so madly indulge. It has not been in the pursuit of pleasure that I have periled life and reputation and reason. It has been the desperate attempt to escape from torturing memories, from a sense of insupportable loneliness and a dread of some strange impending doom.”

Truman Capote

Drink: The Screwdriver

Famed for writing Breakfast at Tiffany’s and In Cold Blood, as well as for surrounding himself with the high-society set, Capote was a legend among storytellers and entertainers alike. Drinking and drugs helped fuel his writing, and he fondly called his favorite cocktail “my orange drink.”

“In this profession it’s a long walk between drinks.”


Oscar Wilde

Drink: Absinthe

Wilde, famous playwright and author of The Picture of Dorian Gray, has often been noted as an absinthe aficionado, having fallen for the beverage while living abroad in Paris. However, with no direct reference to the “green goddess” in any of his works, it’s hard to tell if this is a true story or another work of fiction. Even quotes about absinthe that have been attributed to him are said to instead have just been written by others. Fact or fiction, Wilde still was a lover of liquor, so cheers to that.

“I have made an important discovery…that alcohol, taken in sufficient quantities, produces all the effects of intoxication.”

F. Scott Fitzgerald

Drink: Gin Rickey

Rumor has it Fitzgerald and his wife Zelda could not hold their liquor. Still, he was a heavy college drinker, and by the Roaring Twenties rolled around, his recreational activities rose to new boozy highs.

“First you take a drink, then the drink takes a drink, then the drink takes you.”

Charles Bukowski

Drink: Boilermaker

Bukowski was a big drinker, having found a love for the bottle at the age of 13. Booze was both a muse for his writing and a subject of his work. Bukowski was a hardcore partier and loved a lot of liquor, so it’s likely that more than the Boilermaker (a whisky shot paired with beer) made his drinking agenda. However, it packs a punch, which was just his style.

“Drinking is an emotional thing. It joggles you out of the standardism of everyday life, out of everything being the same. It yanks you out of your body and your mind and throws you against the wall.”


Images via Associated Press, First We Feast, and Open Culture


Image by Florida Zone
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