Writer’s block is such a brutal state of mind that it should be no surprise that even the most creative of us turn to vices to spark their thoughts. The smartest of writers clung to sex, smoking, and drugs but the best writers drank, drank a lot, and enjoyed the other three vices as well. There are countless stories of famous artists stumbling off their chairs ready to tackle the next paragraph, the world, or the next hangover. Many of the best writers of our time drank themselves into destruction trying to find the right words, cope with their autobiography, and enabled by the endless stream of cocktails parties in literary society.
If you dream of writing the next Great American Novel, alcohol-induced wisdom and courage is not the hardest place to start. Whether you are sitting on a patio in Paris or chained to a typewriter, you can drink like your most admired author. There are tried and true alcoholic staples like absinthe, wine, or Scotch but for their flare of being unique — here are 10 Famous Dead Authors and their Favorite Cocktails.
Ernest Hemingway – Death in the Afternoon
“Papa” was a notorious drinker but he kept his craft and his writing separate. The Old Man and the Sea author is most closely associated with the mojito or daiquiris because of old scribblings on the wall of a Mexican restaurant professing his love for them. However, an Absinthe-based cocktail of his invention — “Death in the Afternoon” was so loved by Hemingway that it shared a name with his 1932 novel and was his contribution to a cocktail book called So Red The Nose, or Breath in the Afternoon.
Death in the Afternoon
1 1/2 ounces of Absinthe
4 ounces of iced Champagne
Pour Absinthe into a Champagne Glass and then Champagne until the mixture becomes cloudy.
Jack London – Horse’s Neck
The Oakland-born writer spent time as a hobo and a sailor before finding success as a writer. This time exposed Jack London to illness and drinks of all sorts from muddy bathtub brews to firewater. He was also fond of drinking soothing cocktails, notably the Horse’s Neck. The writer of White Fang was a controversial figure throughout his writing career and an alcoholic whose drinking affected his later works. His success afforded him the ownership of a large ranch from where he drank, wrote, and eventually died.
1 1/2 ounce Brandy
4 ounces Ginger Ale
Strip of lemon peel
Dash of bitters
Pour brandy and ginger ale into an Old Fashioned glass with ice. Stir and garnish with lemon peel. Add bitters.
Truman Capote – Screwdriver
His range as an author covering Southern Gothic stories to true crime was one part of his life more impressive than his range as an alcoholic. A frequent attendee of literary cocktail parties, Capote had friends in high places with whom he bonded with over an “orange thingee” or “orange drink.”
Portrayed as a flamboyant, egotistical, and wickedly talented writer in film, his orange something was a simple combination of vodka and orange juice that we are better off calling a Screwdriver.
1.5 ounces of vodka
6 ounces of orange juice
Pour all ingredients in a highball glass with ice. Stir and serve.
Joseph Heller – Perfect Martini
When your semi-autobiographical novel inspires the hard-drinking show Mad Men, you know that you might have a problem. Few people enjoyed fame more than Joseph Heller and through the acclaim of Catch-22 and Something Happened, he certainly earned it. After Catch-22 and took time off from teaching, in this period he found early success on Madison Avenue as he did in academia and writing aided by drinking the right drink at the right time, right place, and with the right people. It was the venerable Martini helped launch his career into the world of advertising.
1 ounce of dry vermouth
4 ounces of gin
Fill a shaker completely with ice and all ingredients. Shake and strain the mixture into a Martini glass and garnish with an olive (or three) or a lemon twist.
F Scott Fitzgerald – Gin Rickey
Jay Gatsby was not the only one who enjoyed a Gin Rickey on a hot Summer day, so too did the The Great Gatsby author. Fitzgerald had three loves in his life writing, gin, and his wife, Zelda. The only one that never left him or let him down was unsurprisingly, the gin. Drinking prevented Fitzgerald from keeping up with the deadlines for his writing leading to some severe financial difficulties and even criticisms from his friend Hemingway. However, his novella The Great Gatsby would not be in the hands of high-school students across North America if it were not for those Gin Rickeys.
2 ounces of gin
1/2 ounce of lime juice
4 ounces of club soda or seltzer
Fill a Collins glass with ice, pour in lime juice followed by gin and top the glass with soda. Still and garnish with a slice of lime. Stir and serve.
Jack Kerouac – Margarita Cocktail
Known for books on his travels and leading the Beat Generation of writers, Jack Kerouac was born to adventure and born to write. On The Road, The Town and the City, and Big Sur follows his life as he navigates being a writer and themes of the American landscape. One thing, he could not navigate was his comfort with the fame generated from On The Road.
There are a few stories of how and where Kerouac discovered the Margarita – be it in Mexico, in New York City, or upon discovering he signed up for military service while in Boston – but the drink became a favorite of his.
2 ounces reposado tequila
1 ounce Cointreau
1 ounce lemon juice
Fill a shaker with all ingredients. Salt the rim of a Cocktail glass and shake and strain into the glass.
Charles Bukowski – Boilermaker
Bukowski had as much of a writing problem as he had a drinking problem. A prolific writer he authored novels, poems, newspaper columns, and screenplays. Finding success in his 50s, he finally quit his job at a post office to focus exclusively on writing while drinking continued to affect his physical health. Bukowski was often poking fun of himself and the world around him, he wrote and spoke of drink as something that saves and alters. Bukowski was quoted saying; “That’s the problem with drinking, I thought, as I poured myself a drink. If something bad happens you drink in an attempt to forget; if something good happens you drink in order to celebrate; and if nothing happens you drink to make something happen.”
1 oz of your favorite whiskey
1 glass of your favorite beer
Shoot the whiskey and follow with the beer.
Carson McCullers – Sonnie Boy
McCullers drank from the beginning of her work day while she wrote to when she wound down for the rest of her night seeking creativity and solace from her health problems. While she subsisted almost completely on alcohol, she wrote novels on topics and characters that were seldom touched in the 1940s such as racial tensions and sexual orientation. Her signature drink was something you would find in your grandmother’s thermos — in fact, the The Heart is a Lonely Hunter author was nearly inseparable from her thermos of hot tea and sherry which she clandestinely drank from.
1/3 cup of dry sherry
2/3 cup of citrus tea
Brew and steep tea and add sherry. Stir and pour into a thermos or serve it in a tea cup.
Dorothy Parker – Whiskey Sour
Few writers have whole cocktail books dedicated to their habits and recipes. Dorothy Parker is one of those writers. Kevin C. Fitzpatrick, President of the Dorothy Parker Society has produced a book providing a case that the poet and screenwriter not only held her own at the Algonquin Round Table for literary leaders but also at the drinking table. Rumors spread in the 1920s, that she held short affairs with contemporaries like F. Scott Fitzgerald and others. While Parker eventually slowed down later in life, she still enjoyed her cocktails and maybe a whiskey sour for breakfast.
2 ounces of whisky
3/4 ounces lemon juice
1/2 ounces of gomme syrup
Dash of egg white
Fill a shaker with ice and all ingredients. Shake and strain into an Old Fashioned glass filled with ice.
William Faulkner – Mint Julep
Born in Mississippi, Faulkner’s writing was often inspired by the stories from and of his childhood. His style has influenced authors around the world and is credited as a primary figure in modernist writing. He nearly drank away all of his earnings since publishing The Sound and The Fury until he won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1949 which solved his financial crisis and led him back to international acclaim. Faulkner drank while writing and had done even more so when he had finished a project, Hemingway once claimed that he could find the “boozy courage of corn whiskey” right off of the page. That corn whiskey usually came in the form of the Mint Julep in a metal cup.
2 ounces bourbon
1 tbsp simple syrup
6 mint leaves
Gently muddle mint leaves and and syrup in metal cup. Fill cup with bourbon and ice, garnish with mint.