It is generally assumed that the drunk is an animal of the night.
That we are to be found prowling the dark jungle of dives in the ebony hours, tall in the fluorescent glow of the liquor store window, and howling to the moon from under a streetlight.
It’s certainly true that there are those in our community—perhaps an overwhelming majority—who spend the working day on the leash before spending the evening on the lash. This is nothing new and certainly nothing to be ashamed of; ever since the 1960s, it has not only been frowned upon to drink at work, it is now most probably a disciplinary offense that will ultimately end in redundancy and you living as a vagrant.
With bills to pay and families to provide for, it is therefore understandable that the life of the day drunk is seen as a reckless option at best, a rebellious final hurrah before destitution and, at worst, the grave.
But I beg you to reconsider. I should like you to turn towards the sun and see day drinking not only as a lifestyle upgrade but also as a means of furthering your career, maximizing your potential and boosting your health and well-being.
I warn you that it will involve a shift in mindset and not a little nerve. There is a broadmindedness, acceptance, and sanctuary to the evening that the day does not benefit from. That is to say, being smashed at 10pm does not upset society’s equilibrium. You are an accepted part of the landscape, even for the squares. Being smashed at 10am, on the other hand, is a whole different story. Suddenly, you are standing on the wrong side of the tracks—frowned upon by those who consider themselves honest, decent, and true.
But am/pm—what’s the big deal, anyway? So long as you’re fulfilling your obligations to employer, creditors and family, then what difference does it make? Nobody even really knows what “am” means. Well, as we’ll soon discover, it can stand for “absolute mayhem,” but first let’s look at some anecdotal evidence to set us up for our journey.
Between 1920 and around about 1995, the district of Soho in London was seen as the seedy, bohemian, sinful playground of the city. A relatively small, tight village of streets, it was a place of bookshops and betting shops. Of painters and prostitutes. Of journalism and radicalism.
Naturally it contained countless personalities, but one who enjoyed it fully all the way from the 1940s to the 1990s was the notorious drunken columnist Jeffrey Bernard.
Bernard’s life is often seen as chaotic, a maelstrom of broken marriages, debt, vomit and vodka. In fact, there was a simplicity and order to his existence, largely because of a regular routine and the fact that this routine was carried out during the day, not in the evening.
He would wake early, generally around 6am, fret about what to write for his “Low Life” column in The Spectator, which was, as Johnathan Meades once described it, “a suicide note in weekly installments.” He would then eat an egg before sitting at the desk in his tiny Soho flat typing, drinking to lubricate the imagination, and getting the piece done and filed by 1045am.
Jeffrey Bernard always had his day’s manual labor, the typewriter bit of it, done by 11am. Because 11am is when the pubs opened, and that’s when his real graft began.
His office was the Coach and Horses, a pub on Greek Street. It contained a telephone and a television that would show the horse racing. Tom Baker, drunkard and Doctor Who actor, remarked that if Bernard arrived at the Coach at 12 and not 11 he was “an hour late for work.”
This is because Bernard’s job was to watch, and to listen, and to talk. Around him was the material he would need to survive as a columnist. And that material, the juicy stuff, only presented itself during the day, never at night.
“There’s a sense of urgency about lunchtime drinking that I like,” said Bernard when interviewed for a television documentary about his day (Yes, it’s on YouTube). “In the evening, people are just plundering time. Opening time and lunch are my favorite times of the day.”
And regardless of whether you’re in Soho or St. Louis, this will certainly be true. The earliest opening bar in town will have the most interesting clientele, and these cats can become your new brethren once you’ve reconfigured your schedule from pm to am.
There’s a bar in the Los Feliz area of Los Angeles called The Drawing Room. It opens at 8am, although I’m sure that used to be six. Anyway, if you get down there early enough, the crowd is infinitely more varied and compelling than the evening rabble.
What never gets old is when you’re six sheets to the wind, paying your tab, hoping it’s not yet midnight, then wandering out into the fierce UV light and realizing it’s 1pm.
It’s a small, windowless dive, pitch black for a good minute before your eyes adjust from the Californian sun outside, and if you’re after a slice of Hollywood then don’t look to the hotels or beyond velvet ropes—look here. A-listers nursing their breakdowns and breakups hunch over anonymously in booths. The comedian Jeff Davis uses a hidden nook around one side of the bar as his daily office in much the same way Jeff Bernard used the Coach, sending out emails and knocking back shots of breakfast Fernet Branca. Netflix executives (a surprising number of them) drain their glasses before heading to the shiny headquarters down the road at 9am.
I mention this because imagine a scenario: You’ve taken yourself to LA because you’ve got this great idea for a movie, but you’ve not got a clue what you’re doing and not a single contact to call for help. What you need is a chance encounter, a break. So where are you best headed? The Polo Lounge at the Beverly Hills Hotel for 8pm, or the Drawing Room for 8am?
It’s not even a fair fight.
Some of the hardest-to-remember times of my life have been spent in that bar, and what never gets old is when you’re six sheets to the wind, paying your tab, hoping it’s not yet midnight, then wandering out into the fierce UV light and realizing it’s 1pm. Most bars haven’t even opened yet. The day’s just getting started, and you can do anything you like with it.
If this sounds like a way of life in which you might flourish, let’s join arms and explore the delights and practicalities of being sozzled at sunrise.
One of the first questions anyone asks an employed and solvent day drunk is, “When do you work?”
The answer is one or two hours after waking up, like everyone else, except day drunks pass out between 4pm and 6pm and enjoy their eight hours before waking up around 2am.
How did Frank sing it?
In the wee small hours of the morning
While the whole wide world is fast asleep
You lie awake and think about the girl
And never, ever think of counting sheep
They can be fragile hours, the small numbers, and many find them lonely and too quiet. But they’re worse if you can’t get to sleep.
But you’ve had your sleep. This dark and quiet time of day is for your work, and because it’s dark and quiet, you’ll get the eight hours required of you licked in three.
“But my boss wants me in at 9am, with everyone else…”
You’re going to have to leave that position. You’ve got to be working freelance. You can do just about anything freelance.
And if not, then insist on working from home and setting your own hours. Most modern companies are down with that since the lurgy. And because you’re sending all your completed projects off at 3am, before the boss is even awake, you’re a GO GETTER, and he’s a lazy, soon-to-be-fired relic of the old order. Look at this! You’re about to get PROMOTED!
Tim Cook, the CEO of Apple, is up at 3am every day. Now, I’m not suggesting that’s because he’s passed out wasted by 7pm every night. He might be! I’m not saying he is. I don’t know. But if he is incoherent in the back of a Cupertino Uber before dusk after an eight-hour rampage of Moscow Mules and Mai Tais with a sprained wrist from the bar’s punch machine, then hey—he’s running a trillion-dollar company and running it VERY WELL. Who can possibly criticize Tim Cook for his lifestyle? That iPhone 15 in your pocket could quite possibly not even exist if it wasn’t for his getting the inbox cleared by 7am then reaching for the Grey Goose like a thirsty camel.
Day drinking, as Tim Cook, the CEO of Apple, proves, is absolutely not a barrier to professional excellence. And now that the final memo is sent, and you check through the blinds to see the horizon turning blue, you know that your professional obligations are seen to, and you are now the bigwig of the breaking day.
Perhaps you’ve already had a few drinks whilst you worked, and more power to you, but now it’s time to really open the throttle. My favorite morning drink, bar none, is a bottle of white wine—almost always a Sauvignon Blanc. You’ll have a few nice chilled bottles in the refrigerator because—remember—you’re an executive now.
It’s also a fine drink to watch the sun rise to and the sort of drink that fills you with contentment, optimism and energy. After all, it getting light means the squares are getting up, and many will already be on their morning commute. You’ve sat by yourself all morning, and what you need now is company. So why don’t we head out there and join them?
Few, if any, bars open are open at 7am in most towns, not even the Drawing Room, but with a discrete flask hidden about your person, the day drunk will soon realize that anywhere selling any sort of beverage is a bar.
Coffee shops are wonderful places early in the morning. The smell of freshly baked croissants, the snap of newspapers being pulled taut. You take your coffee to a table and watch as the schmucks who have their entire working day ahead of them get their same daily caffeine while you are perfectly at liberty to reach inside your jacket and make your Americano Irish, or if your flask contains Fernet, Italian.
Back onto the street, you might find a bench to sit on and watch the rest of the worker ants file past. Here, you can take time to reflect.
Most importantly, the morning is a leveler for the brain; it allows you to reset. Unlike the evening—with the pressure to find a location and make the most of it until closing time, plus the urgency of the clock and hellishness of forced jollity—the morning demands nothing from you. It is an opening chapter, not a hectic finale, and it allows you to take stock whilst making casual plans.
Those new to the game will understandably feel a sense of unease that being loaded in public this early might cause looks of disdain or, worse, pity.
Here is a pivotal point to put you at ease. The squares have no idea you’re drunk. After all, you don’t look like a bum. You’re an executive with a cup of coffee sitting on a bench. They don’t think you’re drunk for one important reason: They cannot comprehend it.
They simply cannot begin to grasp the concept of someone getting stewed at this time of the morning. Therefore, their nativity and banality are your ultimate camouflage. The reason you can hide in plain sight at this time of day is that the masses cannot fathom the truth.
Sway past a stranger in the park and say “Good morning!” at considerable volume. You’re a friendly guy, they think! You’re one of life’s givers. There is absolutely no way you’re blotto at 739am because that’s impossible. So they smile back and bid you “Good morning!” too.
The childlike unworldliness of the general population will stand you in good stead for the next few hours, so get out there and enjoy it. Perhaps take in a museum, staring at paintings you’ve never truly appreciated before. Why does the paint move? It’s fascinating, and so is the cafeteria on the ground floor. “Coffee, please.”
If the museums aren’t open yet, remember the world is a gallery of sorts, so why not lie under a tree looking up at the branches and leaves? And if the street cleaner has to move around you with his brush, then so be it; give him a “Good morning!” too.
Remember, they have absolutely no idea.
At 9am, the liquor stores open and with your working day already successfully wrapped up, you shouldn’t feel any answerability at all when taking your morning cargo to the counter. After all, where is the guilt for those getting their 530pm after-work drinks? This is exactly the same in every respect. They are rewarding themselves, and so should you.
If your town doesn’t have an early-opening bar, then liquor stores are your friend until at least noon, and if you don’t wish to return to your apartment—and why would you?—then the street or public parks are now your stage. However, be aware that the camouflage that protected you against anyone thinking you might be drunk at 7am is still powerful at 9am but not entirely bulletproof. The paper bag and can in your hand are brazen giveaways, but here’s the other thing to remember if your self-assurance is under threat in the early days of day drinking—every one of these bastards is a hypocrite.
The woman frowning at you on your bench? Hypocrite. The suit and tie walking past tutting to himself as you make your toilet against the bus stop? Hypocrite.
It’s not that they wish they were you, although that is certainly true, it’s more that they do the exact same thing themselves! Every Saturday they’re swapping tips on where to head the next morning for the best Sunday “Bottomless Mimosas”.
“I love this place called The Hive,” says half the population of the entire West and East Coasts. “They open at eight. Bottomless mimosas, thirty bucks. It’s the best!”
Why do they find it so zany and thrilling? Why do they Instagram it without fail? Because it’s day drinking! How cool! It’s getting tipsy, but in the morning! Wow! Go us!
Well, this is what we do every day, suckers. And yet you have the bare-faced gall to frown down upon that? Well, off you tottle to the office, my dear, and if it’s all the same, I shan’t be joining you for this exact same thing at The Hive on Sunday because all your friends look utterly intolerable. That’s it, off you go.
Another tip for the independent early riser is to keep a blender in your kitchen. Not for making frozen margaritas because you’ll never once bother to do that—no one ever has —but rather for easy and essential nutrition. Leftover market vegetables cost next to nothing and, blended with water for breakfast, are everything your body could possibly need for the day.
And so now, as they all question you for standing ankle-deep in the park lake because you want to stroke a duck, you have two things over them. One: the utter, unspeakable hypocrisy of their own existence, and Two: the fact they’re walking along with a bagel full of heart attack whilst you’ve already consumed a far healthier diet than their overworked bodies will benefit from all day.
Talking of markets, they can be of immense interest to the morning tippler for other reasons than a source of vitamins. The people that work in markets start early too, and therefore finish early, just like you. I’m not sure about the rest of the world and wouldn’t want to impart inaccurate information in the pages of this magazine, but in London and elsewhere in the UK, there are such things as “market pubs.”
Historically, market workers were done for the day around 7am, and so naturally there were specific pubs that opened early to accommodate them. Not only do they still hold special licenses to do this, they are also open to the public. A legal pub pint at 7am. In winter especially, these are sanctuaries for a sunrise soak, and you can bet your life that your town, if it has a market of any size, will have the same—even if it’s an off-the-grid speakeasy.
It’s around this time of day—9am to 10am—that the world of work comes online, and you might get emails back in response to the projects you sent out four hours ago.
Ignore these. You’re off the clock now. They might be from clients, they might be from your boss, but your day is done, and they can’t infringe on that.
Looking at your wonderful phone (good work, Tim, you keep it up, buddy!), you might see email notifications pop up on the home screen that say things like “What even is this?” Or “We need to talk urgently.” Or “Absolute final warning, Chris.” But these are for 2am tomorrow morning, not now.
Turn that thing off.
It’s a stigma in the modern world that even when you’ve earned your freedom fair and square, there will be hurdles to cross throughout the day as those on a regular timetable begin to interfere with your plans.
The work issue can be dealt with easily enough by ignoring it, but come noon and the opening of the bars, you will become aware that the squares are gradually joining in and will want to stand alongside you as equals.
This can have its advantages. For one, any good bar worth its salt will have a particular type of customer waiting for the doors to open at noon, and they will most likely have a similar mindset to your own. You can break bread with your fellow man, and it’s welcome after a morning of solitary pursuits. The sight of a regular bartender, too, is not only a comfort, but she’ll doubtless show you a bit of much-needed respect and the way she wearily says, “Hey again, Chris,” confirms this. “You behave yourself today, okay?”
The feeling of being an outsider, with its inherent persecution complex that makes us question ourselves and our choices, can begin to take hold at this time of the day. One thing you can do is leave the dive and go to a far more upmarket brasserie or restaurant where the office workers are beginning to file in for their medicine. They with their, “Two glasses of the Riesling, please, or is it better value to get the bottle between us? Okay, that makes sense. A bottle of the Riesling, please” bullshit.
These people can’t touch you. They need that Riesling as much as you need a Sam Adams, a shot of Jameson and a pee that could take out the Hoover Dam.
Your choices are just fine. You’re an executive; these people are executives. They’ve made good choices; you’ve made good choices.
It’s expensive here, though, so use a credit card; you don’t want to suddenly find yourself short of cash. You’ve worked too hard to look like that guy. If that card doesn’t work, try another. There we go. We’re all set.
Talk to people! If they don’t want to talk back, then that’s fine—talk to someone else.
We think back to Jeffrey Bernard at the Coach and Horses in Soho and his job of watching and listening and talking for the sake of his column. It’s like you: if you don’t sit here and talk to people and watch them, not so much listen but watch them, then how on God’s planets are you going to file that feasibility study on the new parking lot that was needed last Friday?
Being asked to leave anywhere should never be taken as an insult. It’s life presenting an opportunity. It’s a good way to stop weeds growing around your feet, too, a good excuse for pastures anew.
There’s a liquor store across the street, and you know what you could do with right now? Same as what those chumps were having back there at the restaurant—a cold bottle of Riesling.
Can’t see it in the fridge—but here’s a Sauvignon Blanc. Your favorite. You know where you are with a good ol’ bottle o’blanc.
Another thing regular-hour workers rarely get to take advantage of is the sun. They sit there in their glass cages, staring out at a beautiful day. Maybe they’ll slip outside and enjoy it for 40 minutes at lunch before being herded back in.
But you can sit down right here against this chain fence on the sidewalk with your bottle of cold wine and the hot sun above you.
How did Frank sing it?
Up in the mornin’
Out on the job
Work like the devil for my pay
But that lucky old sun got nothin’ to do
But roll around heaven all day
If there’s one group of people who understand you better than just about anyone, it’s the cops.
Like us, they don’t keep regular hours. They know an early morning shift, and they know pressure, just like we do. They know what it’s like to finish up at 7am when the rest of the world is just waking up, unaware and unappreciative of what you’ve just been through.
That’s why you and the police see eye to eye. It’s why you show each other respect, and when they drop you home and say, “The last time, the absolute final time,” they mean it as a friend, like when your boss says it. It’s like a verbal bear hug; it’s an unspoken contract of unity between you.
What’s in the fridge, and what time is it?
245pm. Still early.
You open a beer because you can’t risk another bottle of wine and having a bad head on you tomorrow and sit on the couch.
Where was the note she left? You hated the note three weeks ago, but now you like looking at it because she’s always had the best handwriting.
Maybe it’s best to get to bed early or grab a nap at least. Up and at ‘em tomorrow, slugger.
Get an early start on those suckers, work hard, send it in, and then you’ve got your reward; the whole livelong day all to yourself.
Falling down through the cushions towards sleep, you remember the quote but can’t remember who said it. The German . . . Goethe! Von Goethe, the writer scientist. You repeat it, paraphrasing a little, and it’s the last thing you say that day.
“The only guy who earns his freedom and his life is the guy who takes every day by storm.”
He’s damn right, you think. It’s how the executives think. And you’re part of the executive club now.