Home Today's Reason to Drink July 21: Hemingway’s Birthday.

July 21: Hemingway’s Birthday.

It’s Ernest Hemingway’s Birthday. Born on the cusp of the new century, in 1899, he would radically change the face of fiction writing. What’s more, he was that rare man of letters who actually lived what he wrote about. A cult of personality formed around him because he not only wrote excellent, ground-breaking books, he actually went to war, ran with the bulls, went on safari, fished for marlin, got in fistfights, guzzled the booze, and everything in between. He was a wide-ranging omnivore when it came to the booze. While a young man in Europe he absorbed vast amounts of wine, cognac, brandy, grappa and absinthe because that’s what the locals drank. He didn’t consider a meal a meal unless wine was served and sometimes that meant six bottles. Glassware be damned, he was not above drinking straight from the bottle—he compared it to “a girl going swimming without her swimming suit.” On safari he claimed he was never inebriated, though his hunting companions testified his first drink arrived with the dawn and that around the camp “his drinking would have killed a less tough man.” While covering WWII from the front lines, he kept his canteen filled with gin and personally liberated (with the help of his private army) the Cambon Bar of Paris’ Ritz Hotel. In Cuba Hem cranked up his game. On a typical evening he “Started out with absinthe, drank a bottle of good red wine with dinner, shifted to vodka in town then battened it down with whiskeys and sodas until 3 am.” Although Hemingway was fond of telling visiting interviewers that he rose at 4:30am and never drank before noon, a journalist who actually observed him in action at his Cuban home reported that upon rising Hemingway “usually starts drinking right away and writes standing up, with a pencil in one hand and a drink in the other.” Noted friend Denis Zaphiro, “I suppose he was drunk the whole time but seldom showed it. He just became merrier, more lovable, more bull-shitty. Without drink he was morose, silent and depressed.” Top quote: “Modern life is often a mechanical oppression, and liquor is the only mechanical relief.”