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Death in the Afternoon, Pulitzer in the Morning

Image: New York’s 21 Club kept stocks of many celebrities’ drinks of choice. 

I’ve noticed a few things about myself over the past few years. Most notable are how different drinks affect me: cocktails make me talk politics, whiskey makes me philosophical, wine makes me talk about women and beer makes me talk about how good I am at the Big Buck Hunter arcade game.

Over the course of history, a few more productive members of society have found the perfect combination of talent and the perfect beverage to heighten their creativity – in moderation, of course. Here are a few examples:

Ernest Hemingway

Don’t let the boxing, bull fighting and gnarly scar on his forehead fool you; this guy liked sugary-sweet Mojitos. Not to say all Mojitos were syrupy and cloying, but Hemingway’s favorite bar in Cuba – which he frequented while writing The Old Man and the Sea – made his Mojitos and Daiquiris with grenadine instead of sugar or simple syrup. His earlier inspirational drink, however, was absinthe – he invented the Death in the Afternoon, for which he instructs, “Pour one jigger absinthe into a Champagne glass. Add iced Champagne until it attains the proper opalescent milkiness. Drink three to five of these slowly.”

And perhaps it was absinthe’s higher proof that earned him the aforementioned scar. Inebriated, Hemingway reached out to flush a toilet and accidentally pulled a skylight down on his forehead.

Winston Churchill

While not creative in the traditional sense, one could say that his politics were. It seems like when he was contemplating policies, Churchill was frugal and drank Johnnie Walker Red, but when policies were enacted, he celebrated with a more extravagant bottle of Champagne. He even named one of his racehorses after his favorite Champagne house, Pol Roger. Pol Roger returned the favor a few years after his death by naming their prestige cuvée Sir Winston Churchill.

Hunter S. Thompson

It should come as no surprise that this guy drank from time to time. In general, you could find a rocks glass filled with Wild Turkey 101 Bourbon and ice. While he was writing Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, however, it’s been said that he’d pop open a bottle of California Chardonnay and season to taste with acid.

Image: Some of Nixon’s store at the 21 Club. 

Richard Nixon

Again, here’s someone who isn’t typically noted for his creativity, but his way of ordering wine at restaurants was nothing short of creative genius. The 21 Club in Manhattan used to invite regulars and celebrities to keep their personal wine in the restaurant’s Prohibition-era cellar. To this day they still have wine from Sammy Davis Jr., Elizabeth Taylor and yes, even Richard Nixon. As you’ll see in the pictures above, Nixon, who lived in Jersey after his presidency, only served his guests wine from New Jersey. He must not have thought it was all that great, though, because he also made sure the sommelier knew to fill his glass with Château Margaux while his guests weren’t looking.

Absinthe wins

Degas, Manet, Hemingway, Picasso, Wilde, Van Gogh and even Marilyn Manson, at one time or another, all preferred absinthe. Perhaps it’s the tiny traces of the psychoactive chemical thujone that heightens their creativity, or maybe a proof of 100-160 inspires a different way of thinking, but one thing is for sure: Absinthe has a great track record with painting, written word and crazy heavy-metal musicians.

Remember to drink responsibly: While Van Gogh painted some really beautiful stuff under the influence, he also thought it was a good idea to cut his ear off.

Follow me on Twitter @ChrisHallowell