Hate to promote drinking especially when it has had such a negative impact on so many lives. But could it have possibly extended Hemingway’s life and art? Was alcohol something that could have made his life bearable up to that point it was no longer bearable? Would he have lasted so long without self-medicating? We don’t know, but it’s possible. Regardless, alcohol played an important role in his life and it plays an important role in American culture as well. Might as well learn how to drink correctly then, right? It’s a skill that needs practice. If you aren’t taught how to drink like an adult, you risk drinking like a frat boy your entire life: beer bongs, shotguns, mixing liquor with a god awful energy drink, shots of bullshit cinnamon whisky, and countless other stupid ways of ruining the art of drinking. So why not learn from one of the best, Hemingway:
- One of his most popular quotes about drinking, but one everyone should try their best to remember: “Always do sober what you said you’d do drunk. That will teach you to keep your mouth shut.”
- This quote from A Moveable Feast is a good one because it’s not about drinking to get drunk; it’s about enjoying the taste and being present. And about oysters. If you aren’t familiar with the happiness a dozen raw oysters and a glass of wine can create, do yourself a favor and try it but while doing so, read this passage: “As I ate the oysters with their strong taste of the sea and their faint metallic taste that the cold white wine washed away, leaving only the sea taste and the succulent texture, and as I drank their cold liquid from each she’ll and washed it down with the crisp taste of the wine, I lost the empty feeling and began to be happy and to make plans.”
- This is the quote that gets me thinking that maybe Hemingway wouldn’t have lasted as long as he did if he didn’t have alcohol: “Modern life, too, is often a mechanical oppression and liquor is the only mechanical relief.” In a letter to Ivan Kashkin, August 19, 1935; published in Ernest Hemingway: Selected Letters 1917-1961.
- Eating and drinking are great pleasures and are enhanced when consumed together. Many amateur drinkers try not eat while drinking so as not to “kill their buzz.” What’s wrong with that line of thinking is that you will get drunk quicker and can easily make a fool of yourself. Drinking is a marathon, not a sprint and the trick is to not look or act drunk. And these hors d’oeuvers he writes about in Green Hills of Africa sound so damn good: “When they woke up we had lunch of cold sliced tenderloin, bread, and mustard, and a can of plums, and drank the third, and last, bottle of beer.” And that damn sure better be brown grain mustard and not that bullshit yellow mustard.
- And here is another from A Moveable Feast: “In Europe we thought of wine as something as healthy and normal as food and also a great giver of happiness and well being and delight. Drinking wine was not a snobbism nor a sign of sophistication nor a cult; it was as natural as eating and to me as necessary.” Here in the States it seems as if we put such a taboo on drinking that some people end up hiding it out of fear of judgment instead of it was looked at as a normal and healthy part of a diet it may be learned to be abused less.
Further reading on Hemingway and drinking, I’d recommend The Sun Also Rises and his short story “A Clean, Well-Lighted Place.”
If I missed one of your favorite Hemingway drinking quotes, I’d love to hear them.
Nic Schuck is the author of Native Moments, a picaresque surf tale set in Costa Rica. Release date is Septemeber 15th, 2016.