The Wisdom Of Wine – On Writers And Drinking

by | September 28, 2013 | General | 4 comments

Elizabeth Black writes in a wide variety of
genres including erotica, erotic romance, and dark fiction. She lives on the
Massachusetts coast with her husband, son, and four cats.

UPDATE: While this article touches on writers and alcoholism, I don’t discuss it directly. For a more direct discussion about writers, alcoholism, depression, and suicide, please read my article “The Madness Of Art“.


Writers and drink go
together like, well, writers and drink! I have a drinking ritual I follow most
mornings. I start off with a cup of coffee at home. Then, I pour coffee in my
travel mug and head to the beach. I walk for an hour, running plots and other
things through my head, and drink my second cup of coffee. Then I return home
and drink my third cup. After that, I’m all coffeed out.

I save the alcoholic
stuff for the afternoon. Most often I drink champagne, but I won’t turn down
red wine or reisling. I sometimes drink cognac and liqueurs. I developed a
taste for Grand Marnier after reading too many British murder mysteries. My
other favorites are unusual drinks like Benedictine, Strega, Campari, absinthe,
amontillado (hat tip to Poe), Quantro, and Drambuie.

I’ve met a few
writers who didn’t like coffee, which is something you wouldn’t expect because
writers and coffee is a match made in Heaven. I quote two writers who don’t like coffee below. My son is a computer geek and he can’t stand coffee, either.
You’d never expect to meet a computer geek who loathes coffee, but I know one.

Some fictional
characters are well-known for their drinking habits. Jack Torrence liked his
bourbon on the rocks, much to his downfall. Maggie in Tennessee Williams’
“Cat On A Hot Tin Roof” was surrounded by alcoholics. Agatha
Christie’s Hercule Poirot liked his sirop de cassis as well as hot chocolate.
He also liked tisane, an herbal or lime hot tea.

Two of my own
characters have a penchant for drink. Catherine Stone in my Night Owl Top Pick
erotic novel “Don’t Call Me Baby” prefers a TNT (Tanqueray and
tonic). That was a popular drink in the 1980s in America, during which time the
book is set. Jackson Beale in my WIP “Alex Craig Has A Threesome”
prefers expensive liquor, especially Cristal champagne. That man enjoys the
good life.

There’s something
soothing about a hot or alcoholic drink. It helps releases your inhibitions so
that you write more smoothly (in some cases). A drink or two may make you more
sociable – something that doesn’t come easily to many introverted writers. The
ritual behind preparing a pot of coffee, a cup of tea, or a fancy drink can be
satifying in its own way.

Some writers are
famous for their enjoyment of alcohol. William Faulkner noted, “I usually write at night. I always keep my whiskey
within reach.” Carson McCullers preferred hot tea and sherry she
kept in a thermos. At Yaddo, the writers’ colony,
she had her own ritual. She started writing with a beer shortly after breakfast,
then moved on to her hot tea and sherry (her “sonnie boy”), and ended
in the evening with cocktails. F. Scott Fitzgerald preferred gin since
he believed no one could detect it on his breath.

Absinthe is a drink
that has been long favored by writers, including Ernest Hemingway. Absinthe is
nearly a mythical drink. It has its own cachet, but the reputation may be borne
of myth. The chemical that causes the hallucinations you get from drinking too
much absinthe (thujone) exists in very minute amounts in the drink – not enough
to make you hallucinate. Absinthe alone is a very powerful drink. You’d get
drunk and hallucinate by simply drinking the stuff because it’s so strong. The main
reason absinthe was so popular in the 1800s was because the stuff was cheap and
strong. For those unable to afford better, more expensive liquor, absinthe was
the way to go. Plus big drinkers favored it and got drunk not because of the
drink itself but because of the massive amounts of it they drank. Absinthe
drinkers drank a lot of absinthe. Calling it “The Green Fairy” only
gave it a mystical allure that hid its true nature as a fancy version of

I interviewed some
of my author friends to learn what they drank when writing and why they drank

Tanith Davenport Lewis – Cider. Because I like it. And I find it easier to
write without second-guessing myself after a drink.

Fredsti – Wine, both sparkling and still. I try to reward myself with sips of it
as I write as a little relaxes me enough to not beat myself up over what I’m
writing (my inner critique is a mouthy bitch), but too much relaxes me to the
point I don’t write enough. It’s a fine line…

Lisa Lane – I used
to drink often when I wrote (I have a weakness for margaritas, tequila shots,
and chocolate wine–not together, lol). I ended up getting drunk too often, so
I switched strictly to coffee (or, more specifically, mocha). I brew my own
espresso and use Ovaltine in place of cocoa. It’s very yummy.

Adriana Kraft – We
never drink while we’re writing – but champagne to celebrate a release?

Gemma Parkes – Only
water! I couldn’t drink alcohol because I get drunk too quickly and I don’t
like coffee!

Sharolyn Wells – I
don’t drink alcohol. My father was an abusive alcoholic when he was younger and
I saw the things he did to my mother when he was drunk. I drink either water or
Dr. Pepper. Sometimes milk, depending on what I’m eating at the time. My mother
had a rule–chocolate milk if you’re eating anything non-chocolate; white milk
if you’re eating anything chocolate. I never drink coffee. Never acquired a
taste for it.

Devon Marshall –
Strictly speaking, I’m always drinking something when I write – mostly water
and coffee though! I do drink alcohol sometimes when I write, especially if I
happen to be having a drink on that day, with beer or cider being my poison of
choice. As someone else said above, there are times when alcohol helps relax me
enough that I can write without continually nitpicking at it. Was it Hemingway
who said “Write drunk. Edit sober”? Sounds like something he’d say

Vanessa de Sade –
Don’t drink at all, especially not while I write but I do use other stimulants
whilst composing sexy scenes

Phoenix Johnson – Tea
is my trending drink right now because it relaxes and soothes to get the mind
clear of everything but what I need. I accompany it with water or big cup of
juice for endurance and energy once the tea has cleared my mind.

It’s only natural
for writers to drink something while they write, whether or not that drink is
alcoholic. As F. Scott Fitzgerald said: “Here’s to alcohol, the rose colored
glasses of life.” He was right in more ways than he was probably aware.

Here are some quotes
by the famous about alcohol:

“I drink to make
other people more interesting.”

― Ernest Hemingway

“An intelligent man
is sometimes forced to be drunk to spend time with his fools.”

― Ernest Hemingway

“I have absolutely
no pleasure in the stimulants in which I sometimes so madly indulge. It has not
been in the pursuit of pleasure that I have periled life and reputation and
reason. It has been the desperate attempt to escape from torturing memories,
from a sense of insupportable loneliness and a dread of some strange impending

― Edgar Allan Poe

“In wine there is
wisdom, in beer there is Freedom, in water there is bacteria.”

― Benjamin Franklin

“The Hitch-Hiker’s
Guide to the Galaxy also mentions alcohol. It says that the best drink in
existence is the Pan Galactic Gargle Blaster, the effect of which is like
having your brains smashed out with a slice of lemon wrapped round a large gold

― Douglas Adams

“Drink because you
are happy, but never because you are miserable.”

― G.K. Chesterton

“I like to have a

Two at the very

After three I’m
under the table,

after four I’m under
my host.”

― Dorothy Parker

“Death: “THERE

Albert: “Oh,
yes, sir. But alcohol sort of compensates for not getting them.”

― Terry Pratchett

Now I’ll go enjoy a
bottle of champagne. Cheers!  🙂

Elizabeth Black

Elizabeth Black's erotic fiction has been published by Cleis Press, Xcite Books, Scarlet Magazine, Circlet Press, and others. She also writes dark fiction and horror as E. A. Black. She lives in Massachusetts next to the ocean with her husband, son, and three cats. The beach calls to her and she listens.


  1. Madeline Moore

    The history of writers and drink is, overall, not a happy one. I just finished reading LITERARY ROGUES by Andrew Shaffer. Alcohol was the undoing of many a writer: some embraced it fully, for example Dylan Thomas while others discovered, too late, that it was a problem, for example John Berryman.

    I stopped drinking alcohol while writing many years ago. Simply put, the next day the work was not as good as I'd imagined it to be the night before. I hate it when that happens.

    Best, in my opinion, to save the champers for Book Drop Day.

    Now I drink one large coffee in the morning, water and/or soda water in the afternoon and cranberry cocktail at night. I need to make sure I have a big drink of something with me when I sit down because once I'm in the zone I'll dehydrate and turn to dust before I'll break to get a beverage.

    I recall a story in The New Yorker about the antics of John Cheever and his pals. The next week, Cheever's daughter's letter to the magazine was published. She described the "antics" from the point of view of his family. It was not a happy letter.

  2. Elizabeth Black

    Thanks for your comment. I just updated the article to link to an older article/blog post I wrote about exactly what you're talking about. It's called "The Madness Of Art". I wanted this article to be more generally about what writers choose to drink when they write, alcoholic or not. Alcoholism in writers is an article all by itself.

  3. Madeline Moore

    Or even a book! I hear you, Elizabeth.

    By the way, is it "rude" to comment on the ERWA blogs? I'm sure people are reading but I don't see many comments . . . besides mine. Maybe others are too busy writing?

    It takes awhile to put together a good blog post, like this one. If everyone who read the posts published a quick line or two, in the comments section, it would be good for the blog and likely encourage discussion.

    Or am I missing something?

  4. Lisabet Sarai

    Come on, Elizabeth. Did Ben Franklin really say that?

    I never drink alcohol when I'm writing, but I do enjoy a glass of wine or two after the fact.

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