Erotica Readers & Writers Association Blog

Saturday, September 28, 2013

The Wisdom Of Wine - On Writers And Drinking

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 rotgut.

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

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

Dana 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? Absolutely!

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 anyway!

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 doom.”
― 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 brick.”
― Douglas Adams

“Drink because you are happy, but never because you are miserable.”
― G.K. Chesterton

“I like to have a martini,
Two at the very most.
After three I'm under the table,
after four I'm under my host.”
― Dorothy Parker

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!  :)


  1. 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. 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. 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. 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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