Five famous drinkers

Very seldom does 'demon drink' however get acknowledgment for playing a supporting role in the lives of some highly influential and successful people.
Very seldom does 'demon drink' however get acknowledgment for playing a supporting role in the lives of some highly influential and successful people.

A prodigious appetite for drink is unlikely to get you a guest spot Masterchef, or have you wheeled out onto the Morning Show anytime soon. But some of history's most famous characters have had more than a passing fancy for beverage alcohol.

Alcohol is more often than not painted as a destructive force in peoples' lives and often with due cause. Very seldom does 'demon drink' however get acknowledgment for playing a supporting role in the lives of some highly influential and successful people.

I've compiled a list of what might be history's most legendary drinkers. And whilst we can't give credit to their favourite tipple for their success it is almost unimaginable to picture these folks without a drink close at hand.

Benjamin Franklin

What didn't this ol' Founding Father do? Benjamin Franklin was a noted polymath, a leading author, printer, scientist, musician, inventor, satirist, political theorist and politician. And whilst the first among his famous 'Thirteen Virtues' calls for temperance, Franklin was known to enjoy a drink or two himself – when he wasn't busy making ground breaking discoveries regarding electricity that is.

Madeira – an oxidised and fortified wine from Portugal's Madeira Islands – was Franklin's tipple of choice and the great man has several notable quotes on the subject of drink. In an undated letter to André Morellet (a French economist and writer) he had this to say on the subject of wine: "Behold the rain which descends from heaven upon our vineyards, and which incorporates itself with the grapes to be changed into wine; a constant proof that God loves us, and loves to see us happy."

Winston Churchill

Sir Winston Churchill has been named the greatest Briton of all time and is famed, among his many other achievements, for having a healthy appetite for drink. A few have dared name him an alcohol abuser, but outside of meal times Churchill rarely consumed large quantities of alcohol.

Churchill was noted for always having a whisky and water close at hand – a habit that he picked up as a young man whilst in India and South Africa. The water being literally unfit to drink, one had to add whisky and, "by dint of careful application I learned to like it."

Chruchill's habitual whisky, well watered, was more akin to mouthwash than to a cocktail and was as much a prop to Churchill as the well chewed cigar always sticking out of his mouth. As a prop it would certainly lend credence to Churchill's famous quip: "I have taken more good from alcohol than alcohol has taken from me."

Dorothy Parker

An American literary maven, Dorothy Parker was renowned for her wit, wisecracks, and eye for 20th century urban foibles. It's also no secret that she was a scofflaw – one of those many Americans who enjoyed a drink or two in New York's numerous speakeasies during Prohibition.

You see Parker's career really kicked off on the eve of the "Noble Experiment" when she took up a job at Vanity Fair as a stand-in theatre critic in 1918. At the magazine, she met Robert Benchley and Robert E. Sherwood. The trio began lunching together at Algonquin Hotel founding the infamous group of wise-crackers and acerbic literary types known as Algonquin Round Table.

While her lunches may have been spent at the Algonquin, her nights found Parker at speakeasies like Jack and Charlie's Puncheon Club and Tony Soma's. She was known to enjoy Scotch, whiskey sours and martinis which certainly inspired this verse from The Collected Dorothy Parker in 1973: "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."

Bob Hawke

Bob Hawke served as Australia's 23rd Prime Minister. He is Labor's longest-serving Prime Minister and Australia's third-longest-serving PM to boot. It's another record however that seems set to give Hawke lasting fame. And it's for beer drinking.

In 1955, a 26 year old Hawke was completing a Bachelor of Letters at Oxford University when he was given a college penalty to drink 2 ½ pints of beer from a sconce pot. Hawke as we know was up to the task. He wrote in 1994, in The Hawke Memoirs; "I downed the contents of the pot in eleven seconds, left the Sconcemaster floundering, and entered the Guniness Book of Records with the fastest time ever recorded. This feat was to endear me to some of my fellow Australians more than anything else I ever achieved."

Despite being upheld by Australians as a legendary drinker, Bob Hawke has admitted to having a struggle with alcoholism. He gave up drinking in the years prior and during his tenure as Prime Minister.

The Queen Mother

The Queen Mother lived to the grand old age of 101. And whilst she suffered criticism over her lifetime, in later years she helped stabilise the British Monarchy often beleaguered by tabloid scandal. You see the Queen Mum was charming and sweet, but also tenacious and strong - not unlike her favourite tipple the Dubonnet Cocktail (1 part gin to 2 parts Dubonnet on ice).

In 2008, the UK Daily Mail reported that a hand written note from the Queen Mum requesting Dubonnet and gin sold for £16,000 at auction. The letter to the Queen Mother's favourite page (William 'Backstairs Billy' Tallon) said: "I think that I will take 2 small bottles of Dubonnet and gin with me this morning, in case it is needed. It is a beautiful day, could we have lunch under the tree - one could have 14 at the table and four at a small table."

This story Five famous drinkers first appeared on The Sydney Morning Herald.