Towards the end of the marvellous memoirs of the late journalist, thinker, philosopher and humanist Christopher Hitchens – Hitch-22 – there’s a little gem of a section where he dispenses some advice “for the young” on drinking.
Hitchens loved a drop or two and could by all accounts – including his own – handle his booze pretty well. He claimed to never miss a deadline or an appointment or class due to booze, though admits to being mildy tipsy once on the BBC (though no one, he says, noticed).
When writing at home he maintained a certain discipline when it came to drink.
He was partial to whiskey – “a decent slug of Mr Walker’s” – at about half-past midday cut with Perrier water and no ice, then at luncheon (not quite sure how soon this was after midday) “perhaps a bottle of red wine, not always more but never less”, no after dinner drinks but maybe a nightcap “depending on how the day went – though never brandy.
“Alcohol makes other people less tedious, and food less bland and can help provide…the slight buzz of inspiration when reading or writing,” says Hitchens with his brilliant wit, charm and self-deprecation.
But he maintains “he was never a piss artist”.
Here then, faithfully transcribed by yours truly are his “simple pieces of advice for the young” (and the artist I think) when it comes to drinking:
1. Don’t drink on empty stomach: the main point of the refreshment is the enhancement of food.
2. Don’t drink if you have the blues: it’s a junk cure. Drink when you are in a good mood.
3. Cheap booze is a false economy.
4. It’s not true that you shouldn’t drink alone: these can be the happiest glasses you ever drain.
5. Hangovers are another bad sign (as is watching the clock for the start-time to your next drink) and you should not expect to be believed if you take refuge in saying you can’t properly remember last night (If you really don’t remember, says Hitch, that’s an even worse sign).
6. Avoid all narcotics: these make you more boring rather than less and are not designed – as are the grape and the grain – to enliven company.
7. Be careful about up-grading too far to single malt Scotch: when you are voyaging in rough countries it won’t be easily available.
8. Never ever think about driving if you have taken a drop.
9. It’s much worse to see a woman drunk than a man. I don’t know quite know why this is true but it is.
10. Don’t ever be responsible for it.