A Personal Meditation on Christopher Hitchens’ Rules for Drinking

06/08/2010 8:46 AM |

christopher hitchens

“Making rules about drinking can be the sign of an alcoholic.”

So said Martin Amis to Christopher Hitchens, once upon a time, when they were young and mean and hungry. Well, as can be seen in the latest excerpt of Hitchens’ memoir over at Slate, Hitch doesn’t care if you think he’s an alcoholic. Here, then, are his rules for drinking:


“Don’t drink on an empty stomach.”

This is a fairly obvious but often difficult rule to adhere to. Not infrequently one finds oneself rushing to meet friends “down the pub,” as they say in England, and once you get there you’re anxious to catch up with said friends. After the dust and spittle settles (two quick beers and a shot), you realize you haven’t really eaten anything since that bagel crust you cadged from the sales team breakfast meeting and now that you’re feeling a little buzz, you’re not really hungry. Cuz, you know, ALCOHOL IS AN APPETITE SUPPRESSANT. This is usually how it begins…

“Don’t drink if you have the blues.”
Oh c’mon. To be a living, breathing, conscious human being is to have the blues somewhere inside you at all times. Everyone has the blues, even if they think they don’t. You can feel like a million bucks, but if you’ve had a couple beers, and that certain song comes on (I’m looking at you, “Waterloo Sunset”) nothing can stem that wonderful awful wave of melancholic sadness that flows through us all. And then you’ll need another drink.

“Drink when you are in a good mood.”
Yeah, ok, whatever, see above. Or to quote the ladies of Freakwater, “First you drink to remember, then you drink to forget.” Point being, you might think you’re in a good mood, but how can you ever tell that it’s real…

“Cheap booze is a false economy.”
I don’t even understand this, but I’ll tell you, some of the best times I’ve ever had involved a giant $7 bottle of Vermouth.

“It’s not true that you shouldn’t drink alone.”
Speaking of that $7 bottle of Vermouth, I’m glad Hitch brings this up. Drinking alone can be a wonderful experience: you get to soundtrack your mood as it shifts, you can pace up and down the apartment (in your underwear!), pee with the door open, and if for some reason you haven’t already destroyed your appetite, you can whip up a nice cheese and onion sandwich. You can also yell at the walls, if you’re so inclined.

“Avoid all narcotics.”
This is false, but I’m sure Slate made him put it in.

“Be careful about up-grading too far to single malt Scotch.”
I’m also not sure what this means, but in my experience, regardless of the quality of alcohol at hand—be it high or low—it only takes three good, long mouthfuls to adjust. So if you’re forced to go from $7 Vermouth to $50 wine, just closes your eyes, suck it up and get used to it. (You will be rewarded for your perseverance!)

“Never even think about driving a car if you have taken a drop.”
This is one of the nice things about living in New York City. Though to this interdiction should be added: make a phone call, send an email, send a text, write an online book review, fry a steak, build a kite, mow a lawn and taunt a cop.

“Don’t ever be responsible for [getting a woman shit-faced].”
Hitchens has obviously never been in love.