Spirits of Spirits Past: 5 Famous Drinkers And Their Beverage of Choice

Have you ever wondered whether you share your favourite firewater with someone famous? Maybe it’s the humble can of beer, or cup of store bought sake, or maybe it’s just the opposite– the glittering Springbank Whiskey; the wide and varied world of alcohol surely has a drop to suit almost every palette, and famous drinkers are wide ranging too. Iconic painters, powerful politicians, great orators of the theatre, and fashion design extraordinaires all imbibe and enjoy a drink– Absinthe was a common subject of Picasso’s paintings, while the American author, William Faulkner, went so far as to attribute civilization to distillation. 

But without further ado, here are five Famous Drinkers & Their Beverage of Choice: 

  1. Orson Welles
  2. Coco Chanel
  3. Salvador Dali
  4. Bob Hawke
  5. Hunter S Thompson

1. Orson Welles

Orson Welles, the Citizen Kane of directors and director of Citizen Kane was also a producer, an actor, a writer, and a drinker. He loved Paul Masson wine and became its spokesman (to iconic results). He played Shakespeare’s drunken knight, Falstaff, in his film Chimes at Midnight, and has been credited with popularising the Negroni after a visit to Rome. Indeed, drink and Welles are almost inseparable in the public consciousness, and he’s beloved for it.


  • 25ml each of gin, sweet vermouth, and Campari
  • 2 dashes of bitters
  • A citrus curl, or a slice of orange (preferably blood orange)
  • Ice

Though a negroni won’t always have bitters added with the Campari, Welles’ negroni might’ve–After all, he did say, “The bitters are excellent for your liver, the gin is bad for. They balance each other”– And so this one shall too. First, stir the three liquors, as a traditional negroni is not shaken. Add the ice, the orange, and enjoy.

2. Coco Chanel

Even some of today’s most ubiquitous items of women’s fashion– the woman’s suit, the many styles of costume jewellery, and the iconic “little black dress”– were once grand fashion innovations made by Gabrielle “Coco” Chanel. Not to mention, the titan of design that her brand has become (and her perfume, Chanel No. 5). But behind all this, was a woman who loved two things: caviar, and champagne– “I only drink Champagne on two occasions, when I am in love and when I am not.

Chanel’s preferred drink may have been a glass of champagne, or red wine, but for something a little more exciting, the Beaufort Bar in London devised this tribute:

Coco Chanel

  • 40ml Grey Goose Vodka
  • 20ml Lillet Blanc
  • 10ml Chateauneuf de Pape reduction
  • Moet et Chandon Vintage 2004

And though originally paired with black sugar pearls and a floral spritz to recall her beloved caviar and Chanel No. 5, it’s a surprisingly simple cocktail on its own. Simply stir all but the champagne over ice, add the champagne to a glass, then pour on the mix.

3. Salvador Dali

Dali’s surrealist paintings– his melting clocks and pomegranate-tiger-dreams– were not his only outlet for imagination. As a talk show guest, he brought along his pet anteater, and as a dinner party host, a bush of crayfish. His book, Les Diners de Gala, detailed toffee with pinecones, a dish of a peacock “surrounded by its court”, and young partridges on toast. But besides all of that fanciful foodstuff, he loved wine. So, maybe try his favourite cocktail instead:

The Casanova

  • The juice of an orange
  • 1 tablespoon bitters (Campari)
  • 1 teaspoon ginger
  • 4 tablespoons brandy
  • 2 tablespoons old brandy
  • 1 pinch of Cayenne pepper

Dali called it a “pep-up concoction”, and began by combining pepper and ginger in a glass. He poured on the bitters, then the brandy (he specified the now out-of-production Vielle Cure, but any brandy will do). Chill for half an hour, then stir in the juice of the orange.

4. Bob Hawke

The beloved Australian prime minister (who still holds the highest approval rating to date), was not only known for his love of a cold beer, but for the prowess he displayed while drinking them. In 1954, Hawke skolled a yard glass– two and a half pints– in just eleven seconds. It impressed his Oxford chums, earned Hawke a Guinness world record, and maybe gave him a leg up towards becoming prime minister. “This feat was to endear me to some of my fellow Australians more than anything else I ever achieved.”, He said. 

A Cold Bob Hawke

  • 1.4 L of lager
  • A yard glass or a sconce pot

Hawke especially loved a lager and even had one named after him, so there’s really no cocktail that’d better suit the larrikin than a cold one (or a yard glass of four).

5. Hunter S Thompson

A man who surely knew how to take a drink (and a couple of other things too), Hunter S Thompson wrote the book about drinking rum – The Rum Diary– And throughout his career as both a journalist and a writer, a strong drink was never far away. Rocks glass in hand, he interrogated presidential candidates in hotel lounges and covered desert races while sipping a sandy beer. 

The Singapore Sling

  • 45 ml Ford’s Gin
  • 30 ml orange juice
  • 25 ml  fresh lemon juice
  • 30 ml Cointreau
  • 7.5 ml Bénédictine 
  • Soda water
  • Dash of Cherry Heering

Though Thompson also loved a plain tumbler of Wild Turkey, he wasn’t one to shy away from the bright lights and pretty colours. Mix the liquors with a hearty shake, and strain over a tall glass (preferably a sling) of ice. Top with soda, a light drizzling of cherry heering, and decorate with a lemon wheel and a cherry.


So from peppery casanovas to great big glasses of beer, perhaps you’ve found a famous drinking compatriot or a new beloved booze. And if not, maybe you’d like to know that Cleopatra, Socrates, and Benjamin Franklin all drank wine– and that Shakespeare, Hemingway, and Edgar Allen Poe loved a good beer!