Skip to content

Dorothy Parker's Brilliance and Other Sundries to Fascinate Your Friends at the Bar Tonight

Photo by QUI NGUYEN / Unsplash

The godfather of modern libertarianism, Albert Nock, was in his prime during Prohibition. Needless to say, he railed against it, noting once that it's absurd to regulate something that, in nature, flows as freely as water.

He's right, of course. And the fact that it flows as freely as water has made it a form of recreation and escape for nearly 10,000 years. (Okay, we don't know for sure why the Chinese in the Yellow River Valley (where 9,000-year-old pottery (with alcohol residue) was found) were drinking alcohol, but they weren't Neanderthals, so presumably, there was a large measure of recreation involved.)

It's no surprise that there's a ton of interesting and fun alcohol trivia.

I'm working on a definitive list of such, but for now, I offer this handful:

1. Go Extreme

Are you tired of the beer snobs? I know I am. I realize I probably have an unsophisticated palate, but when I read beer aficionados talk about hints of malt from the Euphrates Valley, I roll my eyes.

But if you want to try to understand a little of what they're talking about, you should taste and contrast beers from the two extremes: double boch (extreme malt) and bitter ales (very hoppy).

2. Government Created the Great London Gin Craze

The Great London Gin Craze was a pretty scary things: kids getting soused, women selling themselves for a gin and tonic with lemon spritzer (okay, I embellish).

It resulted from government interference. William of Orange and his allies in Parliament wanted to punish the French for, among other things, their ongoing support of deposed King James, so they banned the importation of French brandy. Parliament pushed through the Distillation Act of 1690 to promote the interests of powerful landowners. Parliament then increased the tax on beer, making gin the cheapest alcoholic drink in the land. And then, for the cherry on top, Parliament exempted distillers from the requirement to accept billeted troops (in other words: "you either make gin or soldiers are going to bang your daughter in your own home").

By 1730, London was flooded with gin and all the horrifying problems associated with it.

3. How Slavs Took Over the World

Prior to the 1930s, vodka was confined to areas of Russia, Poland, and Scandinavia. Today, it is the number one alcohol in the world. Some estimates say it is used in 25% of all alcoholic drinks.

4. Dorothy Parker was Liberal, Slutty, and a Drunk . . . but I Love Her

Dorothy Parker was, by all moral accounts, low.

But man, she was brilliant and funny. Her humor was so biting, Vanity Fair fired her when she refused to curb her sarcastic excess.

She was also a drunk and had a wicked sense of humor to go with it. She was the only female member of the notoriously drunken Algonquin Round Table, which included notables like James Thurber, Ring Lardner, and (the otherwise laconic) Harpo Marx.

One of Dorothy's best quotes: "If you laid all the girls at Vassar end to end, I wouldn't be surprised."

Also: While on her honeymoon, responding to a persistent editor about a looming deadline: "Look. I'm too f____ing busy. . . . And vice-versa."

5. A Toast for Every Day of the Week

English sailors used to toast a different thing every day of the week. It varied among sailors, but this is a common list:

Sunday: Absent friends

Monday: Queen and country

Tuesday: Health and wealth (not sure where scurvy fits in)

Wednesday: Ourselves

Thursday: The King

Friday: A willing foe

Saturday: Wives and sweethearts (may they never meet)