History overflows with heavy drinkers. What would happen if some of them went up against each other in an all-night drinking competition? Who would be the victor? That's for you to decide.
To make an educated judgment, it's important to get to know the stats and drinking styles of history's most notorious alcohol enthusiasts. Some were binge drinkers; some drank a little bit a lot of the time. In any case, all were well practiced in the art of holding their liquor, and alcohol had an impact on their life, celebrity, image, and work.
Like everything else in history, context is always important. Drinking cultures have changed dramatically over the last few dozen centuries, from the ancient Mediterranean - whose populations by and large drank alcohol like water - to the short-lived Prohibition of 1920s America. So some figures, such as Alexander the Great, came from cultures that measured a man's worth by his ability to drink, while others - i.e. Ulysses S. Grant and his bourgeois Victorian world - saw alcohol as a shameful dark demon to be wrestled with.
Choose your booze champion and vote up the historical figures you think would be the last man or woman standing at the end of a night of drinking.
Years Active: André the Giant was known to drink heavily when he was at the peak of his celebrity as a wrestler in the 1970s and 1980s.
How Much He Drank: André's legendary size was the result of gigantism - and one of the side effects was that he could drink a lot of alcohol without it significantly affecting him. Wrestling referee Tim White claimed that André drank wine "like most people drink ice water." He once downed "156 beers in one sitting."
His Legacy: Princess Bride co-star Cary Elwes believes André the Giant used alcohol to deal with the physical pain he was in following years of wear and tear on the wrestling circuit.
Signature Drink: He liked to drink "The American," a 40-ounce pitcher filled with a bunch of different liquors. And he wouldn't down just one "American," but several in one sitting.
1,31134Is this the booze champion?
- Age: Dec. at 47 (1946-1993)
Years Active: Peter the Great of Russia knew how to hold his liquor. But after he developed a friendship with the Swiss officer Franz Lefort in the late 1680s and early 1690s, Peter's drinking increased. According to biographer Lindsey Hughes, Lefort was an enabler: He was responsible for "encouraging Peter to indulge in debauchery and excessive drinking." Peter remained a heavy drinker until his passing in 1725.
How Much He Drank: As estimated by vodka scholar Mark Lawrence Schrad, Peter started his day with "a pint of vodka" at breakfast and could consume up to 40 glasses of wine before bedtime.
His Legacy: Peter loved the social aspect of alcohol so much that he started a drinking club. Revelries lasted all day and night, and the club even created the "penalty shot" of vodka. Peter also understood the political power of vodka and gave the state a monopoly on the liquor.
Signature Drink: Though he frequently enjoyed vodka and wine, Peter actually discovered his favorite drink in England: brandy laced with peppers, a drink as steely and strong as the tsar himself.
303131Is this the booze champion?
- Age: Dec. at 53 (1672-1725)
- Birthplace: Moscow, Russia
Years Active: American writer and pioneering gonzo journalist Hunter S. Thompson began drinking at a young age. By the time he was 14 in 1951, he was already addicted.
How Much He Drank: Substances were by his side as soon as he started the day at 3 pm until he ended it the following morning, including frequent rounds of booze and coke.
His Legacy: Thompson believed substances like alcohol had an impact on his ability to work and function, and he secured his reputation as a counter-culture figure with quips like, "I hate to advocate drugs, alcohol, violence, or insanity to anyone, but they've worked for me." He also wrote frequently about alcohol in general and bourbon in particular. Ultimately, decades of hard drinking and drug use wore down his body.
Signature Drink: Thompson was from Louisville, KY, and appropriately favored bourbon.
308143Is this the booze champion?
- Age: Dec. at 68 (1937-2005)
- Birthplace: Louisville, Kentucky, United States of America
Years Active: Famed ballplayer George Herman Ruth - AKA "The Babe" - started drinking young. One story claims that Ruth, all of 7 years old in 1902, had been involved in a bar fight. The incident got him sent to reform school. Though he slowed his drinking for the sake of his health in the 1940s, he continued imbibing until his passing from cancer in 1948.
How Much He Drank: Everything about Babe Ruth was larger than life - including his drinking habits. He apparently drank so much that he developed a very high tolerance for alcohol. When a bartender tried to get him drunk before a game against the Chicago White Sox, the plan fizzled - the copious alcohol had no noticeable impact on Ruth, and his New York Yankees ended up winning the game.
Signature Drink: He never turned down a scotch.
355174Is this the booze champion?
- Age: Dec. at 53 (1895-1948)
- Birthplace: Pigtown, Baltimore, Maryland, United States of America