There has probably never been a more symbiotic relationship than the one between a war-fighter and their alcohol. Roman Centurions and wine. Vikings and mead. Samurai and sake. American troops and whatever is cheapest on non-first and fifteenth weekends.
We have a storied history with our booze.
I like to think that I put my liver through its rounds, but looking through military history — damn. If I went drink for drink with some of the best, I’d get drunk under the table by the greatest minds the world has ever known.
This beer goes out to the badasses who have awesome stories to talk about over one — and who would still probably carry my ass back to the taxi.
5. William the Conqueror
As the last ruler to successfully conquer England in almost a thousand years, William I lived up to the viking heritage of the Normans. For an over-simplification of what William did, think of Robert Baratheon from Game of Thrones.
The story goes, as King of England, William I threw lavish parties for his guests. Because he left his viking lifestyle and worries about consolidating power behind him, he became fat as f*ck.
To the point that his horse would be in great pain.
This diet, surprisingly enough, didn’t lead to his death — unless you attribute him falling face first off his horse because it bucked his rotund rear off it. Then maybe.
4. Napoleon Bonaparte
Napoléon visiting the cellars Moët Chandon in 1807. (Painting via Chateau Loisel)
The man most credited with why we open bottles of Champagne with a sword, Napoleon and his Hussars were famous for drinking the bubbly.
“Champagne! In victory one deserves it; in defeat one needs it” was Napoleon’s famous toast.
Napoleon and his men would frequent the hotel of Madame Clicquot, a beautiful business woman who was widowed young. The Emperor of France’s men would always try to woo her but she would just keep making money off their drunk asses.
3. Ulysses S. Grant
The stories of the 18th President of the United States and his drinking were historic when he was still a young officer. As a Captain, his drinking from the night before lead to a forced resignation by then Colonel Robert Buchanan. The two had mutual animosity for many years before then.
“I wish some of you would tell me the brand of whiskey that Grant drinks. I would like to send a barrel of it to my other generals,” remarked Abraham Lincoln on Grant’s alcoholism.
The outbreak of the American Civil War brought him back into the fold where he would then rise to General of the Army with Major General Buchanan underneath him. At the age of 46, Grant won the 1868 election in a landslide and urged for the ratification of the Fifteenth Amendment and the proper treatment of Native Americans.
2. George S. Patton
The Father of American Armor himself shared his love with his armored divisions with a mixed drink he called “Armored Diesel.” He said it would build camaraderie within the division and pride.
The drink was made with many different bourbons, whiskeys, and scotches, however, the Patton Museum officially lists his drink as being: bourbon, shaved ice, sugar, and lemon juice.
“You can’t run an army without profanity; and it has to be eloquent profanity. An army without profanity couldn’t fight its way out of a piss-soaked paper bag.” — Patton on swearing.
Patton was also very close with another great WWII leader and alcohol enthusiast, Winston Churchill.
Which brings us to…
1. Winston Churchill
There may be no military leader with a more celebrated and documented history with alcohol than Winston Churchill. Professor Warren Kimball of Rutgers authored several biographies on him saying, “Churchill was not an alcoholic because no alcoholic could drink that much!” He was amused when people said he had a “bottomless capacity” for alcohol.
“I have taken more out of alcohol than alcohol has taken out of me.” —Churchill on drinking in moderation.
He would drink heavily during every meal, including breakfast. In pure amazement, the King of Saudi Arabia said that “his absolute rule of life requires drinking before, during, and after every meal.”
Who would you grab a beer with? Let us know in the comment section.