Inspiration on the rocks: 10 famous artists and their favorite drinks

January 08, 2016                 4m read time
Teresa K. Traverse


From Da Vinci and white wine to Warhol and martinis, discover what kind of tipple tickled these artists’ palates and palettes.

Paint and sip classes are all the rage today, but alcohol and artists have long made a pretty partnership. From Da Vinci and white wine to Warhol and martinis, discover what the following masters liked to drink (and sometimes guzzle). Then pour yourself a glass and put brush to canvas. Who knows, maybe a little tipple will unleash the creative genius hiding inside you.

Jackson Pollock & Whiskey

Whiskey with ice cubes SergANTstar Thomas Hawk

Whiskey with ice cubes

SergANTstar Thomas Hawk

 

Jackson Pollock is known for his massive oil drip paintings—a style which was seen as revolutionary at the time. He was also known to down more than a few drips of whiskey—one of the most popular beverages of the 1950s. More of a cautionary tale than an inspirational one, Pollock battled alcoholism for much of his life (including attempting to replace whiskey with healthy smoothies and fruit drinks). Tragically, he died after hitting a tree while driving drunk.

Salvador Dali & Casanova Cocktail (brandy)

Glass of scotch whiskey brandy with ice El Nariz Webneel

Glass of scotch whiskey brandy with ice

El Nariz Webneel

 

Surrealist Salvador Dali might be best known for his melting clocks, but he also appreciated fanciful food and drink. In 1973, he created a gorgeously illustrated cookbook, “Les Diners de Gala.” In true Dali style, the book featured 136 whimsical recipes, including the cocktail casanova. The libation is a mix of orange, bitters, ginger, two types of brandy, and pepper. Dali’s love of brandy also spilled over into his commercial work. He designed the bottles for the brandy company Osborne's Conde de Osborne.

Andy Warhol & Martinis

Martini glass with olives  Igor Normann Ian Burt

Martini glass with olives 

Igor Normann Ian Burt

 

Largely credited with creating pop art, Andy Warhol supposedly loved martinis. The New York artist’s go-to cocktail is evident in his work. He appreciated Absolut bottles so much that he created the vodka brand’s first original piece of artwork. And he didn’t stop there. He also made Martini & Rossi ads during the ’50s and ’60s. His prefered libation reflects the era: the ’50s were all about the three-martini lunch. We’re willing to bet he participated in more than a few during his commercial heyday.

Vincent Van Gogh & Absinthe

Vincent Van Gogh painting Dave Gough Wikipedia

Vincent Van Gogh painting

Dave Gough Wikipedia

 

Nicknamed la fée verte, or the “green fairy,” absinthe was Vincent Van Gogh’s drink of choice. And he wasn’t the only one. The drink was so popular in France in the late 1800s that, similar to today’s cocktail hour, bars held “the hour of absinthe.” Acclaimed artists Monet and Picasso also downed this stuff on the reg. Made out of a killer combo of anise, fennel, caraway, wormwood, and other European herbs, the intoxicating mixture was once mistakenly thought to cause delirium. Although it’s not a hallucinogenic, the high-proof beverage may have been involved in several key moments of Van Gogh’s life. He threw a glass of absinthe at Gauguin’s head in a cafe, and a few days later he chopped off part of his ear (some suspect he was drunk on the stuff at the time). It’s also thought that his addiction to it and other related chemicals may have killed him. The lesson here? Be careful when consuming the jade drink. 

Leonardo Da Vinci & White Wine

Leonardo da Vinci's The Last Supper painting Wikipedia Shunichi kouroki

Leonardo da Vinci's The Last Supper painting

Wikipedia Shunichi kouroki

 

The creator of “Mona Lisa” may have been drinking white wine while he worked. The archetypal Renaissance man owned his own vineyard, which he was given as payment by Lodovico Sforza, the Duke of Milan, for painting “The Last Supper.” Last year, after a decade of research, Italian experts opened Da Vinci’s newly rebuilt vineyard to the public. His prefered vino? Malvasia di Candia—a crisp white wine grown in the Emilia Romagna region, south of Milan.

Monet & Red Wine

 

Lauded French painter Claude Monet enjoyed quaffing Champagne, prune liqueur, and sweet red wines hailing from his native France, specifically the Bordeaux and Narbonne regions. Although not as famous as Bordeaux, Narbonne is the oldest wine region in the country. It’s estimated that wine has been cultivated there since the fifth century B.C.

Well-known for his lush paintings of water lilies, the man might have been a bit of a lush himself. A fan of the lunchtime drink, Monet enjoyed tossing back a few rounds before returning to work. Perhaps this mid-day buzz influenced his painting’s soft Impressionist fuzz.

Giovanni Bellini & Prosecco

Bellini cocktail with fruit on the rim alexpro9500 Giovanni Bellini via Wikimedia Commons

Bellini cocktail with fruit on the rim

alexpro9500 Giovanni Bellini via Wikimedia Commons

 

Noted Italian Renaissance painter Giovanni Bellini was famous for elevating Venetian painting by using bold colors that brought the work to life. His work supposedly inspired hotelier Giuseppi Cipriani, inventor of the Bellini, to create the signature drink. According to the story, the peach color of the Bellini—a sweet combo of white peach puree and sparkling Prosecco—reminded Cipriani of the color of a toga featured in one of Bellini’s paintings. Cipriani first served the drink at his Venice establishment, Harry's Bar, which was frequented by the likes of Ernest Hemingway, Charlie Chaplin, Orson Welles, Truman Capote, and Woody Allen.

Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec & Earthquake Cocktail (absinthe & cognac)

Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec's At the Moulin Rouge painting Wikipedia Bart Everson

Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec's At the Moulin Rouge painting

Wikipedia Bart Everson

 

Perhaps most famous for his Moulin Rouge drawing, Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec was also quite the host. He held massive, all-out parties featuring hundreds of guests clad in exotic costumes. In keeping with his hedonist reputation, his prefered drink, the Earthquake cocktail, was a potent mix of absinthe and cognac. The drink is named after a wild party where Toulouse-Lautrec served 300 guests a staggering 2,000 cocktails. Imagine getting an invite to that shindig?

Pieter Bruegel & Amber Ale

Pieter Bruegel the Elder "Feast day of Farmers" Ted Thompson Pieter Bruegel via Wikimedia Commons

Pieter Bruegel the Elder "Feast day of Farmers"

Ted Thompson Pieter Bruegel via Wikimedia Commons

 

Acclaimed Netherlands’ artist Pieter Bruegel the Elder was lauded for his complex, artistically controlled work featuring bold scenes from everyday 16th-century life. One of his most famous creations? The aptly named Peasant Dance which features (what else?) common folk gettin’ down. The painting is now printed on bottles of Bruegel Amber Ale.

Benvenuto Cellini & Grappa

Drinks in Bassano del Grappa CataFratto Wikimedia Commons

Drinks in Bassano del Grappa

CataFratto Wikimedia Commons

 

Benvenuto Cellini was one of the most important Mannerist artists, and his personal life was just as colorful as his professional one. He was known for having affairs with numerous women and for being bisexual. He also had quite the temper. A nobleman encouraged Cellini to drink to make peace with the enemy. And so he found grappa—a fiery Italian liqueur that matched his personality.

Teresa K. Traverse

Teresa K. Traverse is a Phoenix, Arizona-based writer, editor, and traveler. Her drink of choice? A nice glass of Chianti. Find her work online at teresaktraverse.com.

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