Inventor of gonzo journalism, Hunter S. Thompson was a long-time advocate for getting to the truth in journalism—even if that meant twisting the facts to evoke the central reality. And intoxicants definitely played their part—in both the story and in the storyteller. His daily regimen of drugs and alcohol was enough to kill most mortals (including steady doses of Chivas, cocaine, marijuana, margaritas, beers, Chartreuse, and LSD, from when he woke at three p.m. till he started working at midnight…according to the biography Hunter: The Strange and Savage Life of Hunter S. Thompson).
But here we’ll avoid diving too deeply into the deep end of illegal substances, and instead offer a few kind highlights on the best drinks to pair with some of his more famous works.
Hells Angels (1966)
This book resulted from a year-long stint when Hunter embedded himself with the San Francisco and Oakland chapters of the infamous bike club. Even by today’s standards it’s a pretty harrowing read. Beer plays a big role, but we suspect it was Thompson’s famous ability to put down massive quantities of Wild Turkey that helped him endear himself into what was, at the time, one of the most intimidating gangs on the earth.
Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas (1971)
If the narrative is to be believed, Hunter and his colleague Raoul Duke consume pretty much everything in this book, and in massive quantities. We’re talking the famous ether as well as amyls, cocaine, LSD, mescaline, herb, and pills of all shapes, sizes, and colors. And lots and lots of booze. But we suggest going with Mr. Thompson’s daily post-bender routine: four Bloody Marys, along with two grapefruit, a pot of coffee, some crepes, and a half pound of meat—followed by more food and two margaritas.
The Rum Diary (1998)
Written some time in the early 1960s and not published until three decades later when Johnny Depp found the manuscript, this fiction work documents a Thompson-like character who’s a journalist that moves from NYC to run a paper in San Juan, Puerto Rico. Antics follow. As its name implies, rum is the choice libation of the book—and the region. Pretty much anything made in that U.S. territory qualifies, but try to chase down some Ron De Barrilito, a rum that traces back to the 1800s and is refreshingly spicy, best enjoyed on the rocks.
Fear and Loathing on the Campaign Trail (1973)
Composed of a collection of articles written for Rolling Stone on the 1972 presidential campaign, the book doesn’t dive into the black hole of hedonism like in the other Fear and Loathing title on this list. But booze is as much a part of politics as sin is a part of Las Vegas. To honor the madness that he documented with laser-like precision, grab a bottle of gin, and drink out of the bottle, wandering from parked car to parked car at some political convention, much like one of the press secretaries that Thompson observed.
The Great Shark Hunt (1979)
The first of four volumes dubbed The Gonzo Papers, this collection amasses some of Hunter’s most creative, powerful, and (yes) utterly mad articles from 1956 to the end of the ‘70s. Paired with illustrations by long-time co-conspirator, artist Ralph Steadman, the book spans some 600 pages, with stuff from National Observer, Rolling Stone, Playboy, and The New York Times. But we say honor this mammoth collection by drinking a beverage that stars in one of the well-known, well-regarded essays he wrote—and the first piece of true gonzo journalism, the beautifully titled “The Kentucky Derby Is Decadent and Depraved.” Mint juleps, naturally. Lots of them. Preferably consumed while wearing a ridiculous hat.