Alcohol was consumed in abundance by many of 'the brightest minds of the Lost Generation: F. Scott Fitzgerald insanely drunk on champagne, Ezra Pound sipping absinthe, Gertrude Stein enjoying a fine red, James Joyce savoring Scotch and Ford Maddox Ford sending back a brandy for the fourth time'.
'They drank up liquor, they drank up life, they drank up each other', observes Frank Kelly Rich. None more so than Ernest Hemingway. To such an extent, in fact, that in 1939 he was warned to cut back: 'He tried to hold himself to three Scotches before dinner but he couldn't do it and, in 1940, he began breakfasting on tea and gin and swigging absinthe, whiskey, vodka and wine at various times during the day. He even let his boys drink hard liquor when one of them was only 10.' His rapid decline in health, however, though undoubtedly exacerbated by his dependence on alcohol, was not the ultimate author of his demise. Hemingway, like his father before him, had reserved that right for himself. Deeply depressed and no longer able to write, he shot himself in the head at the age of 61.
Kirsch, from kirsch wasser (meaning cherry water), appears to have found particular favour with the writer. Later in the text, while reminiscing further about his kirsch-drinking exploits (this time in Austria), Hemingway reveals how the brandy became affiliated with his name:
In the winter in Schruns I wore a beard against the sun that burned my face so badly on the high snow, and did not bother having a haircut. Late one evening running on skis down the logging trails Herr Lent told me that peasants I passed on those roads above Schruns called me “the Black Christ.” He said some, when they came to the Weinstube, called me “The Black Kirsch drinking Christ” (A Moveable Feast, page 122).