The Devil’s drink

21 Aug

The Welsh painter Nina Hamnett (1890-1956) was celebrated in Paris as the “Queen of Bohemia”, thanks to a flamboyant lifestyle that marked her out from all the other drinkers, fornicators and artists in that metropolis. In this extract from her memoirs she recalls an encounter with Aleister Crowley, the notorious occultist and goat-botherer:

When he [Crowley] came to Paris he stayed in the Rue Vavin at the Hôtel de Blois. I asked him if I could bring some friends to see him and he asked us to come in one day before dinner and have some cocktails. He said that he had invented a beautiful cocktail called Kubla Khan No. 2. He would not say what it was made of. I told Evan and he, I, and two young men went to try it out one evening. Crowley had only a small bedroom with a large cupboard. He opened the cupboard and took out a large bottle of gin, a bottle of vermouth, and two other bottles. The last one was a small black bottle with an orange label on it, on which was written “POISON”. He poured some liquid from the large bottles, and then from the black bottle he poured a few drops and shook the mixture up. The “POISON” I found out afterwards, was laudanum. I believe that it is supposed to be an aphrodisiac but it had no effect at all on any of us except Cecil Maitland, who was also there. After we left he rushed into the street, and in and out of all the cafés behaving in a most strange manner, accosting everyone he came into contact with.

— Nina Hamnett, Laughing Torso: Reminiscences (New York: Long and Smith, 1932), p. 174.

Would you drink a cocktail mixed by this man?


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