NYT: Whiskey, your only defense against diseases from space


What can't whiskey cure?

Link. "What is the Grip?," from the April, 22, 1891 edition of the New York Times.

Via Gabriel Snyder of Atlanticwire, originally the subject of this "Found item" post.

(BB headline by Warren Ellis, for whom this item was almost certainly written lo these many years ago.)


  1. As an ex-junkie with 12 years drug and alcohol free, I guess I’m screwed.

    Damn those pesky neutrinos.

  2. I think “the Grip” is the Flu. That’s still what it is called in Brazil: “gripe”.

  3. I’m picturing this on some chalk board:

    1. Flu season
    2. Whiskey sales down
    3. ????
    4. Profit

  4. Huh. I’ve usually seen it spelled “the grippe” or “la grippe.” That’s a great example for explaining why advertising came to be regulated.

    1. That’s just the French spelling, which I believe was popularized when the 1918 influenza outbreak spread through the trenches in France. I think is the first time I’ve seen it in earlier use, presumably referring to milder strains of the flu.

      My father was once laid up with the flu, and spent a day watching TV and drinking some rotgut brand of whiskey (I think it may have been Kasser’s) on the rocks (not a common beverage for him). He was vastly improved in 24 hours, and the remaining whiskey became our medicinal store thereafter.

      1. My mother’s cure for most diseases of this type was a mixture of Whiskey (Scotch would do), hot water, and honey. I was born in ’52, and this vile concoction is likely why I’ve never had a taste for Scotch Whiskey my entire life. Thanks mom, you were good for something after all.

  5. Somewhere in the time period between 1995 and 2005 I managed to successfully inoculate myself from the dread effects of The Grip.

    At no small cost; but the peace of mind is totally worth it. . .

  6. …Wait a minute … This is the Andromeda Strain. Who knew they were flying “Project Scoop” back before the recognized days of space flight. BTW you have to catch the 1971 version of the movie, it’s brilliant.

  7. Point of interest. Here this mystery microbe is called as Grip, and in spanish the flu is often referred as Gripe.

  8. The Brits famously use gripe water as a home remedy for fussy babies, and the etymology there is the same — the French word for illness became commom throughout Europe during the various Franco-German wars of the 1700s.

    The formulation is basically the same, with alcohol being one of the main “medicinal” ingredients.

  9. Come guess me this riddle—
    What bates pipe and fiddle?
    What’s stronger than mustard and milder than crame?
    What best wets your whistle?
    What’s clearer than crystal,
    And sweeter than honey, and stronger than stame?
    What’ll make the dumb talk?
    What’ll make the lame walk?
    What’s th’ Elixir of Life and Philosopher’s Stone?
    And what help’d Mr. Brunel
    To dig the Thames Tunnel?
    Sure wasn’t it the spirit of nate Innishowen!
    Then stick to the cratur,
    The best thing in natur
    For sinking your sorrows and raising your joys.
    Oh! whack! I’d not wonder
    If lightning and thunder
    Was made from the plunder of whisky, my boys!

  10. I fairly assert that this gentle realignment of the body physik won’t achieve the widespread notoriety among denizens of the inter-net it so generously deserves if we don’t in unison rise against that most accursed foe of the Information Age: The Dreaded Pay-Wall!

    How then will the milk-hand, the ice-house handler, and the blog-ger receive each news item and share them, along with their own quips and much-ados? Must we rely on a false Twit-ter for these matters urgent to health and humanity?

    Blast their Pay-Wall, good readers, and be quick, before it is verily erected! Only pure news feeds from ASS (Assuredly Simple Syndication) will cure the backwardness of the news-paperman. You cannot afford to act otherwise!

  11. In the early 1800s, Sir William Ostler, the founder of modern allopathic medicine (i.e. actual medicine, not homeopathy or naturopathy or barber-surgeons bleeding people or whatever), recommended treating the common cold by staying in a warm bed and drinking whiskey until you see double. A housemate of mine in college still recommended that a century and a half later, with the caveat that it may not always work but you won’t really care.

    Modern medicine can now do a better job of treating the symptoms, with pseudoephedrine and antihistamines and such, but it’s still pretty much just treating symptoms, and a sufficient dose of whiskey will keep you home in bed and keep you from spreading it to other people, so the epidemiologists will agree with you. (The other common cold symptom treatment popular in the medicine show days was opiates, so codeine cough syrup or its relatives – don’t mix them with alcohol, of course.)

  12. EXCELLENT find Xeni. I’m still chuckling.
    One of the the few phrases I remember from junior high German class: “Ich habe die Grippe”

    Usually used as an excuse to skip school or work.

  13. One of the better parts of the old Xbox game “Gun” was the fact that, instead of the trusty ol’ Health Packs or first-aid kits strewn about in other shooters, the only way to health restoration in the game after gettin’ shot by bandidos or hatcheted by Apaches was to swig bottles of whiskey.

    And here I thought that was a dumb idea.

  14. If I find myself lagging for longer than two days, I threaten the invader with the dreaded “Vodka Cure”. It’s pretty much a battle of who can out-poison whom.

  15. We are stardust.
    Billion year old carbon.
    We are golden.
    Caught in the devil’s bargain
    And we’ve got to get ourselves back to the garden.

    – ‘Woodstock’ Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young

    1. Actually that song was written by Joni Mitchell.

      I’ll take the same advice though, from Carl Sagan. Our existential condition, whatever it may be and at whatever level we may understand it (perhaps even proportionately) has always been a good enough reason to imbibe.

      1. Thank you, Phikus. I was aware that Joni wrote the song but should have credited her. It’s always C,S,N & Y’s harmonies I hear in my head, when I think of that song.

        Thanks also for the trip in the wayback machine to the series ‘Cosmos’. A wonderful reminder that we are, in fact, stardust ourselves.

  16. My Lithuanian grandmother swore by chamomile tea with brandy as a cure for colds and flu, even for kids. Seems to work pretty well.

  17. My farm-raised grandma regularly gave her kids warm whiskey and honey when they had colds. Even though she didn’t drink! Modern cough syrups and Nyquil are just commercialized versions of long-standing home remedies like that.

    Of course all they do is let you sleep and reduce coughing a bit. I’ve found though that a clove of raw garlic does wonders in fending off a cold when you first start sneezing. Your breath, not so much.

    1. I’ve found though that a clove of raw garlic does wonders in fending off a cold when you first start sneezing. Your breath, not so much.

      Oh no, you’re wrong: your breath will do a great job of fending off with that cure!

  18. Yes, I read “grip” as “grippe” or influenza – which is so called because it was believed to be caused by the influence of the stars …

  19. The Hot Toddy had been a trad cold and flu cure in Scotland for centuries. Drunk as hot as possible to induce “The Sweats”.

  20. For a cold, I was always told that I could take medication and I’d be better in 7 days or I could take nothing and it’d last a week.

  21. Crap! I think I inhaled some star dust on the way to work this morning! Guess I know what to do…

  22. I second (and third and fourth, apparently) the notion that “The Grip” is the flu — in Dutch it’s called “de griep”.

  23. You can make your own Nyquil at home by crushing up some cold tablets & dissolving them in Whiskey and some water. That stuff is 20 proof out of the bottle. The antihistimines and cough suppressants enhance the effects of the alcohol a fair bit.

  24. The makers of Duffy’s Pure Malt Whiskey always promoted it as a medicine, rather than a beverage. They emphasized the use of repeated distillation as the basis of its ‘purity’, and insisted that no other whiskey would do.

    (It wasn’t “pure malt” in the modern sense of being made only from malted barley – some ads mentioned that several grains “including malted barley” were involved.)

    They ran many ads like this, formatted to look like news stories, which followed the same formula: first discussing specific ailments – dyspepsia, the grip, women’s troubles, the afflictions of old age – and then recommending Duffy’s as the best cure.

    They also ran display ads that featured testimonials from happy users restored to health by its ‘stimulating effects’.

    A Google Image search or an Ebay search will find lots of items, both printed ephemera and collectible items, including celluloid-backed pocket mirrors with the company’s “wise old chemist” logo, glass dosing spoons, and the bottles themselves.

  25. Gripe means tummy ache i.e.colic, here in this northern part of UK. I haven’t heard of “the grip” but if it means ‘flu that’s something different.
    I have heard of a teaspoon of whiskey in water being given to babies for gripe up to a generation or two since.
    Also whiskey in hot lemon tea is a very fast cure for flu symptoms.

  26. Was that an ad? Or was Duffy on staff at the time? Usually the NYT archived stories conclude with the date originally published at the bottom of the article.

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