A plaque remaining from the Big Apple Night Club at West 135th Street and Seventh Avenue in Harlem.

Above, a 1934 plaque from the Big Apple Night Club at West 135th Street and Seventh Avenue in Harlem. Discarded as trash in 2006. Now a Popeyes fast food restaurant on Google Maps.

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Entry from November 04, 2007
“Never drink unless you’re alone or with somebody”

"Never drink unless you’re alone or with somebody” appears as an “anonymous cowboy quote” in the book Cowboy Cocktails (2000), by Grady Spears and Brigit Binns. The quotation is also on a website of “Old West Wisdom.”

The origin of the quotation is unknown, but a form of it appears in a North Dakota newspaper in 1910.

Old West Wisdom
Never drink unless you’re alone or with somebody.

29 December 1910, Grand Forks (ND) Daily Herald, pg. 4:
The usual number of people will resolve never again to take a drink and subconsciously add “except when alone or with somebody.”

16 March 1913, Eau Claire (WI) Sunday Leader, “On the Spur of the Moment” by Roy K. Moulton,” pg. 14, col. 2:
Hicks never takes a drink unless he is alone or with somebody. 

14 June 1932, New Castle (PA) News, pg. 2, col. 3:
I have heard a lot of wet and dry talk so far. In fact one can hear a lot from people who never take a drink unless they are alone or with somebody.

13 November 1933, New Castle (PA) News, pg. 4, col. 6:
The only vices the mayor elect of New York has is cooking spaghetti and making savory sauces for it and meats. He only drinks likker at meals. We also know a chap who never takes a drink when he is not alone or with somebody. 

16 January 1940, Daily Kennebec Journal (Augusta, ME), pg. 7, col. 7:
Invited to have a drink at a New Year party, Mike Curtiz said, “No, thanks. I don’t drink except when I’m alone or with somebody.”

17 March 1941, Lowell (MA) Sun, pg. 16, col. 1:
Milton Berle sends these in: John Barrymore is getting very strict about his drinking habits. He now will never drink unless he’s alone or with somebody. 

19 October 1944, New Castle (PA) News, pg. 1, col. 4:
Old Man Is Eloper

Aged Author Of “The Face On
The Barroom Floor” Is On
ELKTON, Md., Oct. 19—(INS)—Ninety-seven-year-old John Henry Titus, who penned his way to fame with “The Face on the Barroom Floor,” today was honeymooning with the former Mrs. Elizabeth Pfliderer, after their elopement in Elkton.
The marriage was Titus’ third. He was reportedly received more than half a million dollars to date for his 120-verse Saga of an old artist ruined by drink, which he wrote 72 years ago.

Turned down by editors for two years, the “Face on the Barroom Floor” was on the lips of virtually every elocution student in the nation within a short time after it was eventually published in 1874.

Reformers glorified in it at Temperance rallies, despite Titus’ avowal that he meant it as a satire on “Goodie-Goodies.”

Once queried on how he felt about drinking, the former tannery worker replied:

“The only time I drink is when I’m alone or with somebody.”

14 October 1958, Long Beach (CA) Press-Telegram, pg. C5, col. 1:
WE WERE PROUD of Tom Poston being an Ohioan when he performed so brilliantly (as a drunk) in “Drink to Me Only.” As a guy who had to drink two bottles of scotch in 12 hours, he played it so believably that I asked him if he’d been rehearsing. “Me drink!” he said, using an old but still good line. “Only when I’m alone or with somebody.”

16 September 1970, Dallas (TX) Morning News, section A, pg. 23:
Leonard Levinson, author of “Complete Book of Pickles and Relishes,” loves dill pickles: “They’re wonderful alone—or with somebody.”

29 August 1973, Valparaiso (IN) Vidette-Messenger, “Rollie Bernhart’s Special Weekly Feature,” pg. 4, col. 1:
My imbibing is confined to a strictly “social” status. That is, I never drink intoxicating liquors unless I’m alone or with somebody.

Google Books
Cowboy Songs, Jokes, Lingo ‘n Lore
by Wayne Erbsen
Asheville, NC: Native Ground Books & Music
Pg. 47:
“Never drink unless you’re alone or with somebody. “

Google Books
Cowboy Cocktails:
Boot Scootin’ Beverages and Tasty Vittles from the Wild West
by Grady Spears and Brigit L. Binns
Berkeley, CA: Ten Spped Press
Pg. 63:
“Never drink unless you’re alone or with somebody.”

Posted by Barry Popik
Texas (Lone Star State Dictionary) • (0) Comments • Sunday, November 04, 2007 • Permalink