They Do Not Drink, They Guzzle
“I judge that the American is more interested in getting drunk than in drinking. That statement may sound paradoxical, but is not. I have rarely seen an American, accustomed to drinking, sip a glass of liquor and show signs of savoring the aroma. They all act as if the bitter alcohol is unpleasant to the palate, and hurry the act of imbibing as if eager to get rid of the disagreeable substance. They do not drink, they guzzle.
When they bring the glass to their lips and empty it at a gulp it is clear that the column of liquor must sink like lead through the throat without affecting the taste. The act of imbibing generally is not accompanied by any sign of pleasure. Deep and habitual drinkers reach the state of drunkenness without passing through the process of getting drunk.
For them inebriety is not a height to be climbed, but a well into which to sink, and that, not little by little, gradually, but purposely and deliberately. True, this process involves a conservation of energy; it imposes a rest and suspends the intellectual activity of minds, so heavily taxed and so thoroughly fatigued by business.
Americans feel a violent need to paralyze cerebral activity with external aids. Or perhaps the source of the invincible seductiveness of alcohol that leads them to ultimate stupor lies in their impatience for extreme sensations; they love to save time, to get there all at once. That is the same gross sensuality that reveals itself in a thousand ways, disdainful of delicacy, loving enorminties, giganticism, excess. This Was America. True Accounts of People and Places, Manners and Customs, as recorded by European Travellers to the Western Shore in the Eighteenth, Nineteenth, and Twentieth Centuries. Oscar Handlin, 1949. Excerpted from Impressioni d’America, 1908, by Giuseppe Giacosa, an Italian dramatist.