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The Complete Evolution of Drinking on Mad Men

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12 months later. Hours—probably days—spent re-watching old episodes to remember what happened for the first six and a half seasons. The new half-season of Mad Men starts on April 5.


While we can’t wait to find out what will happen to Don Draper and the rest of the show’s morally reprehensible characters, we’re also eager to see what role alcohol—the show’s driving, er, destructive, force—will play in the final episodes.

Of course, what the characters drink has hardly changed a drop since the beginning of the series. Straight whiskey and vodka are the poisons of choice. But there has also been a full menu of classics, including Old Fashioneds, Gibsons, Bloody Marys and Gimlets, proving that no matter the level of debauchery, these characters have fantastic taste.

Though the drinks have remained static, the antics of the characters have ranged from dumb mistakes to monumentally idiotic displays.

Season 1

The show begins with the indulgent care-free spirit you’d expect to find in an advertising agency in the 1950s—where privileged white men ogle cute secretaries bouncing around in form-fitting dresses and heels. It’s an extremely fraternal environment, and these guys acknowledge little responsibility for anyone other than themselves, drinking at any chance they get, to excess.

Take Roger, who is painfully aware of both the dangers and fun of drinking. He is no stranger to the three-Martini lunch and wooing clients with a cocktail-fueled dinner. But in Episode 7 his approach backfires gloriously, as he projectile vomits in front of a client. Stay classy, Rog. He also suffers a heart attack towards the end of the season, which can no doubt be partially attributed to his boozing habits.

Season 2

In the second round of Mad Men, the negative effects of drinking become more apparent. In Episode 9, account man Freddy Rumsen falls victim to too much drink, peeing his pants during a meeting and passing out cold. He’s sent on a six-month leave and ends up giving up the stuff all together.

Don’s big drinking faux pas in Season Two involves Bobbie Barrett (wife of the insufferable comedian Jimmy Barrett) and a car crash that leaves them both beat up and Don in jail for drunk driving. Amazingly, Don doesn’t even consider that he might have a drinking problem.

Season 3

Remember the company Christmas party in Season 3? Drunk driving rears its ugly head once again, only this time it’s a riding lawnmower—and it leaves its victim a little more bloody (and without a job).

Double standards start to rear their head in Season 3 when Don discovers while out drinking with Roger that there might be a secret relationship between Betty and Henry Francis. Drunk, he goes home, calls his wife a whore and is confronted with a divorce. He finally meets the product of his drunk, philandering ways.

Season 4

Kicking off Season 4, Don’s drinking hits an all-time high—or is that “low?” Betty is making it hard for him to see his kids, and he discovers that Anna Draper is dying. Blacking out becomes a regular occurrence for him, but after he gets the news that Anna has died, he finally starts to cut down on the booze.

Duck, however, is in full liquor-up mode—and takes his relationship with Peggy a little too far. Showing up drunk at the agency where Peggy and Don are working late, he punches Don and thoroughly makes a fool of himself. Remember what they say about when you assume?

Season 5

Season 5, though not as outwardly fueled by liquor as some of the past seasons, is still plenty scandalous. Roger tries LSD for the first time. He has an affair with Megan’s mother. Pete gets very friendly with a fellow commuter’s wife. Lane commits suicide.

But the end of the season shows Don, who has just helped his wife secure a role in a commercial, back in a dark bar, having a drink and flirting with women.

Season 6

There’s no shortage of horrifying scenes in Mad Men’s sixth season. With Ted Chaough and his agency merging with the booze hounds at SCDP, the incoming staff tries to keep up with the likes of Don and Roger’s Olympic drinking habits. Peggy tried to keep up when she first became a copywriter (she’s come a long way since her first days at the agency) and now it’s Ted’s turn. Though he passes out after trying Don’s creative process and basically gives up then and there.

The accounts department also falls into some trouble when Ken, who is handling the Chevy account, goes out shooting with the clients in Detroit—who have clearly been drinking—and gets shot. In the eye.

Even Sally gets in on the boozy action in Season 6 during a visit to a potential boarding school where the girls aren’t nearly as straight-laced as they seem. Like father, like daughter, right?

Eventually, after divulging during a client meeting that he was raised in a whorehouse, and then landing in jail for beating up a preacher, Don finally realizes that he needs to back off the bottle. When he comes home the next morning, he dumps his home bar down the drain.

Season 7

Despite lying to Megan about being put on indefinite leave, Don stays on the wagon during the first few episodes of Season 7. But after he returns to the office and discovers he’ll be turning work in to Peggy, he falls right back off again. And a second Draper divorce (third, technically) seems imminent.

The moral of the story? Ad agencies coupled with booze are toxic to one’s sanity and liver.

What will happen in the last half season? Only time—and more booze—will tell.


Series & Type: Entertainment

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