André the Giant is legendary as a pro-wrestler, a star of film classic The Princess Bride and of course one of the tallest human beings to ever exist. He wasn’t only huge in physical size, however; equally gargantuan was André’s appetite for alcohol.
While unfortunately no official records exist to declare André the Giant the biggest boozer in history, people who knew him have no shortage of stories to tell about the magnanimous man-mountain and his drinking habits. If verified, these accounts would surely make the late, great star a contender for the most capacious drinker of all time.
André the Giant was born André René Roussimoff in Coulommiers, Seine-et-Marne, France on 19th May 1946. Though his parents and siblings were average-sized, André’s gigantism became apparent while he was still a child: he was already over six feet before reaching his teens. He began pro-wrestling in the early 60s, and at the peak of his career he was listed as standing at 7’4″, and weighing in at 520lb.
Providing fuel for a body of such size was no small order, and it was only really once he reached the peak of his profession, earning tens of thousands of dollars per appearance, that André was really able to truly eat and drink his fill. According to his friend Tim White who worked with him in the World Wrestling Federation (known as World Wrestling Entertainment today), André could comfortably consume 12 steaks and 15 lobsters in a single sitting.
And so, to the booze. Such was the size and density of André’s body, the amount of alcohol that would render a regular man drunk would have little to no effect on him. Likewise, what would be a large drink to most people would resemble a child’s sippy cup in his mighty grip.
Fellow wrestler Hulk Hogan remarks, “You’ve got to realize that a 12-ounce beer he can put in his hand and hide it. You can’t see the beer in his hand.” The same interview saw Hogan share one of the most famous stories about André’s ability to put away the booze.
Hogan recalls, “he was changing planes in Tampa. I was over at my mom’s house visiting and I get a call. ‘Hey boss I’m at the Tampa airport. I’ve got a one-hour layover.’ I was like okay, it’s fifteen minutes or so from my mom’s house. So I drive over the airport and I met him at the Delta Crown Lounge. By the time we sat down we had about 45 minutes before he had to walk to the next gate. He drank 108 12-ounce beers.”
Nor was this Hogan’s only eye-opening André the Giant drinking story. Once when the two wrestlers were working in Japan over André’s birthday, Hogan gifted him with “a case of Pouilly-Fuissé wine… we left the hotel about 8 in the morning for an eight hour bus ride. About three hours later he shakes the seat. He says, ‘Boss. Bossss. I need pit stop.’ Three hours on a bus he drank 12 bottles of wine.”
Such behaviour was not unusual even before wrestling matches. Fellow wrestler Gerald Brisco states, “There are a lot of crazy stories about André that sound fake but most are true, especially his drinking. André used to ask me to get him six bottles of Mateus wine and ice them down. He would drink those before we went to the ring and no one could tell.”
On an episode of TV show Legends of Wrestling, wrestlers Mike Graham, Dusty Rhodes and Michael Hayes attested to seeing André drink 156 beers (i.e. 14.6 gallons) in a row one evening. If verified, this would count as a world record for amount of beer consumed in a single sitting.
Nor are tales of André’s drinking limited to the wrestling world. Cary Elwes, his co-star in The Princess Bride, also has no shortage of stories to tell. The actor told Daily Beast, “I went drinking with him after our first screening in New York, and I was sipping a beer all night—which he thought was very funny. There was no way I was going to compete with that, because I knew he could consume 100 beers in one sitting.”
Despite André’s well-recorded taste for beer and wine, Elwes recalls that his real drink of choice was a cocktail of around 40 ounces of various liquors which he called “The American.” Based on a taste of this, Elwes remarks, “I’ve never tasted airplane fuel, But I imagine it’s very close to what that must taste like. It’s very potent indeed, and I remember coughing a lot. But to him, it was like chugging water.”
Naturally, when anyone is said to have such a taste for drink, this raises questions about addiction. Happily, André was not an alcoholic, but as Cary Elwes points out, there was a sad reason behind his boozing during The Princess Bride. “He was due to have an operation right after the shoot, and his doctor didn’t know what kind of pain medication to give him because of his size, so the only way that he could deal with the pain was to drink alcohol. It didn’t affect him at all. He didn’t flub a line or miss a day. The guy could handle his liquor, let me tell ya.”
However, even André the Giant could overdo it on occasion. In his memoir As You Wish, Elwes recalls that one night, his hulking co-star cleaned out the hotel bar to such an extent that he passed out then and there. Hotel staff attempted to get him up, but “despite their valiant efforts, there was simply no waking or even slightly budging what could only be described as an unconscious 500-pound Gulliver spread out on their very ornate carpet. A meeting was held and the wise decision was made to leave him there… For safety purposes, both to protect him and any passersby, they decided to place a small velvet rope barrier around André, who was by now snoring loudly enough to shake the lobby walls.”
André stayed at the London Hyatt for a month with his co-stars during production on The Princess Bride, and during this time he is said to have run up a bar tab totalling at $40,000. It should be noted that this was not just from his own drinking: by all accounts he was a very generous character who would happily buy drinks for everyone at the bar.
While he continued wrestling into the early 90s, André the Giant’s final years saw him struggle with the ailments associated with gigantism. He sadly died of congestive heart failure on January 27th, 1993, aged just 46. Later that year, WWF introduced their Hall of Fame, with André posthumously honoured as their first inductee. If a similar hall of fame existed for drinkers, his name would surely be listed there too.