Words by: Theodora Sutcliffe
So who was Alex Higgins?
One of snooker's all-time superstars, Alex "Hurricane" Higgins was born into an era when snooker mattered - and made it matter even more. Starting out as a child hustler in the rough pool halls of his native Belfast, he became World Champion several times over. Yet his talent came with an appetite for self-destruction: booze, drugs, cigarettes, gambling, violence and bad women.
Where did he drink?
Wherever would have him - which was, honestly, a limited selection. By the end of his life, Higgins had been barred from almost every hotel in the UK, and a broad selection of its pubs. The Circus Tavern in Manchester and the Winning Post bar in Bangor allowed him in, however. And his last local, The Royal in Sandy Row, Belfast, has commemorated him with a giant mural.
What did he drink?
Pints and shots, largely. Guinness fuelled most of his matches and all of his life. Whisky chasers added an extra buzz.
Any famous drinking buddies?
Higgins paired naturally with another troubled, hard-drinking Northern Irelander, George Best. And he was firm friends with the hard-partying actor Oliver Reed, posing for hell-raising shots with chicks and drinks. His doubles partner and singles competitor, Jimmy White, was one of few drinking buddies to remain a friend and outlive him.
How did drink change his life?
Alex Higgins' decline from the Hurricane of snooker, a champion at a sport that mesmerized the nation, living in a mansion, to a decaying, emaciated, cancer-stricken shadow of his former self is educative in its horror. Drink made him a wife-beater, a scavenger, a fighter, punching referees, issuing death threats and scabbing what he could from where he could.
By the end of his life, Higgins had blown around three million pounds on drugs, booze, cigarettes and gambling. The mansion gave way to caravans, homeless hostels and, finally, sheltered accommodation. He ponced money for bets and drinks when and where he could, and alienated so many people that papers suggested he might have been dead for over a week before his body was found. He had been subsisting on baby food and Guinness.
Any drinking stories?
Higgins lasted precisely one day on a tour of India, before he was sent home in disgrace. During one bout with Oliver Reed, he mixed Fairy liquid into a glass of Reed's rum, leaving him blowing bubbles for hours. Reed got his own back the next day by offering him a glass of Scotch that turned out to be Giorgio Armani aftershave.