Words by: Theodora Sutcliffe
We celebrate the late, the great, the permanently sozzled Winston Churchill.
So who was Winston Churchill?
Seriously, you need to ask?! War leader, rhetorician, speechmaker, historian, politician, Nobel Prize winner, painter, army officer and one time war correspondent, Churchill is considered one of the great war leaders of all time. The man who saved Britain during World War II did so on a diet of champagne, cognac, whisky, claret, port and hock, admingled with the odd martini.
Where did he drink?
Where didn't Churchill drink? The Cabinet War Rooms, Chequers, his bath and his family home, Blenheim Palace, not to mention grand hotels including the Ritz and the Savoy. There Joe Gilmore created The Blenheim, a potent combination of cognac and Chartreuse, in honour of his 90th birthday.
What did he drink?
Churchill famously said, "I have taken more out of alcohol than alcohol has taken out of me. One source claims that he consumed 42,000 bottles of Pol Roget champagne. He routinely enjoyed a glass of hock with breakfast and started the day with a "Papa Cocktail" - a hint of Johnnie Walker to be topped up with water throughout the day.
One of Churchill's paintings depicts a bottle of Johnnie Walker, and wine, whisky, cognac and champagne were as constant companions as his cigar. Lunch routinely included champagne and finished with port, brandy and cigars, while he enjoyed the odd pre-dinner martini: Plymouth gin, with a bow to France in lieu of vermouth.
Any famous drinking buddies?
Churchill drank vodka with Stalin when negotiating peace treaties, and knew every politician and royal in the Western World. But his friends included actors like the hellraiser John Barrymore, the comedian Charlie Chaplin and the heartthrob Cary Grant, as well as Albert Einstein, Aristotle Onassis and Lawrence of Arabia.
How did drink change his life?
When Field Marshal Montgomery told Churchill, "I neither drink nor smoke and am a hundred per cent fit," the great man replied, "I drink and smoke and I am two hundred per cent fit." Churchill lived to 90, won World War II, and did all this on an intake of alcohol that would have the average doctor today in fits of the vapours.
Any drinking stories?
"I have been brought up and trained to have the utmost contempt for people who get drunk," Churchill once wrote, and he was rarely seen to be so.
Drink did, however, seem to sharpen his repartee. Nancy Astor once told him that if she were married to him she would put poison in his coffee. To which Churchill replied, "If you were my wife, I'd drink it."
When Bessie Braddock accused him of being drunk in Parliament, saying, "Winston, you are drunk! You are disgustingly drunk!" the great man replied, "Madam, you are ugly. But in the morning, I shall be sober."
And, 67 years ago, when the great and good of the establishment were celebrating VE Day, and Astor tripped on the pavement, a well-refreshed Churchill cried exultantly, "Madam! If you had drunk as much as I had, you would not be falling over."