Winston Churchill Drink


Laurel King, Contributor

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winston churchill drinkOne of the greatest leaders of the 20th century, it seems that Winston Churchill was also rather well-accomplished as a drinking man. To illustrate this contention, a famous quote from an exchange between Winston and Lady Nancy Astor, whom he was frequently forced to contend with:

"Mr. Prime Minister, you are drunk. You are very, very drunk."

"Lady Astor, you are ugly. You are very, very ugly. But tomorrow, I shall be sober."

As with many things in Winston's life, with alcohol, he started out small and quickly found himself an expert. In 1899, he was a reporter for the Morning Post, writing about the Boer war in South Africa. When he was sent to the front lines, he felt compelled to bring a sufficient supply of alcohol for the occasion: 36 bottles of wine, 18 bottles of scotch, and 6 bottles of brandy. During his time in India while serving with the military, he frequently had to add whiskey to his drinking water, as a way to prevent disease. However, this developed into an incomparable need to consume unbelievable amounts of alcohol, in many forms, all the way until his death in 1965. Supposedly, in 1936 Winston won a bet with Rothermere, that he would be able to keep from consuming hard liquor for an entire year. Yet, immediately following the conclusion of that year, he went right back to drinking.

A famous quote by Churchill gives his estimation of his alcohol intake, "I have taken more out of alcohol than alcohol has taken out of me." Understandably, historians' opinions regarding whether or not Churchill was or wasn't an alcoholic are consistently at war with one another. Many cite his propensity for drinking heavily only at meal times as the perfect way to absorb all of the alcohol he was imbibing in. Others point out that he was frequently known to have a drink in his hand, yet, he never allowed inebriation to affect his decisions or behavior.

During his time as Prime Minister, he did nothing to dispel the rumors of his alcoholism. Instead, he encouraged the rumors, convinced that Europeans would have more respect for a leader who could 'hold their liquor'. Frequently, Churchill bragged and joked about his reliance on alcohol, with his infamously-dry humor. The truth was that he was almost never without a glass of whiskey close at hand, also indulging in both brandy and champagne for meals at lunch and dinner.

At the age of 76, Winston claimed to be slowing down. As always, he prefaced the occasion with humor, claiming that he had 'cut back' on his alcohol intake by switching from brandy to Cointreau. Yet, the 10 years before he died (during his retirement) he continued to drink alcohol to excess, never missing his mealtime bottles of champagne, and frequently mixing it with brandy, scotch, and a highball. Somehow, though, he never 'acted drunk' (which might say something for the purported diagnosis of alcoholism by some historians). According to Churchill, being drunk was disgusting and something to be held in contempt.