What Happens When Mortals Try to Drink Winston Churchill’s Daily Intake of Alcohol

I have tak­en more out of alco­hol than alco­hol has tak­en out of me. — Win­ston Churchill

Win­ston Churchill had a rep­u­ta­tion as a bril­liant states­man and a prodi­gious drinker.

The for­mer prime min­is­ter imbibed through­out the day, every day.  He also burned through 10 dai­ly cig­ars, and lived to the ripe old age of 90.

His come­back to Field Mar­shal Bernard Mont­gomery’s boast that he nei­ther smoked nor drank, and was 100 per­cent fit was “I drink and smoke, and I am 200 per­cent fit.”

First Lady Eleanor Roo­sevelt mar­veled “that any­one could smoke so much and drink so much and keep per­fect­ly well.”

In No More Cham­pagne: Churchill and His Mon­ey, author David Lough doc­u­ments Churchill’s dis­as­trous alco­hol expens­es, as well as the bot­tle count at Chartwell, his Ken­tish res­i­dence. Here’s the tal­ly for March 24,1937:

180 bot­tles and 30 half bot­tles of Pol Roger cham­pagne

20 bot­tles and 9 half bot­tles of oth­er cham­pagne

100+ bot­tles of claret

117 bot­tles and 389 half bot­tles of Barsac

13 bot­tles of brandy

5 bot­tles of cham­pagne brandy

7 bot­tles of liqueur whisky

All that liquor was not going to drink itself.

Did Churchill have a hol­low leg?  An extra­or­di­nar­i­ly high tol­er­ance? An uncan­ny abil­i­ty to mask his intox­i­ca­tion?

Whiskey som­me­li­er Rex Williams, a founder of the Whiskey Tribe YouTube chan­nel, and pod­cast host Andrew Heaton endeav­or to find out, above, by ded­i­cat­ing a day to the British Bulldog’s drink­ing reg­i­men.

They’re not the first to under­take such a fol­ly.

The Dai­ly Telegraph’s Har­ry Wal­lop doc­u­ment­ed a sim­i­lar adven­ture in 2015, wind­ing up queasy, and to judge by his 200 spelling mis­takes, cog­ni­tive­ly impaired.

Williams and Heaton’s on-cam­era exper­i­ment achieves a Drunk His­to­ry vibe and tell­tale flushed cheeks.

Here’s the drill, not that we advise try­ing it at home:


An eye open­er of John­nie Walk­er Red — just a splash — mixed with soda water to the rim.

Fol­low with more of the same through­out the morn­ing.

This is how Churchill, who often con­duct­ed his morn­ing busi­ness abed in a dress­ing gown, man­aged to aver­age between 1 — 3 ounces of alco­hol before lunch.

Appar­ent­ly he devel­oped a taste for it as a young sol­dier post­ed in what is now Pak­istan, when Scotch not only improved the fla­vor of plain water, ‘once one got the knack of it, the very repul­sion from the fla­vor devel­oped an attrac­tion of its own.”

After a morn­ing spent sip­ping the stuff, Heaton reports feel­ing “play­ful and jokey, but not yet vio­lent.”


Time for “an ambi­tious quo­ta of cham­pagne!”

Churchill’s pre­ferred brand was Pol Roger, though he wasn’t averse to Giesler, Moet et Chan­don, or Pom­mery,  pur­chased from the upscale wine and spir­its mer­chant Ran­dolph Payne & Sons,  whose let­ter­head iden­ti­fied them as sup­pli­ers to “Her Majesty The Late Queen Vic­to­ria and to The Late King William The Fourth.”

Churchill enjoyed his impe­r­i­al pint of cham­pagne from a sil­ver tankard, like a “prop­er Edwar­dian gent” accord­ing to his life­long friend, Odette Pol-Roger.

Williams and Heaton take theirs in flutes accom­pa­nied by fish sticks from the freez­er case. This is the point beyond which a hang­over is all but assured.

Lunch con­cludes with a post-pran­di­al cognac, to set­tle the stom­ach and begin the diges­tion process.

Churchill, who declared him­self a man of sim­ple tastes — I am eas­i­ly sat­is­fied with the best — would have insist­ed on some­thing from the house of Hine.


This seems to be a crit­i­cal ele­ment of Churchill’s alco­hol man­age­ment suc­cess. He fre­quent­ly allowed him­self as much as 90 min­utes to clear the cob­webs.

A nap def­i­nite­ly pulls our re-enac­tors out of their tail spins. Heaton emerges ready to “bluff (his) way through a meet­ing.”


I guess we can call it that, giv­en the tim­ing.

No tea though.

Just a steady stream of extreme­ly weak scotch and sodas to take the edge off of admin­is­tra­tive tasks.


More cham­pagne!!! More cognac!!!

“This should be the apex of our wit,” a bleary Heaton tells his belch­ing com­pan­ion, who fess­es up to vom­it­ing upon wak­ing the next day.

Their con­clu­sion? Churchill’s reg­i­men is unmanageable…at least for them.

And pos­si­bly also for Churchill.

As fel­low Scotch enthu­si­ast Christo­pher Hitchens revealed in a 2002 arti­cle in The Atlantic, some of Churchill’s most famous radio broad­casts, includ­ing his famous pledge to “fight on the beach­es” after the Mir­a­cle of Dunkirk, were voiced by a pinch hit­ter:

Nor­man Shel­ley, who played Win­nie-the-Pooh for the BBC’s Children’s Hour, ven­tril­o­quized Churchill for his­to­ry and fooled mil­lions of lis­ten­ers. Per­haps Churchill was too much inca­pac­i­tat­ed by drink to deliv­er the speech­es him­self.

Or per­haps the great man mere­ly felt he’d earned the right to unwind with a class of Graham’s Vin­tage Char­ac­ter Port, a Fine Old Amon­til­la­do Sher­ry or a Fine Old Liquor brandy, as was his wont.

Relat­ed Con­tent 

Win­ston Churchill’s Paint­ings: Great States­man, Sur­pris­ing­ly Good Artist

Win­ston Churchill Gets a Doctor’s Note to Drink “Unlim­it­ed” Alco­hol in Pro­hi­bi­tion Amer­i­ca (1932)

Win­ston Churchill Goes Back­ward Down a Water Slide & Los­es His Trunks (1934)

- Ayun Hal­l­i­day is the Chief Pri­ma­tol­o­gist of the East Vil­lage Inky zine and author, most recent­ly, of Cre­ative, Not Famous: The Small Pota­to Man­i­festo.  Fol­low her @AyunHalliday.

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Comments (21)
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    I have doubts on the claim that some­one else did the radio broad­cast as those speech­es were made before Par­li­ment and record­ed at that time, live. And the “Dunkirk speech”, if you want to call it that, was made when Churchill was very much on the polit­i­cal ropes. I don’t think he would have trust­ed that to any­body else, and it sounds like con­spir­a­cy hog­wash.

  • Dr. Gonzo says:

    You need­ed to give spe­cif­ic times and time frames, and also spe­cif­ic num­bers of each drink to ful­ly give oth­ers a chance to repli­cate exact­ly what was done.

    Hook me up with a cou­ple bucks and all the same brands and stuff and I’ll take the chal­lenge.

  • J Wiley says:

    Your arti­cle implies that WSC con­sumed the list of bot­tles most­ly on his own. There were usu­al­ly guests at lunch, more at din­ner and after din­ner until late into the night.

  • Fox says:

    This is all CRAPOLA! Nowhere is men­tion of his favorite drink, a gin mar­ti­ni, with the ver­mouth bot­tle just passed over the gin. Also, to sug­gest that one of the great ora­tors in his­to­ry had a pinch hit­ter is addi­tion­al CRAPOLA!

  • Christopher Lee Freeman says:

    Humans are alco­holics, alco­hol is phys­i­cal­ly addic­tive and so yeah Churchill had to drink all day every­day or he would of start­ed shak­ing and con­vuls­ing from with­draw­al. Accept the fact that most drinkers are alco­holics, and alco­holics get pissed when you call them alco­holics. The alco­holics that read this are pissed the writer implies that Churchill was a drunk. He was, doesn’t make him a bad man just addict­ed

  • Jeff Czerkies says:

    So what’s your point? Maybe you’d be less sar­cas­tic and a bit more inter­est­ing if you had a jack n gin­ger… light­en up!

  • Stephen says:

    Yes we may be innate­ly alco­holic but some of us are what med­ical sci­ence calls oppor­tunis­tic alco­holic which means that we can stop on any giv­en day with­out side effects. With­out what you call “con­vul­sions and jit­ters”. Edgar Allen Poe has been deter­mined to be such .

  • JB says:

    Don’t for­get all of Britain was tak­ing amphet­a­mines dur­ing the war. A per­son can drink a lot in that state.

  • Scott Kelley says:

    Maybe you’d be less sar­cas­tic and more inter­est­ing if you had a jack n gin­ger… light­en up!

    Yeah, boy! I’ll drink to that!

  • Adam says:

    Most drinkers are def­i­nite­ly not alco­holics. That’s just a plain false and stu­pid claim.

  • Steve Wilcox says:

    What hap­pens is you end up look­ing like an old Eng­lish bull­dog. Lit­er­al­ly.

  • Victor Beecher says:

    Fun­ny thing about his­to­ry is that it can be rewrit­ten to achieve the writer’s end. Though revi­sion­ist “dis­cov­ery” may be eas­i­ly dis­patched with abun­dant evi­dence, it can be quot­ed nonethe­less in arti­cles for inter­est or rev­o­lu­tion and repeat­ed eter­nal­ly at the com­mu­nal din­ner table of social media. Upon regur­gi­ta­tion by an enthu­si­as­tic PhD can­di­date, sud­den­ly it becomes remark­able.
    Win­ston Churchill, like the rest of us, was a flawed per­son. They may make him more flawed or imply bor­rowed achieve­ment, but there is enough evi­dence of who he was and the nature of his demons to sort through the chaff. Yes, the great man, like the rest of us was flawed. Can you imag­ine his brand of great­ness any oth­er way?
    When are we going to real­ize that great­ness is not behold­en to per­fec­tion?

  • Catlin Brandwein says:

    Remem­ber that anti-depres­sant drugs had yet to be invent­ed. Seems like he was self med­icat­ing his anx­i­ety or who knows what. It might have been hard to be PM dur­ing the sec­ond world war ;).

  • David says:

    Quite the vague and un-infor­ma­tive arti­cle.

  • Walleye says:

    Churchills alco­hol con­sump­tion might seem extreme­ly exces­sive to the nor­mal per­son who drinks on the week­ends. But seri­ous alco­holics drink like that no prob­lem. My dad and uncle, 7:30am as I was leav­ing for work — if they were awake(they were drinking)and would ask me to grab them 2 beers each, beer ALL DAY LONG, 2 sleeves of whiskey nips(1 sleeve each) was opened around 11–12. When I got home from work around 5, I would get home, shower/change, and go to liquor store for a case of what­ev­er beer they were on a kick with and 2 more sleeves of nips. I can hon­est­ly say that by 30 years old, I had seen my uncle drink liq­uids that did not con­tain alco­hol MAYBE 2 times in my life(and that’s on the high side) think­ing back on it right now I can­not pic­ture him ever drink­ing milk, water, soda(jack & coke does­n’t count), juice(oj/vodka), coffee(whiskey/brandy). You could­n’t tell by talk­ing to or being around him, he could han­dle his booze, unless he was mad or cel­e­brat­ing and pur­pose­ly got BOMBED, which hap­pened every now and again. Alcohol/Alcoholism effects every­one dif­fer­ent­ly

  • Christmas says:

    It takes a long time to build a tol­er­ance as high as churchills or even mine you’re not just going to hop out of bed one day do six beers six shots and drink a case through­out the day along with two bot­tles. It takes dis­ci­pline and dri­ve espe­cial­ly not to be drunk while you have to work but still be drink­ing.

  • Jolly Rodger says:

    Nobody cares!

  • Jolly Rodger says:

    Nobody cares. Drink­ing is for the birds!

  • Terry Bradshaw says:

    I think when he said pinch hiter he meant the booze.

  • Catherine Heathcliff says:

    It takes a long time to build that kind of tol­er­ance. Years & years of drink­ing to ward off what­ev­er anx­i­eties they might be deal­ing with & to ward off their true selves.

  • Michael Reilly says:

    Addic­tion is a psy­cho­log­i­cal trait that is more like­ly based on a genet­ic pre­dispi­tion, and is not endem­ic to all human beings.
    My mater­nal grand­fa­ther, who would have been con­tem­po­rary to Win­ston Churchill, drank large quan­ti­ties of alco­hol, chewed tobac­co and snort­ed snuff all his life from ear­ly adult­hood. He enjoyed an active healthy life into his nineties. Some find­ings have iden­ti­fied ear­ly onset demen­tia with sobri­ety. Genet­ics seems to be the real rea­son for dis­eases attribitu­ble to alco­hol poi­son­ing.

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