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.”

TASCHEN

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:

BREAKFAST

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.”

LUNCH

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.

RESTORATIVE  AFTERNOON NAP

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.”

TEATIME

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.

DINNER

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 (20)
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  • JOHN BLAKE ARNOLD says:

    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.

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