How much did Churchill drink?

How much did Churchill drink?

Andy Klein asks whether William Man­ches­ter was being fac­tu­al or just cute when he wrote that Churchill was not a heavy drinker, despite the quan­ti­ties Man­ches­ter enumerated:

…the leg­end that he is a heavy drinker is quite untrue. Churchill is a sen­si­ble if unortho­dox drinker. There is always some alco­hol in his blood­stream and it reach­es its peak in the evening after he has had two or three scotch­es, sev­er­al glass­es of cham­pagne, at least two brandies, and a highball.

Man­ches­ter was right in the sense but wrong in the details. Churchill had an impres­sive capac­i­ty for alco­hol, but nobody saw him put that much away of an evening. Except for one body­guard who helped him and Eden tot­ter home after a night of toasts with the Rus­sians at Teheran, no one close to him who ever saw him the worse for drink. (Field Mar­shal Alan­brooke sev­er­al times wrote that the boss was plas­tered, but he wrote a lot of things in his diary late at night when he was exhaust­ed from argu­ing over strategy.)

Churchill’s intake was exag­ger­at­ed, not least by him­self. What­ev­er the amount, it was not enough to affect him. He learned to “puri­fy” drink­ing water with a drib­ble of whisky as a young war cor­re­spon­dent in South Africa, and would nurse a drink like that for hours. One of his pri­vate sec­re­taries referred to it as “scotch-flavoured mouthwash.”

In his auto­bi­og­ra­phy WSC was more can­did on his drinking:

 I had been brought up and trained to have the utmost con­tempt for peo­ple who got drunk— except on very excep­tion­al occa­sions and a few anniversaries.…

My Ear­ly Life (Lon­don: But­te­worth, 1930), 141



5 thoughts on “How much did Churchill drink?

  1. Some­one sent me this alleged quote of Sir Winston.
    I have not found any­thing to authen­ti­cate it. Do you know the source? 

    “If you mean whisky, the devil’s brew, the poi­son scourge, the bloody mon­ster that defiles inno­cence, dethrones rea­son, destroys the home, cre­ates mis­ery and pover­ty, yes, lit­er­al­ly takes the bread from the mouths of lit­tle chil­dren; if you mean that evil drink that top­ples men and women from the pin­na­cles of right­eous and gra­cious liv­ing into the bot­tom­less pit of degra­da­tion, shame, despair, help­less­ness, and hope­less­ness, then, my friend, I am opposed to it with every fibre of my being.”
    “How­ev­er, if by whisky you mean the oil of con­ver­sa­tion, the philo­soph­ic wine, the elixir of life, the ale that is con­sumed when good fel­lows get togeth­er, that puts a song in their hearts and the warm glow of con­tent­ment in their eyes; if you mean good cheer, the stim­u­lat­ing sip that puts a lit­tle spring in the step of an elder­ly gen­tle­man on a frosty morn­ing; if you mean that drink that enables man to mag­ni­fy his joy, and to for­get life’s great tragedies and heart­breaks and sor­row; if you mean that drink the sale of which pours into our trea­suries untold mil­lions of dol­lars each year, that pro­vides ten­der care for our lit­tle crip­pled chil­dren, our blind, our deaf, our dumb, our piti­ful­ly aged and infirm, to build the finest high­ways, hos­pi­tals, uni­ver­si­ties, and com­mu­ni­ty col­leges in this nation, then my friend, I am absolute­ly, unequiv­o­cal­ly in favor of it.”

    “This is my posi­tion and, as always, I refuse to com­pro­mise on mat­ters of principle.”

  2. yet sir win­ston seemed to drink more than the aver­age per­son . how is it pos­si­ble to drink cham­pagne that often …

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