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