The question frequently arises, was Churchill an alcoholic? Certainly his own accounts of his prowess (“I have taken more out of alcohol than alcohol has taken out of me”), and his frequent depiction as a red-nosed drunk by enemies from Goebbels to modernday scoffers, lends one to believe that he drank heavily.
The truth, as Richard Geshke puts it in a communication on ChurchillChat, is that he was “a constant sipper: “I never heard any stories of a drunk Churchill.”
There is just one validated story: Danny Mander, one of WSC’s bodyguards at Teheran, recalls escorting a well-lubricated Churchill and Anthony Eden home after a lengthy series of toasts with the Russians. But Mander is careful to note they were not “falling down drunk,” just singing songs and feeling good.
Churchill’s famous 1946 retort to Bessie Braddock MP, “…and you are very ugly, but tomorrow I shall be sober and you shall still be very ugly”), adapted from a W.C. Fields film, was fired off because, according to an eyewitness, he was not drunk (leaving the House of Commons after a late night session), just tired and wobbly. (In the 1934 film It’s a Gift, the W. C. Fields character, when told he is drunk, responds: “Yeah, and you’re crazy. But I’ll be sober tomorrow and you’ll be crazy the rest of your life.”)
Two amusing quips on the subject are Prof. Warren Kimball’s: “Churchill was not an alcoholic—no alcoholic could drink that much”; and Sir John Colville’s observation that what he started sipping early in the day was a trace of whisky diluted by a full glass of water: “whisky-flavoured mouthwash.”