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November 30: Winston Churchill’s Birthday

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“I have taken more out of alcohol, than alcohol has taken out of me.” You guessed it. It’s the late, great Winston Churchill’s birthday. Born in 1874, Winston was without a doubt one of the central figures of the 20th century. Indeed, without him, the world would be a very different place now. A godawful place. No need to ask if he drank or not because he is the very personification of a super-high-functioning drunkard. As to what he drank, Churchill possessed rather Continental tastes when it came to drinking. “I drink champagne at all meals, and buckets of claret and soda in between,” he was not ashamed of saying. He also noted that “Hot baths, cold champagne, new peas and old brandy” were the four essentials of life. During the ferocious struggle with the Nazis, a royal visitor reported that Winston was putting away enough champagne to “undermine the health of any ordinary man.” Fortunately for the free world, Churchill was no ordinary man. Not to say he ignored the British Empire’s offerings. He kept his mind primed with Scotch and sodas during the long workday and relaxed after hours with his now famous Churchill martini: a glass of chilled English gin flavored with a solemn nod toward occupied France in lieu of vermouth, which was naturally difficult to get. “There is always some alcohol in his bloodstream,” biographer William Manchester attested, “and it reaches its peak late in the evening after he has had two or three Scotches, several glasses of Champagne, at least two brandies, and a highball.” To put a finer point to it, Churchill’s favorite brandy was Hine, his preferred Champagne Pol Roger, and his top Scotch Johnnie Walker Red Label. True Story: While visiting King Ibn Saud of Saudi Arabia, Winston was informed he could neither smoke nor drink, for religious reasons, during a banquet thrown in his honor. Winston wasn’t having any. He informed the monarch that, “My religion prescribed as an absolute sacred ritual smoking cigars and drinking alcohol before, after and if need be during all meals and the intervals between them.”

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