The Booze Winston Churchill Would Often Drink With Lunch

Winston Churchill's name is synonymous with World War II, his personality, politics, and, if you know enough about him, his drinking habits. The former Prime Minister of the United Kingdom was known for being able to hold his alcohol, and some have even made the accusation that he had a drinking problem — although other scholars tend to disagree. Regardless of if he truly had a bad relationship with the liquid, Churchill was open about his habits, down to the specific drinks he'd pair with each meal.

Every morning, the politician would craft what his daughter dubbed the "Papa Cocktail," a mixture of Johnnie Walker and water. This habit was the result of time spent in India and South Africa during his early years. At the time, drinking water was dirty, so Churchill added the liquor to try and mitigate the bad taste and ward off diseases (a habit that has since been disproven by modern medicine). 

As recorded in the book "Churchill Style" (via The Wall Street Journal), for Churchill, the essentials in life were "hot baths, cold champagne, new peas, and old brandy." He was said to have had brandy and champagne with lunch and dinner. His favorite labels included Pol Roger, Johnnie Walker, and Hine brandy. For Churchill, a strong leader could hold his liquor, despite the pushback he got from his peers. According to biographer William Manchester (via Grape Collective), the politician could have had multiple Scotches, glasses of champagne, brandies, and even a highball by evening time.

What about his eating habits?

Churchill enjoyed liquor but was also known to be an avid food lover. The politician's tastes ranged, but his fondness for cheese is well-known, and he savored varieties like Stilton and Swiss Gruyere. Stilton is an English form of blue cheese. It's also a favorite of Bobby Flay and is the type of funky cheese that he tops his steaks with

A book of his personal chef's recipes, "Churchill's Cookbook" by Georgina Landemare, included dishes like sole champeaux, consommé, and tournedos montpensier. Sole champeaux is basically white fish and prawns in a white wine sauce, which seems very on-brand based with his alcohol affinity. Consommé is a kind of clear soup — the difference between broth and consommé is in their usage. One of Churchill's favorite foods was soup, specifically the clear kind; he apparently hated cream-based soups.

Churchill frequently hosted political figures like President Roosevelt and Joseph Stalin for dinner. These sit-downs offered an opportunity for work-related discussions in a more informal setting, and many began with champagne before guests sat down to eat. The first course was likely a soup (think consommé or even turtle soup), then transitioned to a protein like chicken or game. Finally, dessert was served, and Churchill enjoyed fruit and his beloved Stilton before moving on to brandy and cigars — a time meant to extend the working part of dinner conversation.

Other politicians enjoyed their alcohol too

Churchill wasn't the only political figure known for enjoying a libation. President Franklin Delano Roosevelt, who was a contemporary of Churchill's, famously said, "What America needs now is a drink!" (via NPR). FDR signed the 21st Amendment, which repealed Prohibition in the United States, so, clearly, he was pro-alcohol — although not as much is known about the true extent of his drinking habits compared to Churchill. 

Many have reported that he enjoyed a Plymouth martini garnished with olives and lemon peels, and would concoct them for both himself and others. According to the former President's son James, FDR also invented a drink called the Haitian libation, described by historian Brian Abrams in his book "Party Like a President." The rocks beverage was a mixture of orange juice, dark rum, egg white, and brown sugar. When Churchill was in town on political business, some believe that FDR took part in what was known as "Winston hours," which boiled down to a booze- and cigar-filled all-nighter.

Other U.S. presidents were also known for having interesting drink choices. George Washington enjoyed a sour cherry-heavy brandy drink with notes of cinnamon and cloves. And Ulysses S. Grant, the 18th president, was apparently served a punch in the middle of dinner courses for years. The punch incorporated more than just alcohol with champagne, rum, orange liqueur, orange sherbet, and a heavy serving of powdered sugar.