Want the Perfect Literary Cocktail? Here’s Looking at You, Winston
New book on Churchill is a heady mix of myth and mirth
By Ed Goldman
With apologies to Descartes, if Winston Churchill had a personal mantra it might have been “I drink. Therefore I am.”
In their tidy new, beautifully designed book, “Churchill: A Drinking Life/Champagne, Cognac and Cocktails,” Gin Sander and Roxanne Langer correct some myths about the legendary British prime minister’s equally legendary capacity for alcohol. And no, they don’t disprove the notion that he drank every day; they just take a look at what he drank and how it affected him.
Jennifer Basye (Gin) Sander
Spoiler alert: Churchill lived to be 90. Doctors have said they could find no evidence of his liquor intake compromising his intellect, leadership or even liver. To sum up, Churchill is like unto a god.
“I simply don’t think he was a drunk,” Gin Sander tells me the other afternoon over coffee. “But he certainly did drink. His first documented drink was when he was nine years old and his parents or doctors gave him brandy to treat his pneumonia.”
“Gin Sander” is the pen name of longtime arts patron, author and editor Jennifer Basye Sander whenever her topic focuses on adult beverages (she used it for her popular book “The Martini Diet”). Langer, a sommelier and international wine judge, served as not only co-author but also, as Sander told me, “our technical consultant when it came to what went into certain drinks favored by Churchill.”
The book, which includes classic drink recipes, debunks some of the myths surrounding the habits and drink preferences of the greatest British prime minister.
For example, he did not, Sander and Langer report, covet gin-and-tonics; instead, he went through the day nursing weakish (but continual) whiskey-and-sodas, yet also enjoyed brandy or Cognac nightly—and “adored Champagne,” says Sander. “In fact, it was estimated that in the course of his life, he consumed 42,000 ‘imperial pint’ bottles of Champagne.”
Lest you think the smallish serving showed some restraint on the PM’s intake, bear in mind that the British imperial pint is roughly 20 percent larger than the American one. Since Churchill was larger than life, that seems only fitting.
She and Langer write that in Churchill’s last years, “his personal preference was focused on one brand and one brandy only, that of the storied Champagne house Pol Roger of Epernay. What prompted this singular focus? Cherchez la femme, bien sur. Seated next to Odette Pol Roger at a dinner party at the British Embassy in Paris on November 12, 1945 Churchill was charmed by the woman and the Champagne her house produced.
“He had first tasted Pol Roger in 1908 (one dozen bottles of the 1895 vintage), but it was this intoxicating evening with Odette that sealed their friendship and even inspired Churchill to name one of his racehorses Pol Roger.” I suppose we should be thankful he hadn’t been seated next to the heir of the Ugly Duckling, Arrogant Frog or Fat Bastard wine makers. (Yes, these are real labels. And for non-Francophiles, Cherchez la femme, bien sur means “Look for the woman, of course.” This concludes today’s public service announcements.
As a longtime fan of Sir Winston (my favorite cigar is called a Churchill) I enjoyed the hell out of this book, and am sure you will, too. You can find “Churchill: A Drinking Life” on Amazon and wherever books are sold or damn well ought to be. To your health!
Ed Goldman's column appears almost every Monday, Wednesday and Friday. A former daily columnist for the Sacramento Business Journal, as well as monthly columnist for Sacramento Magazine and Comstock’s Business Magazine, he’s the author of five books, two plays and one musical (so far).
A Weekly Blog by Virginia Varela
President, Golden Pacific Bank, a Division of SoFi Bank, Inc.
photo by Phoebe Verkouw
Last week I had the honor of attending the California Bankers Association (“CBA”) Bank Presidents Seminar 2023. It’s a yearly gathering of bankers for networking with industry peers, participating in current perspectives on banking, discussing the economic outlook, as well as regulatory and political matters.
After years with the pandemic and its challenges, it felt so refreshing to meet with bankers and colleagues, many whom I’ve known for decades, and many whom I worked with over the past 40+ years of my career.
The California Bankers association is the state and federal advocate of the California banking industry for needed legislative, regulatory and legal changes. This organization proudly represents California banks of all sizes, strategies and operations, including the bank I represent, SoFi Bank, N.A., a fintech that became a federally chartered bank in 2022 and now shares the regulatory oversight that other federal banks are subject to.
Why do I think this CBA organization is important?
I believe that the average American may not have a full appreciation for what an actual bank is, and the benefits and services banks provide in their local communities. Banks are committed to serving their customers and strengthening their communities in a deliberate manner, and are subject to stringent laws, regulations, and tax requirements that credit unions, and non-bank entities do not follow.
As stated on the California Banker Association’s website, “New laws and regulations are constantly being proposed for the banking industry, both in Washington, D.C. and Sacramento. As well-intended as some of these proposals are, many of them contain language that conflicts with current law or conflicts with current regulatory requirements. Decision-makers need to better understand how their proposals translate into the real-world workings of California’s financial institutions, which is where our legal and regulatory advocacy unit is intrinsically valuable.”
The site continues: “The CBA legal and regulatory advocacy unit works to identify potential legal and regulatory conflicts, make those conflicts known and secure a reasonable solution for the industry. CBA’s legal and regulatory advocacy unit works closely with bank regulators and elected officials alike to ensure that the banking industry’s perspective is known, understood and considered in the decision-making process.”
Just thought you’d like to know that the most successful banks bank on helping their clients and customers.