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January 26, 2021

January 26, 1932: Winston Churchill’s Doctors Note Allowing Him to Drink Unlimited Alcohol While Visiting USA During Prohibition

While visiting New York on December 13, 1931, Winston Churchill made the classic mistake of an Englishman in America and looked the wrong way when stepping out of a cab. He was hit by an oncoming car, requiring a trip to the hospital, and a postponement of his lecture tour.

The letter basically says Churchill can drink as much as he wants, whenever he wants.

He was rushed to Lenox Hill hospital, where he was treated for a fractured nose, fractured ribs, and a wound to the head. In the absence of alcohol, he asked the aesthetician for “chloroform or something.” Though he was seriously ill, he didn’t lose his sense of humor. “They almost got me that time, Thompson,” he told his detective.

“In England we frequently cross roads along which fast traffic is moving in both directions,” Churchill later said in an article for the Daily Mail. “I did not think the task I set myself now either difficult or rash. But at this moment habit played me a deadly trick. I no sooner got out of the cab somewhere about the middle of the road and told the driver to wait than I instinctively turned my eyes to the left. About 200 yards away were the yellow headlights of an approaching car. I thought I had just time to cross the road before it arrived; and I started to do so in the prepossession—wholly unwarranted—that my only dangers were from the left.”

He took the whole of January off to recover in the Bahamas, where he recuperated “by sea and sunbathing, massage, and other aids.”

In February, he returned to America to continue the lecture series that he had to cancel due to the accident, but this time, he came prepared with a doctor’s note that would enable him to receive his preferred medicine whenever he liked. Churchill’s American doctor, Otto C. Pickhardt, prescribed the British statesman “the use of alcoholic spirits especially at meal times.” Adding that “the quantity is naturally indefinite but the minimum requirements would be 250 cubic centimeters.” That’s a bit more than 8 ounces per day.

Winston Churchill

Winston Churchill is known for many things: his witty comebacks, his rousing speeches, and leading Britain through World War II. But he’s also known as a man who really liked to drink, so much so that there’s some debate among historians about whether or not he was an alcoholic.

He started his mornings off with a “daily whiskey mouthwash” and continued drinking it throughout the day, his favorite being Johnny Walker Red Label. At lunch, he often enjoyed a bottle of champagne, preferably a Pol Roger served at a specific temperature. He capped his evenings off with a fine brandy. His capacity for booze was so bottomless that when he visited the White House, the staffers there would refer to it as “Winston Hours,” as his drinking habits would put Roosevelt out of commission for a few days. As Churchill himself once said, “I’ve gotten more out of alcohol than alcohol has taken out of me.”




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