After writing the Spirits of the Oval Office article, I realized that I had so much fun doing the research for it, that I wanted to continue writing a series of articles based on that topic. After a couple of weeks stewing on it, trying to figure out where exactly to go with it, I now present to you, the Sophisticated Elite, the next installment: Spirits of the British Empire, which will give us some insight into the drink preferences of some of the most influential and renowned political figures, past and present, of our cousins across the pond.
This list will start with the Queen Mum, Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon, who lived from 1900 to 2002. She was the Queen of England during World War II, and Hitler once described her as being the most dangerous woman in Europe. Always a popular figure in Great Britain, she was well known for her love of gin. Her cocktail of choice was Gin and Dubonnet (according to sources, mixed 3:1, Dubonnet). Dubonnet is a French aperitif, otherwise known as an appetite stimulant. It is a combination of fermented wine, spices, and quinine.
Following in her mother’s footsteps, Queen Elizabeth II, who has been occupying the throne since 1952, is also a lover of gin. Her cocktail is a Gordon’s gin and tonic, with three slices of lemon. This takes me back to the second article that I wrote, ‘Hold The Lime,’ in which I argued in favor of substituting lemon for lime in vodka tonics. The present Queen of England opts not for the traditional garnish of a lime wedge, and instead goes heavy with three lemon wedges. It sounds delicious.
Winston Churchill was Prime Minister of the United Kingdom from 1940-1945, and again from 1951-1955. Churchill’s relationship with spirits is well documented, with some of his favorites being whiskey, scotch, brandy, and gin. He is also, to my knowledge, the only world leader to have a champagne named after him. According to AskMen.com, Pol Roger introduced the Cuvée named for Sir Winston Churchill in 1975, commemorating the 10th anniversary of his death, and it remains their signature champagne to this day. Another interesting bit of history is that Winston’s mother, Lady Churchill, has a popular legend surrounding her as the inventor of the Manhattan Cocktail. This is disputed by many, however.
Margaret Thatcher, Prime Minister from 1979 to 1990 was “The Iron Lady”; she survived an assassination attempt, stood up against the Soviet Union, and was Britain’s first female Prime Minister. When her work day was over, she would retire with a whiskey soda.
Prince Charles, born in 1948, is second in line to the throne. He is reportedly a drinker of whiskey, as well as dry martinis. Perhaps martinis are even his favorite, as it seems that he ‘mistakenly’ hired Dita Von Teese for Prince Harry’s birthday party. The buxom burlesque dancer has become internationally renowned for her dance routine that takes place inside of a large martini glass.
Prince Harry, born in 1984, is third in line to the throne, and has had a troublesome (and well documented) history with alcohol, and one of his more infamous excursions involved snorting vodka through his nose, an act which is highly dangerous. To me, this goes to show that just because you are born into a position of sophistication, does not mean you are also born with social responsibility. Taking in alcohol this way can be incredibly damaging to the body. According to medical experts, the alcohol goes directly into the body without going through the liver first. Not only that, it is being absorbed into the lungs.
I hate to end on a sour note like that, but I feel it is necessary to remind us all, myself included, of the inherent dangers that come with every drop of alcohol that we consume. When practiced responsibly and in moderation, it is a lively experience, a sophisticated experience, and one that is unequaled by most other social actions. However, it is when things get out of control, when our peers pressure us into foolhardy decisions, when for that one, regrettable moment, life is changed. Do not let that moment happen to you. Be safe. Be responsible. Be smart. And as always, be sophisticated.