Here’s How Winston Churchill Got His Drink on in America During Prohibition

Winston Churchill Drinking with US General Eisenhower. Tyrconnell Heritage Society

The Drinker

Along with inspiring quotes and moving prose, Churchill is also known for his love of the alcoholic beverage. He apparently drank champagne with every meal, enjoyed scotch throughout the day time, and capped it all off with some brandy at night.

In December 1931, Churchill was in New York City. When he was on his way to visit a friend, he abandoned his cab ride, and started walking. Somewhere on fifth avenue, Churchill was struck by a car while crossing the road. According to his account that appeared in the Daily Mail a few days later: “In England we frequently cross roads along which fast traffic is moving in both directions. I did not think the task I set myself now either difficult or rash.”

His injuries were, thankfully, fairly minor given that he was hit by car. He was treated at Lenox Hill Hospital for a gash to his head, a broken nose, and a few fractured ribs. He was also in shock.

After a couple of weeks healing, he resumed his lecture schedule, but it proved taxing. His physician issued him a prescription for alcohol in order to get around the Prohibition laws that he had to abide by while in the United States.

Prescription for Booze. Open Culture

Now, despite this seeming like a favor to a famous Englishman, prescriptions for alcohol during Prohibition were fairly common. There is no concrete evidence for this, but the health profession was much more personal in those days, and it would likely be fairly easy for those of means to find their way to their family doctor for a Liquor Prescription Stub (pictured below). They would then pay around $3 for the stub itself (a fee to the doctor) and another $4 for the booze itself, and they would be able to get their drink on.

Liquor Prescription Stub. Smithsonian Mag

How many took advantage of this Prohibition loophole is unknown, but it is known that it was used fairly often. So, it wasn’t just Winston Churchill who took got his alcohol even with the ban that had taken place in the United States.

Despite being in effect for over a decade Prohibition ended up being fairly pointless, and often times downright dangerous. Not only did you have to deal with the US government’s dangerous poisoning attempts to slow down the use of industrial alcohols, but criminals like Al Capone and his lot weren’t exactly experts at making healthy drinkable booze. Many people got sick on inappropriately brewed booze, and thousands died due to alcohol poisoning.

By 1933, the United States had had enough, and Prohibition would be repealed. It just turned out to be a bad idea for both the citizens of the country and the economy. It also was a nightmare to enforce, something that the government found out very soon after the ratification of the 18th amendment. When Winston Churchill came back to visit right after the United States joined in World War II, he would finally be free to have his drinks without worrying about visiting the doctor for a prescription.