Papa Coctail

I have friends who tell me that whiskey should be drunk neat whilst others advise dilution, that only a single drop of water at room temperature should be added before consumption - the theory that it will raise the drinks temperature and so release flavour. Charles Ryder, the narrator and protagonist of Evelyn Waugh's Brideshead Revisited had a usual of whiskey and tepid water. The water being served in two small jugs, one of iced water and the other of boiling water which Ryder mixed himself to the correct temperature. Overtime I have come to take whiskey diluted with plenty of water, 'mizuwari' as the Japanese might say! Treated in this way as a squash or cordial it has become my nightcap of choice, sipped during the hours between my evening meal and sleep.


Winston Churchill, former Prime Minister and a man with a formidable capacity for life, is widely perceived as a heavy drinker verging upon alcoholism. This abuse of alcohol is seemingly part of the 'Churchill myth' and part of the myth that Churchill himself did little to discourage. Churchill often reflected that he was taught by his father “to have the utmost contempt for people who get drunk.” He was, I believe, simply a man who enjoyed drinking to which end he said: “I have taken more out of alcohol than alcohol has taken out of me."


According to William Manchester Churchill's favourite whiskey was Johnnie Walker Red Label, whilst perhaps surprisingly a blend rather than a single malt it is however a blend designed for making mixed drinks. Churchill's daily tipple, sipped throughout the day, was what his children called 'Papa Cocktail', a scant dram of whiskey that would barely cover the bottom of a tumbler and filled almost to the brim with water.


"The proper drinking of Scotch whisky is more than indulgence: it is a toast to civilisation, a tribute to the continuity of culture, a manifesto of man’s determination to use the resources of nature to refresh mind and body and enjoy to the full the senses with which he has been endowed."

- David Daiches, Scotch Whisky: Its Past and Present, 1969.



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