How Britain sobered up

36 min listen

This week:  The Spectator’s cover story looks at how Britain is sobering up, forgoing alcohol in favour of alcohol free alternatives. In his piece, Henry Jeffreys – author of Empire of Booze – attacks the vice of sobriety and argues that the abstinence of young Britons will have a detrimental impact on the drinks industry and British culture. He joins the podcast alongside Camilla Tominey, associate editor of the Telegraph and a teetotaler. (01:27) Also this week: could Mongolia be the next geopolitical flashpoint?  The Spectator’s Wild Life columnist Aidan Hartley writes in the magazine about Mongolia’s fate, as the country tries to juggle a historic relationship with China and Russia, with desires for a stronger

Could a 100-bottle limit help me cut down on drinking?

My New Year’s resolution is to cut down on my drinking. I’m not talking about bringing it within the NHS’s recommended limit, obviously. I’ve never met anyone who confines their alcohol intake to 14 units a week, which amounts to a bottle and a half of wine, ideally spread over many days. I’m thinking of something more in the region of two bottles a week. Why not simply stop altogether? Partly because I’ve tried that before and don’t have the willpower. The longest stretch I’ve gone without a drink was in the two years leading up to my marriage in 2001, because I didn’t think Caroline would go through with

Could I be pregnant?

At the age of 59 I thought it was time to get my body thoroughly examined. So last week I trotted off to a health clinic in west London. Not surprisingly, I got a mixed report. Mostly As and Bs, a couple of Ds, and several must-try-harders. The health check consisted of an hour with a man in green hospital scrubs, who I think was a nurse, followed by an hour with a female doctor. It was all trundling along nicely – my weight and BMI were both within the ‘healthy’ range – when something unexpected happened. After attaching electrodes to my body for the purposes of carrying out an

In defence of drunken freshers’ weeks

I don’t remember much of freshers’ week at Edinburgh. Friends have helped to fill in the blanks. I vaguely recall a police officer handing out vodka shots to show how easy it was to fail a breathalyser test. A famous DJ had his set in the union cut short because he played the song ‘Blurred Lines’. It had been banned by student politicians. I have hazy memories, too, of my first interactions with posh English women. One assumed I must be gifted since I’d made it into university from a Scottish state school. Another asked if I was limping because I’d overdone it at the ‘introduction to reeling event’ (I

How much do students drink?

Union booze Several universities have renamed freshers’ week ‘welcome week’ in an attempt to dissociate it from heavy drinking. How much do students drink? – A survey last year by the group Students Organising for Sustainability found that 81% regard drinking and getting drunk as part of university culture. – 53% reported drinking more than once a week. – 61% said they drink in their rooms or with other students before going out for the night to a pub or club. – 51% said that they thought getting drunk would ensure they had a good night out. – 13% said they took illegal drugs. Round the houses Councils are to

Royal drinks for raising a glass to Her Majesty

History suggests the Royal Family have always been enthusiastic drinkers. The most obvious example is Henry VIII, a monarch who proved to be excessive in everything he did, and spent an estimated £6m a year on booze. And in more recent centuries you’ll discover an ongoing Royal appreciation. Queen Victoria for example was an eminent imbiber of alcohol, her preferred poison being an unusual mix of whisky and red wine. Together. In the same glass. She was particularly partial to Vin Mariani, a drink made by Angelo Mariani by steeping cocoa leaves in French red wine for six months. Alleged to be the original recipe for Coca-Cola, each fluid ounce

In search of Britain’s oldest pubs

‘When you have lost your inns, drown your empty selves, for you will have lost the last of England.’ So said Hilaire Belloc. Thankfully there’s little sign of England, or indeed Britain, being down to its last pub – but which was its first? As ever with these debates, a definitive answer is hard to find: accurate record-keeping wasn’t a priority several centuries ago, when the pubs pulled their early pints. But here are a few of the boozers with a claim to be the country’s oldest. Ye Olde Fighting Cocks, St Albans This watering hole is first on the list because it has Guinness World Records on its side –

It’s time to call last orders on Britain’s rubbish pubs

Oxford is famous for its pubs. Inspector Morse reveals that they are as much a part of the city’s life as any of its colleges. The insatiable undergraduate demand for cheap beer has meant that pubs like the Turf Tavern and the Eagle and Child have permeated (and intoxicated) the minds of students for centuries. So when the Lamb and Flag closed last week, it was as much a story as any of those bizarre murders John Thaw used to stick his nose into. No Jag-driving detectives are needed to work out why it has shut. A year of missed terms and lockdowns dramatically cut the pub’s revenue. Owned by neighbouring St

The joy of drinking alone

Thanks to a combination of night-time curfews, social-distancing rules, pubs closing, restaurants failing, the ‘rule of six’ and compulsory mask-wearing, that basic and necessary human need for people to meet for a drink has never been so difficult. Now, with the government’s new three-tier Covid strategy in place, anyone at any moment could find their local pub shut, their parties cancelled, and all forms of indoor mixing prohibited. Millions in the UK are already living under these restrictions. It’s a fair bet that millions more will soon join them. And if the government gives in to demands for a ‘circuit breaker’ — a short-term lockdown — it would in effect

Bring the bar to you: the best cocktail delivery services

If, like me, you’re thinking longingly of the days spent drinking with friends in some of London’s finest establishments – then worry no longer, here are some of best ways to enjoy your afternoon tipple from the comfort of your own home. There’s never been a better time to get into whisky – and Milroy’s has you covered. This Soho gem is shipping its finely curated whisky collections to your door. A simple online order brings you the best from around the world – Scotch from the Highlands, Lowlands, Speyside, Islay and Campbelltown; Bourbon and rye from the United States; and a host of other malts from Japan, Sweden, Australia, South Africa

Even tea drinking is cultural appropriation now. Oh mea cuppa…

On the street where I grew up there was an old man who was sweet, friendly… and racist. This was the 1980s: every street had one. Always draped in an overcoat, even when it was tarmac-meltingly hot, he’d march back from the corner shop each morning, tabloid tucked under arm, looking to ensnare one of us in chat. About the weather. The football. ‘Coloureds.’

One time, I was walking back from the Chinese takeaway when he appeared. Spotting the takeaway’s distinctive white bags, he cried out cheerily: ‘You don’t wanna be eating that muck! Can’t your mum make a roast?!’ His blather burst out of my memory banks recently when I