British binge-drinking, 1927 edition

27 May

Photo: Christopher Pledger, Daily Telegraph, 2009.

For at least the past decade or so, the British press has been indulging in one of its periodic bouts of hand-wringing at the drinking habits of young women. Proving that there is nothing new under the sun, certainly not newspapermen’s morbid fascination primly disguised as moral crusade, is this bourgeois-epating story from 1927:

Forty cocktails a day “without turning a hair” is the new all-British record, both for flappers and confirmed drinkers.

An anonymous English girl of “good social standing” turned the trick.

Hitherto, 12 to 15 cocktails a day has been considered a very respectable average for the energetic flapper but the Rev. W. H. G. Shapcott’s assertion that he has met a 17-year-old girl who boasted she could get outside of 40 of them between breakfast and breakfast, has caught the imagination of all London and the news and editorial columns of the newspapers blazon her prowess.

The Rev. Shapcott, who is Metropolitan secretary of the church army, says he cannot see the greatness of her accomplishment, despite the editorial hullabaloo, and has refused to reveal the girl’s identity. He has said, merely, that  “she is a girl of good social standing and goes to the Riviera every year.”

“But she is not the only case,” he added, in an interview. “Girls are getting more and more into the cocktail habit. Dozens of them drink their 12 of 15 a day and think nothing of it. But the girl who boasted she drank 40 of them headed the list. When she said that that was nothing, and that the number didn’t turn her brain, I told her that it must be because she didn’t have any brain to turn.”

At this rate, cocktail drinking becomes of the expensive pastimes.

Forty cocktails a day represents a drinking bill of about $5,000 a year—or $15 a day. Forty Martinis, for instance, would represent about one and a half bottles of gin and three-fourths of a litre of French vermouth.

With these figures before them, certain speculative editorial writers are inclined to wonder whether the cocktail girl’s claims should not be classified with the English channel swim hoax.

— “English Girl Found Able to Drink 40 Cocktails Day”, Atlanta Constitution, 1 November 1927, p. 10.

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