A few months before the death of Queen Elizabeth I read a headline in the New York Post that simply made my blood boil. I was instantly, surprisingly, enraged. “No More Martinis: The Queen advised to give up her favorite drink. According to multiple reports, the British royal is said to enjoy a daily bone-dry gin martini, which also happens to be Prince Charles' favorite."
I've often heard it said that the only constant in life is change. "Yes, change and The Queen of England" I would think to myself. But sadly, now she is gone. As an American I happily worshipped The Queen from afar. I viewed Her Majesty was an icon. A living breathing martini-swilling piece of world history. The Queen was recovering from Covid when “they” (whoever “they” are) took her daily martinis away “for health reasons” and I was, and still am, outraged. “Bloody hell” I squawked at whoever was near, “let her have her damn drink. She's the freaking Queen of England. She’s 96 years old, she can do what she wants!”
In daydreams I like to envision myself as Prince Charles, sitting with me mum, at Balmoral castle in Scotland. There we are, in the great room, surrounded by our sweet and obedient corgis (and now dorgis, thanks to one of 'mu-mahs' more amorous dashchaunds). We gaze meditatively at the roaring fire as the rain sleets relentlessly outside, pinging against the gothic leaded windows. We sit in comfortable silence, my valet bringing us our mouthwatering bone-dry gin martinis, one after another after another.
But back to reality. I remember when I first stopped drinking how boring the alternatives seemed. I often had to settle for a tepid tumbler of sparkling water. Sparkling water that had lost any sparkle it may have once possessed by sitting opened in the refrigerator, acquiring the sad flat taste of metal and dirt. The defeated taste of dead carbonation. Is that what the poor Queen was being forced to drink by her mean unfeeling advisors? I sure as hell hoped not.
It's hard not drinking. It feels lonely sometimes. Isolating. Not drinking sets us non-drinkers apart from the rest. I question "what is wrong with me anyway? Why can't I just have one?” And the truth is I’m pretty sure that I could go out and have just one drink today. I have the willpower to do that. But it's not today that worries me. It's the following day and then week and then month and then years. I could go drink that glass of wine, and I might enjoy it. In fact I'm 50 percent sure it would be fine, that first time. But I know the voices that possessed me previously too well. Those voices, without doubt, would start nagging me unmercifully the second I made the decision to have that drink. “Look” they would say, “that was fine, nothing happened. Wasn't that nice? After all this time you are probably not even an alcoholic anymore. Let's do a test, tonight you can have 2 glasses.” And that's how it would roll. From that one glass of wine it would be a bleak and bumpy roller coaster ride down to me drinking alone. It would end where it always ends. In my drinking life I’m afraid that all roads eventually led to warm vodka.
When I was drinking I remember making a big deal out of making martinis at home. Alone. I drank martinis because I viewed it at the time as a sophisticated and mildly glamorous way to get sloshed without seeming like I had a "problem.” It seems obvious now, my slow switch from wine to martinis, three martinis pack a lot more bang for the buck than three glasses of Chardonnay, and always will.
So when my then boyfriend was traveling for work, I would pull out all the cool sleek tools I employed to make my martinis and get to work. I’d bring my vodka and vermouth out from their hiding place. I’d have my expensive Spanish olives and their juice, decanted into a minuscule crystal pitcher. My fancy silver jigger. My shiny martini shaker and strainer (no need for my long sleek mixing spoon, like Bond, I prefer my martinis shaken not stirred). I would be happy then, loving the ceremony of it all. Of being my own mixologist. I would grab some ice, lovingly place all the required elements into my chic Swedish cocktail shaker and I would shake shake shake, already somewhat drunk from the sound of the ice clattering away, chilling the vodka. That sound always relaxed me. It signaled to me that relief was on its way.
And it would feel so glamorous, in a way. Alone in my apartment, lights low, listening to Billie Holiday or Chet Baker, making fancy 007 martinis for myself. It was romantic even, like going on a date, but with vodka instead of a person. I would sit on the couch and read a magazine or a book with my martini, which on average would last about 6 minutes. So then I'd have to get up to make another. And then another. And it would get messy. And sloppy. And I would finally decide that the martini glass, although quite chic, was too small and complicated and fragile. Eventually I'd pour my third or fourth martini into a jelly jar and slowly get sloshed. Then I’d wake up in the morning, hungover and nauseous, and clean up the sticky mess, silently tucking all the martini making toys away as to not get found out. Those sad messy salty cocktails were my secret. One that I thought I enjoyed. But I knew deep down, that really, these “martini nights” as I called them, were a bad omen about where my drinking was taking me.
I mourn drinking a bit. I mourn my drinking days like a long lost love. And like long lost loves everywhere, the memory of my drinking is always sweeter and better looking than the reality.
I have not had a drink for decades so I was taken aback by my anger when they took the Queen’s martini away. This happened months ago and I’m still fuming. When I’m out at a restaurant and I see people drinking their martinis with impunity I think about the Queen. I get angry then. For all we know it’s the 70 plus years of daily martinis that kept this esteemed royal alive and kicking and protecting the monarchy in such grand style for all those years.
For a while I got on my soapbox and ranted and raved to my normie friends about the Queen having her daily martini unceremoniously ripped away from her - and no one cared. No one. I couldn't get a flicker of outrage from anyone. Until that is, I went to my A.A. meeting and announced this heinous injustice perpetrated against the Queen of England to the room. Then and only then were my sentiments validated. My fellow drunks were pissed. As pissed as I was - if not more. One friend even told me he thought that “martini-gate” as we christened it should be classified as a crime against the monarchy. Another suggested that we fly to England, sneak into the Queen's quarters, and deliver her a large bottle of her favorite gin that she could keep under her bed to drink at her leisure, away from the prying eyes of her pesky courtiers.
As for me I’ll stay away from martinis one day at a time. I may miss them a bit but never enough to go back to them. Those decades of daily martinis may have agreed with Her Royal Highness Elizabeth Alexandra Mary Windsor but for me they're just plain old poison. Physical, mental, spiritual, emotional poison.
I pray that the Queen is in heaven, and I can only hope that she’s sitting comfortably on one of those squishy oversized English couches with Prince Philip and her dogs and a gigantic heavenly gin martini.
She’s certainly earned it.