Adrian Chiles’ The Good Drinker: read an extract

22 May 2023

Practical tips and engaging advice on the unsung pleasures of drinking in moderation, from one of Britain’s best-known broadcasters

As heard on BBC Radio 4

‘Likeable and highly readable … comic and insightful’ Observer

‘An easy read mixture of wit and wisdom … should be read by all who drink more than the limit’
Prof David Nutt, author of Drink? The New Science of Alcohol and Your Health

The popular broadcaster and columnist sets out to discover the unsung pleasures of drinking in moderation.

The recommended alcohol limit is 14 units a week. Adrian Chiles used to put away almost 100. Ever since he was a teenager, drinking was his idea of a good time – and not just his, but seemingly the whole nation’s. Still, it wasn’t very good for him: the doctor made that clear. If you lined them up, Adrian must have knocked back three miles of drinks. How many of them had he genuinely wanted? A mile?

There’s an awful lot of advice out there on how to quit booze completely. If you just want to drink a bit less, the pickings are slim. Yet while the alcohol industry depends on a minority of problem drinkers, the majority really do enjoy in moderation. What’s their secret? Join the inimitable Chiles as he sets out around Britain and plumbs his only slightly fuzzy memories of a lifetime in pubs in a quest to find the good drinker within.

Read an extract below, and buy your copy at:



I was drinking an awful lot of alcohol. However, I wasn’t waking up in shop doorways, wetting the bed, getting into fights or drinking Pernod in the morning. Therefore, I told myself, I obviously didn’t have this ‘disease’ called ‘alcoholism’. And, as I didn’t have this ‘disease’, logically I was fine. I wasn’t.
If I lined up all the drinks I’d drunk in a forty-year drinking career, stretching back to my mid-teens, that line would be around three miles long. This was quite a thought. More shocking than that, though, was the figure I got to when I considered how many of those drinks I could have done
without. Or, put another away, how many of those had I really enjoyed, wanted or needed? I reckoned it was no more than a third of them. What a waste. Two miles of pointless drinks. This couldn’t go on. All I had to do was find a way of enjoying the drinks I wanted, and not bother with the rest.

Two blokes in two streets and a bloke who wrote a book

Late one night in Manchester, I was walking back to my hotel after an evening out with some friends. A chap fell into step with me. He was plainly down on his luck, but decidedly chipper with it.

‘I’m from Tipperary,’ he told me. ‘And I wonder if I could trouble you for some money, if you could spare some?’

I grunted something and we walked on for a moment before he added, ‘And if you do give me any money, I make you this promise: I’ll not be wasting it on food.’

I looked at him.

‘No, I’ll be spending it on booze!’ he shouted in delight.

‘Because I love booze.’

He won. I gave him a tenner.

I love booze too.

And I’ve learned to love it more by drinking less of it.


I was minding my own business down at the shops near where I live in West London when a bloke with a dog came up to me.

‘There’s a rumour you’re off the booze,’ he said.

‘I’ve cut down a huge amount,’ I replied.

‘Oh, I see,’ he said, smiling a knowing smile.

And off he went. I knew from the pitying look on his face exactly what he was thinking. He was thinking that I was in denial about my relationship with alcohol. In his view, there was no such as thing as cutting down. As I wasn’t ‘off the booze’ completely, I plainly didn’t have my drinking under control. I was kidding myself.

I get this a lot. It is annoying. It is widely held that the only realistic option available to heavy drinkers is to give up completely. This belief is so firmly held by many people that even if you do manage to convince them that you have genuinely moderated your drinking for good, they will simply conclude that you can’t have had much of an alcohol problem in the first place. I get this a lot too. It is even more annoying. There are certainly some problem drinkers for whom the only answer is to stop drinking completely. But I believe there are many more who don’t seek help for their drinking precisely because they’re frightened of being told that abstinence is their only option. This is a tragedy because, quite unable to countenance the prospect of life without alcohol, they just continue drinking as they were. Their consumption of alcohol won’t be addressed, and they’ll sink deeper into problem drinking territory and a level of dependence that means abstinence, in the end, really could be the only answer.

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