Gary Barlow: My Life in Drinks

My favorite drink when I was a kid was a slush blue pup. It was always the bribe to get me well behaved during our Asda shop so I would get mush on the way out. We went to the supermarket every Thursday evening when my mother was finishing her shift as a lab technician at Chester Hospital. I think the Slush Puppie is around 15p – that was the 70s! I haven’t had any since.

I was late for booze. My friends were about 13, 14 years old when they started drinking, but I was never interested. At that age, I played five nights a week at social clubs, so I constantly saw people drinking and smoking all night long. The other musicians I played with were getting free drinks, but you know what it’s like – when something’s on your doorstep, you’re not interested, and so it was with me and I was drinking. I didn’t drink my first alcoholic drink until I was 18. It was a summer thing – we had been to the Silcock’s Amusements funfair, which was visiting Southport, it was a beautiful day and I was thirsty so thought I’d try a cooler. It was wonderful.

Take That told me about Red wine. If we were somewhere nice Howard [Donald] and Jason [Orange] always ordered red wine. They sat in their chairs, walked around and talked about it among themselves. It was the first time I realized there was a conversation about it – it’s not just people pushing it. Because I was used to seeing people drinking all night, falling out of these clubs – it never seemed so exciting to me. But when I saw Howard and Jason enjoying it, I wanted to get involved. I didn’t like the first one I tried, but Jason said, “You just have to keep going until you find one you like.” Two nights later I tried a Châteauneuf-du-Pape – and it was delicious. I still order some from time to time. It’s a reward. I love having a drink of it at the hotel after a show. Even today, there is a whole ceremonial: looking at the bottle, the glasses… it’s more than the wine.

You should always finish instead than starting a show with a beverage. We don’t have drinks on the Take That Rider. I learned quickly that I can’t drink and sing. So I’ve never been able to go on TV or do a live show after I had one – it just doesn’t feel right.

I was addicted to the diet Coke. I drank one every day for years, but ten years ago, just after my 40th birthday, I got a big health boost and cut out refined sugars and processed foods. . I was a real nuisance for about six or seven years after that, criticizing everyone. I used to push everyone into the wall. I just feel like every decade you struggle with some change in your metabolism. Someone will have an explanation, I’m sure, but I just seem to be entering a new decade and “boom!” everything moves and changes.

I would like to take credit negronis entering fashion. I started drink them ten years ago – this is my favorite drink. The key to a negroni is sweet vermouth – there are many types and they all taste different. If I’m ever somewhere and they make a good negroni, I always ask them what vermouth they use. I’m lucky to have friends like the bartender at Dukes in London, Alessandro, who put me on a Brit that I adore. It’s called sacred English and there’s a spice to it. Then I add Monkey 47 gin and Campari – you have to have Campari, you can’t mess around with that.

I spend between 15€ and 20€ on a good bottle of wine to drink at home. I get it online from Nemo Wine Cellars. My perfect birthday gift would be a bottle of Pauillac [which costs from around £25]. In a West End restaurant, £20 for a drink seems about right and should net you something pretty nice. I know it sounds crazy, but welcome to the modern world – everything has exploded.

Sir Paul McCartney and I have shared a drink. Take That did a show for Children in Need in 2009 and he walked into our dressing room. Mark and Robbie don’t drink anymore, but the rest of us drank it and he took a sip with us. He didn’t stay there long enough – I could have taken a few more hours to tell stories. He was about to go to Australia and said he hadn’t been there for 25 years. I told him that we were about to go back too, and that we hadn’t been there for 22 years. He couldn’t believe Take That had been around for 22 years. We got it!

One of the most memorable the places I had a drink were our home in the south of France. We lived there for about nine years and I particularly remember one night in 2005. We were sitting in the back of our house, it was a beautiful evening, in the middle of August, and someone had brought champagne. My wife Dawn and I were watching our kids, surveying the decor with a drink in hand, thinking, “This is as good as it’s going to be.”

I completely stopped milk. Another decade has passed and milk no longer agrees with me. I always start my day with a coffee, but now mix it with oat milk – I love the Oatly Barista brand.

My favorite song after a few drinks? It’s still “Livin’ On A Prayer” by Bon Jovi. I’m big on that one. The last time I did this was before the pandemic, on the last night of our Odyssey tour in Cardiff. We have a huge band of people traveling with us: 20 dancers, a ten-piece band, a production team, managers. We got off stage around 11pm so he would have been back at the hotel around 2 or 3am. We would have been on cocktails – if it’s late, I like a Manhattan.

I would like people to toast me wwith champagne to my funeral. Celebration until the end. I forbid any form of tears at my funeral – I only want happiness. Glad they saw me go, and glad they were there.

Gary’s range of organic wines is available from Morrisons and from, from £8 a bottle. Red and white wines are also available from Asda, Ocado and Amazon.

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