Is booze at breakfast the best way to start the day?

Barack Obama enjoyed a breakfast beer at the G7 summit and a London bar is now serving morning wine. From bloody mary to brandy, an early tipple is a fine European tradition.

The sight of Barack Obama downing a pint at his pre-G7 summit Alpine breakfast on Sunday was surprising and cheering in equal measure. Drinking early in the day doesn’t usually come with such official approbation. We tend to think of morning drinks in extremes – a bloody mary or swift half to provide a much-needed quick fix after a long night, or perhaps bubbles for special occasion breakfasts. However, in many parts of the world, booze at breakfast is seen as a perfectly normal way to start the day.

The weisswurst frühstück Obama was enjoying is a beery Bavarian stalwart: boiled sausages with mustard, freshly baked pretzels and a cold weissbier, the operative word here being cold. Alcohol in the morning must be fresh and zippy. A bit of fizz, something dry, a hint of sweetness, a sharp kick – as drinks writer Henry Jeffreys puts it, “it’s the pick-me-up that makes you mellow”. Beer or ale for breakfast is not uncommon in the rest of northern Europe, particularly in Belgium – and even, until as late as the 1980s, in England, where breweries would give free drinks to their workers. While this was probably to counter pilfering, it also continued a long tradition of brewers enjoying a hearty brew to start the day, harking back to the “liquid bread” of 16th-century friars. It would seem there is more to an early-morning pint than just hair of the dog.