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This Artist Wants to Turn Winston Churchill's Blood into Gin

"In the morning I will be sober and Winston Churchill will still be dead."
March 9, 2015, 7:25pm

Who wouldn't want a piece of this in their drink? Photo via Wikimedia Commons

Last month, Dukes auction house in Dorset, England, announced that it would be auctioning off a vial of Winston Churchill's blood that had been taken from the head of state's 87-year-old body while he was recovering from a broken hip in Middlesex Hospital in London in 1962.

When Berlin-based booze crafter Marcus O'Shea heard the news, he decided he'd try to buy Churchill's blood and make gin out of it. With only a couple of days left to go before the auction, O'Shea—who, aside from handcrafting spirits, is a visual and performance artist who has exhibited in Berlin and New York—is still raising funds via GoFundMe to try and purchase the vial, which the auction house estimates will sell for up to £600 (about $900). We caught up with him last week to find out how and why he wants to turn the remains of the man BBC viewers voted "The Greatest Briton of All Time" into something you can mix with tonic.

VICE: Where did you find out about Winston Churchill's blood coming up for auction?
Marcus O'Shea: I think the Onion actually had one of those fake people's reactions on the street things about it. And I realized the fake reactions were to a real news story about Winston Churchill's blood.

Why did you decide you wanted to turn it into gin?
I've always had an undying thirst for the blood of the ruling class, so, you know, I just wanted to turn it into the most palatable form of liquid I could drink. And pay homage to an old dead guy—I'm gonna make it a London dry.

I guess a big question is, how do you turn blood into gin?
There's two ways I can do it: Either I can ferment the blood into essentially like a low-alcohol kind of blood wine and then I'll distill that, or I can dry the blood into a powder and essentially turn it into a botanical which I will use to flavor the gin.

How did you find out that it was even possible to use that as the base for a spirit?
It's actually been a running project with me and certain friends of mine that, whenever we're really bored at parties, we have really loud discussions about the most disgusting things you could technically distill into an alcohol. At a garden party, we were coming up with in-depth plans for how to harvest enough cum to make a semen alcohol.

Can you give me some other examples of grody shit you could turn into alcohol?
Sweat you could definitely do. You'd have to get a lot of people and a lot of rags. Tears, obviously. You'd get a very salty mix from that one. Those are the main bodily fluids you could do. Anything where you can get enough sugar in it, you can technically turn it into some form of booze and then you can distill it into a high-proof spirit.

Do you expect the blood is going to make a difference with regard to how the gin is going to taste?
If I ferment the blood and distill it through my refraction still, it's going to actually come out as quite a smooth, tasteless alcohol, aside from whatever botanicals I put in it. That's why I'm thinking of using it as a flavoring instead, because I really want to know what that old guy's blood tastes like. Maybe even soak a bunch of juniper berries in his blood and kind of do a blood-berry thing.

Is turning blood into gin legal, or is there anything that would make it illegal?
If I was selling it for consumption, it's illegal. Since I'm doing it as an art project, I'm distilling a small amount. Under German law, it's technically legal.

How much research did you have to do to find out whether this would be legal?
I actually already knew about German distilling laws and what technically counted as legal or not because I have a series of undrinkable gins that I do as sculptures where instead of herbs and spices I use things like rolls of film, photographic slides, and bits of paintings.

When you say "undrinkable," that's because they're toxic.
Yeah, they'd be super poisonous. They're sculptural, kind of thing.

Do you think drinking gin that's flavored with Winston Churchill's blood is cannibalism?
That's a hard one. Yeah, you might get the Wendigo spirit. I don't know how much human you have to eat before you really get cannibal madness.

So you're saying, "I need to drink enough that I puke."
That's a good idea maybe.

Have a 17-year-old's first-time gin experience and then purge the cannibal taint from your system.
That's probably the best way to do it. Personally, I'm kind of leaning into it, I'm going to embrace Wendigoism.

Part of your project is explicitly you getting smashed on this.
Yeah, but in the morning I will be sober and Winston Churchill will still be dead.

Follow John Cameron on Twitter.