Edith Bowman: ‘Cider always reminds me of Glastonbury – it’s part of the territory’

Radio 2 DJ and presenter Edith Bowman tells Miranda Thompson about a favourite childhood thirst-quencher, her first glass of fizz and sharing tequila with a loose-lipped Hollywood star.

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There was a never-ending supply of Ribena when I was growing up. My mum ran a hotel in Anstruther, Scotland, with four of her sisters (she’s one of seven), so there was a constant gaggle of family around – I had 15 or 16 cousins, and we’d all have lunch together. You’d find Ribena in any of my relatives’ houses: in summer, you’d quench your thirst with a massive pint with ice, or you’d have it hot to help a sore throat.

The hotel meant there was a library of alcohol at my fingertips and the temptation was always there. But it wasn’t until I was 15 that I was offered Babycham, my first official drink, at one of the family gatherings in the function room. It made me feel so grown-up and special – and started my taste for bubbles. I do love a glass of champagne.

Anstruther harbour
Anstruther harbour, where a teenage Edith would meet her mates with booze pilfered from her dad’s drinks cabinet. Image: Getty Images

Growing up in a little fishing village, my drinking habits weren’t very healthy. As a teenager, I’d steal from my dad’s drinks cabinet and go and get p***ed with my mates down at the harbour. I didn’t dare drink at the hotel bar in case I got my parents in trouble. Instead, I’d go to a local pub where there was an unspoken agreement that the landlord would serve us a drink if we behaved. It was the same with Mum – if she knew I was having a drink there, she’d know that he was keeping an eye on me. My order? A vodka and fresh orange.

For a long time, Jack Daniel’s and Coke was my go-to. I started drinking it at university in Edinburgh, then when I was working at MTV and Radio 1. My dad would always buy me a bottle for Christmas, even though I’d say ‘Dad, don’t encourage me’. I’ll never forget the Jack Daniel’s and Coke I had on a rooftop in New York. I’d broken up with a boyfriend at the time and had friends there. I remember thinking, ‘I’m going to be all right.’ It’s not often that I sit down with nothing else to do and no one else there to have a drink with, but it was a memorable moment.

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I once shared some tequila with Emily Blunt, Benicio Del Toro and the director Denis Villeneuve. It was before we did a Q&A for their film Sicario, and let’s just say one of them could hold their tequila better than the others! Emily hadn’t yet been announced as the new Mary Poppins, but after a couple of rounds, she said ‘E, I have to tell you something no one else knows!’ But I did keep it a secret.

Cider always reminds me of Glastonbury. The last time I was there, in 2019, I remember finishing work for the evening, grabbing a cider from the bar and walking down to watch The Chemical Brothers. It’s part of the territory, really. My friend Claire’s brother has a reclamation yard in Street, near Glastonbury, and he sells amazing pieces – as well as cider. It’s like a chaser with every outlet in that part of the world. You want a sofa? Have a cider too.

After a couple of drinks I’m one of those people who dances like no one’s watching. I love it – I’ll be on the dancefloor all night. The first party I went to after lockdown had a light-up dancefloor and I kid you not, I had to be dragged off it.

Weirdly, one of the worst hangovers I’ve ever had was during lockdown. My husband Tom (of the band Editors) organised a Zoom birthday drinks for me in January 2021, and my friend sent me cocktails that came in little pouches. I had one too many negronis – and, the next day, no amount of Irn-Bru or salt and vinegar crisps was going to get me over the finishing line.

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These days, I don’t drink as much as I used to. Last year, we got a new puppy, River. It means 6am starts, to the sound of his barks, so I can’t do hangovers as well as I used to. But Tom and I alternate between who gets up with him. I’ll have a glass of red wine every now and again, and if we have people over then I will drink, but I don’t really reach for a drink in the evening. It’s also because of where we live – we’re in Gloucestershire now, and you’ve got to drive everywhere.

My daily routine is all about a healthy mind, healthy body. Water is my first drink (tap, as Kirsten Dunst once said to me in an interview when having a whinge about a co-star’s weird water requests, ‘water’s water’) followed by tea – milk, one sugar, builder’s – and then a turmeric shot, which I buy online.

My mother-in-law introduced my 13-year-old to nonalcoholic wines, which he’ll have with a Sunday roast. As much as I’ve tried, I wasn’t able to pass on my love of Ribena to my kids. My new favourite wine is nonalcoholic too – a fizz called Wild Idol and it’s delicious.

An espresso martini always makes me feel stylish. Before lockdown my husband used to take me to The Delaunay for my birthday every year and I just love it there – it’s like stepping back in time, getting dressed up and going out for dinner. I’d have an espresso martini in the bar before we’d go in for dinner. But they’re so dangerous. They have this effect of recharging your brain and your metabolism to the point where it’s just not possible to switch off.

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The celebrity I’d love to have shared a drink with was Marilyn Monroe. I’d ask what she thought about Kim Kardashian wearing her dress to the Met Gala. She would just be in her jeans and amazing cardigan and sunglasses, at a Malibu beach house – girls having a glass of something, putting the world to rights and listening to the ocean. I’ve been a Marilyn fan for as long as I can remember.

The drink I’d like people to toast me with at my funeral? It has to be Jack Daniel’s and Coke. In the meantime, for the jubilee, I’ll raise some bubbles to Liz the legend from Portugal, where we’ll be on holiday.

Edith presents Playing The Queen, part of the BBC’s celebration of the Platinum Jubilee, on Sunday 5 June at 9pm on Radio 2 and BBC Sounds. Soundtracking with Edith Bowman is available on all podcast platforms.