Tot of the morning
Jonathan Ray espouses the revivifying virtues of the mid-morning drink, particularly between Holy Ghost and Sunday roast – but don’t tell the vicar
I don’t know about you but I drink far too much. needless to say, it’s an occupational hazard in my line of work. I do my best to give up booze in January – just for form’s sake – but other than that I drink pretty much every day and I am, by most standards, an out-and-out lush. My only solace is that I know for a fact that my GP drinks more than I do.
The trouble is that temptation is ever present. I’m currently researching and writing a book on champagne and sparkling wines and I jest not when I tell you there are more than 100 bottles of fizz crowding round my ankles on every available bit of floor space in my study. And there are some crackers there, too. Some Krug Grande Cuvée anyone? or 2006 Taittinger Comtes de Champagne? or how about some of our very own Ridgeview Blanc de noirs or a cheeky Bisol Prosecco?
When working at home I never broach a bottle until – as my younger son used to delight in pointing out when he was a nipper – the big hand points to the 12 and the little hand points to the seven. “Stand by your beds, it’s daddy’s drinks time,” he’d yell.
“And Mummy’s, too!” was the inevitable riposte from Mrs Ray who was invariably one G&T down by this stage. And she thinks I never noticed, poor sap.
But, yep, 7pm is my start time as a rule and it takes all my discipline not to start earlier. That said, I’m a bit more relaxed about things come the weekend or the holidays. You know, around elevenses. You can stop your tut-tutting at the back, thank you, unless you can honestly say that you’ve never cracked open a chilled bottle of rosé by a Provençal pool before midday or had a pre-prandial Aperol spritz in the shadow of the Rialto Bridge. Yeah, see what I mean? You’re not so judgemental now, are you?
Sometimes, for whatever reason, one just needs a bit of a mid-morning fillip that only a decent shot of alcohol can provide; something for that awkward hour when your thoughts turn from recalling fondly what you had for breakfast to dreaming hopefully about what you might have for lunch.
The classic mid-morning drink, of course, is the Bloody Mary, about which I’ve written fondly many times in these pages and the joys of which are extolled in a delightful new book entitled, erm, The Bloody Mary by Brian Bartels (£15, Jacqui Small). It’s a corking good read and tells you everything you need to know about this exquisite, Godgiven drink, from its contested origins to its name; from the equipment you need to make it, to more than 50 different recipes.
When I make a BM I add a dash of fresh orange juice and a splash of sherry to the mix, both of which work wonders. Such additions seem tame compared to some of Mr Bartels’s. His Barbecue Bloody Mary uses beef dripping, for example, and his East Indies Bloody Mary uses cumin, arak and Indonesian spice paste. oh, and there’s one that uses not only vodka but also aged tequila and mescal. Cripes. But the Bloody Mary isn’t the only ideal mid-morning drink. The Black Velvet has to be up there, too. Invented by the barman at Brooks’s Club in St James’s Street for members mourning Prince Albert, it’s simply Guinness and champagne, half and half. It’s an outrageous mixture and has no business working at all but is ridiculously delicious and perfect alongside an 11am plate of oysters.
Talking of London clubs, there’s the classic Buck’s Fizz, of course, invented in Buck’s Club and comprising two parts champagne to one part fresh orange juice. Swap the champagne for prosecco and you get a Mimosa. Both are perfect mid-morning fare: fresh, fruity, light in alcohol and crammed with vitamins. ditto the Bellini (prosecco and fresh peach juice) or Jo Jo (prosecco and fresh strawberry juice). And if you can’t be bothered to make said juices yourself, invest in some packs of Funkin Fruit Purées, they really are the real thing and utterly delicious.
A mid-morning drink shouldn’t be too alcoholic; it’s there to lead you gently into the rest of the day rather than render you blotto. But a small glass of Madeira or tawny port never goes amiss. Chill them ever so slightly and serve them in small glasses alongside a plate of plain biscuits or a slice of fruit cake. The drinks’ sweetness makes them accessible and comforting.
But then a bone-dry Manzanilla or Fino sherry is also a wonderful 11am tonic. Serve well-chilled straight from the fridge for an invigorating appetite-inducer.
And, of course, as you take a ruminative sip of whatever drink it is, the point is it gives you time to plan what you’re going to drink during the rest of the day.
The Bloody Mary isn’t the only mid-morning drink. The Black Velvet has to be up there, too