PUT THE FUN BACK INTO IM­BIB­ING

The Sunday Telegraph - Sunday - - Life Lifestyle -

It is a les­son with which the late Peter O’Toole would have been in sym­pa­thy, re­mark­ing that the only ex­er­cise he ever took was “walk­ing be­hind the coffins of friends who took ex­er­cise”. Like Bur­ton, Har­ris and Reed, O’Toole knew how to party, and still man­aged to reach the age of 81. Now I don’t for one mo­ment un­der­es­ti­mate the dan­gers of overindul­gence where al­co­hol is con­cerned. It needs to be treated with re­spect, though I doubt if print­ing “PLEASE DRINK RE­SPON­SI­BLY” on a bot­tle of wine has di­rectly pre­vented any­one from fall­ing over. “Drink less, en­joy more” would be my motto. It’s high time we put the fun back into im­bib­ing. For a start, what­ever hap­pened to that dra­matic dis­penser of fizzy wa­ter, the soda siphon? Nowa­days a chap can’t ask for a “whisky and splash” with­out be­ing looked at as though he is off his drinks trol­ley. Some­how a bot­tle that goes “Sch­hhh” when you undo the screw-cap can’t of­fer quite the same comic value as a siphon, and nei­ther is it nearly so ef­fi­cient at putting out a fire when the host falls asleep in the club chair and al­lows his cigar to fall into the lap of his dress suit. Shame that. When did you last have a snow­ball (ad­vo­caat and lemon­ade)? Or a Baby­cham (fizzy stuff made from perry pears)? Girlie? Yes. But fun. In moder­a­tion. Well, maybe just the once; so you can say you’ve had one. And for the men – a proper dry mar­tini (two-and-a-half ounces of gin, half an ounce of ver­mouth and an olive). Now this is a drink for those who can take their liquor. A friend of mine, along with a bunch of his best mates, de­cided that one evening they would trawl Lon­don in search of the best mar­ti­nis on of­fer. They did their home­work, they made out their itin­er­ary, and at six o’clock af­ter work on Fri­day they set out upon their quest to visit the top-rated half dozen es­tab­lish­ments where dry mar­ti­nis were mixed. First stop was Dukes Ho­tel in May­fair, recog­nised by many as the best pur­veyor of dry mar­ti­nis in the cap­i­tal. The trol­ley ar­rived, the frozen glasses were re­moved from its in­te­rior, the cock­tail was mixed to the Dukes’ own recipe and was, to gen­eral ac­claim, match­less. Thus stiff­ened, my friend and his col­leagues left that princely (sorry, ducal) es­tab­lish­ment and made for their sec­ond venue. The story be­comes more vague now. He thinks it was The Ritz. Suf­fice to say that af­ter three dry mar­ti­nis at three dif­fer­ent wa­ter­ing holes my friend left his co­horts to their in­creas­ingly dizzy­ing quest and boarded a bus home. At least, he hoped it was go­ing in the gen­eral di­rec­tion of his abode. He does not re­mem­ber go­ing to bed, only wak­ing up the next morn­ing to find that he was still wear­ing his shoes. Be­ing dis­pensed his drinks, he had clearly not been in a po­si­tion to read “PLEASE DRINK RE­SPON­SI­BLY” on the bot­tle. Hav­ing too much to drink is not fun – it emp­ties the pocket, rad­dles the body and numbs the mind. But a sin­gle glass (all right, maybe two) of an evening is a daily plea­sure, whether it be a G&T, a whisky and soda or a small glass of oloroso. It lifts the spirit, eases the mind and re­laxes the body. My friend has made a New Year res­o­lu­tion to which he now sticks: he never drinks more than two mar­ti­nis. And so you will for­give me if, at six o’clock sharp, I make for the drinks cab­i­net and mix my­self a stiff­ener. I shall place the glass on a small sil­ver salver and take it to the ta­ble along­side the chester­field in the li­brary where I shall lower my­self into its cush­ions, lean back and take the first gulp of restora­tive fluid, re­flect­ing on the fact that life isn’t half bad and that, who knows, 2014 might be a year to re­mem­ber for all the right rea­sons. From me and mine to you and yours, a very happy new year!

A grace­ful age: cock­tails re­call an era of more re­laxed at­ti­tudes to­wards drink­ing

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