The Diet of Champions
Jules Olivier picks himself up from the bar-room floor to share the following sobering thoughts with us.
It is odd how certain things never change. For instance the fact that most young men at least once during their lifetimes have been bragging proudly to their friends about how heavily they boozed the previous night. Sometime during adolescence though, we usually get wize to the ways of the world and realise that uttering phrases like: “goddam, I believe I drank at least three pints of scotch and darn my head hurts... har, har“, will at best earn you amused frowns and, if you are an unlucky monkey devoid of charm, icy stares and malevolent laughs behind your back. Maybe some kind soul understands that you need to be Firmly Spoken To and thusly reprimands you in a suitably sharp manner. This manner of behaviour is most often accompanied by the sentiment that you should drink whatever gets you drunk. A good whack to the head for instance will have the same effect. Why not instead choose to drink something that tastes good and is pleasing to the eye? Do you see my point or have you had to many whacks to the old turnip?
It is somewhat of a cliché but heavy drinking does have a certain charm. Quite a lot of rather cool people, have been heavy drinkers... In most cases with emphasis on the past tense. So excess is the road to damnation then? Yes, if it turns you into a beer guzzling slob who thinks the smell of alcohol is a natural aphrodisiac. I´ve asked several female friends and believe me it is not. In fact indiscriminate boozing might actually lead to female encounters you´ll realise (when you wake and want to shave your tongue) you could have been without.
So on the negative side alcohol is a poison that affects your nervous system and brain. It also could make you fat. I think I can cope with the loss of the braincells, but gaining anymore weight, simply isn´t an appealing prospect. The loss of cool and control are also some side effects not to be taken lightly. Booze also affects your taste buds... which explains why one is sometimes able to eat things one would never have considered eating when sober. This could also be attributed to the characteristic loss of judgement suffered when drinking.
A few positives (please forgive me my delusions): alcohol often makes you more tolerant and relaxed. The first two drinks after work are pure bliss. Also in an inebriated state I, at least, sometimes get ideas that are pure genius... that is until the next morning when I try to decipher my demented scribblings. Such a relief then, that drinking is such a nice sensory experience... it simply tastes good. If it doesn´t to you I´d recommend you giving it up entirely.
For those of you to whom abstaining is not an option, well read on.
In the universe of the professional lounge lizard and bar fly, drink is God, the bartender the Minister and the bar a living Deity of brass, wood and stainless steel.
I have had the fortune of encountering very ambitious bartenders. A good bartender is not the regular lager-lager man, but rather an Alchemist who has the knowledge you lack, and consequently through a shake and stir, is able to turn your favourite pastime into a supremely pleasurable occasion.
The bartender will also understand your need for stylish drink and because of this deserves the most zealous devotion (or at least a good tip). Remember that the bartender spends his days/evenings servicing drunk people. He will appreciate customers who know what and how to order. This also look a fair bit more suave than the: “ahem, garcon voddy ‘n’ coke please!!!” In fact if you´re in the company of a lady you just might earn the reputation of being a nice guy when you help her order if she doesn´t know what she wants. If she knows what she wants, never question her choice.
A normal day can be quite nicely divided into pre-lunch drinks, drinks for lunch, post-luncheon drinks... Ah well you get the picture. Here are some classics and some not so classic drinks that you just might like:
Wine won´t do for an aperitif so maybe you should try a Seabreeze. Grapefruit juice and cranberry juice... ice and vodka. Actually there are several versions. If the grapefruit juice is switched for orange juice I´ve been told you´d be getting a Shorebreeze. Go for the Seabreeze which shouldn´t be too sweet but rather fresh and frisky. Somewhat like a seabreeze. A downside to this drink, is that it is rather colorful. In any case you´ll probably finish it quite fast so perhaps the colour won´t be a problem. And also if your girlfriend catches you sipping one before going to bed, claim it´s just cranberry juice and then brush your teeth quickly.
The gin and tonic may seem very trite and obvious but just think of it as an old tradition (harkening back to British colonial days). If you don´t know what´s in a gin and tonic I won´t tell you. Getting a wellmade one isn´t something you can take for granted. There are various spin-offs to this drink: the gin fizz, Upside down (how very charter to Costa del Sol)... simply substitute the tonic water with something else.
Gin is undoubtedly one of the most important ingredients in cocktail-culture. One of the reasons is the Tom Collins. The history of this long drink is rather muddled. I´ve never received a plausible explanation... Someone once said that the Tom part comes from a gin brand (old Tom) that is no longer produced. The Tom Collins should be poured in a very large glass. It should actually contain tripple the amount of liquor of that of a normal drink. Squeeze one medium sized lemon in the glass, add a tablespoon of sugar syrup, some ice and then fill the glass with soda water.
If you´re feeling a bit worried about getting that thirteen-drinks-later kind of breath, why not try a Springtime. Ginger Ale and white rum, a dash of Diablo ménthe. Maybe some ornamental vegetable or fruit...But take heed optimists, you do not want a Samoan rainforest adorning your glass. The Spingtime is the alcoholic equivalent of consuming a large amount of toothpaste.
Suffice it to say, one will do the job and two just might leave you nauseous.
If you´d like to do it more continental style, some drinks based on aniseed might go down well. The taste might take some getting used to. Most are just mixed with water, like Pernod and Pastis. If you are feeling more adventurous, absinthe will be your ticket. Never mind rumors of mental illness and a Small Vicious Green Demon (bearing a slight resemblance to the dwarf footman of Fransisco Scaramanga).
The Bloody Mary, with its wholesome makeup of tomato juice, vodka, pepper, drop of tabasco and lemon, worchestershire sauce and selleri is the ideal companion when at an aeroport. Don´t order it inflight though, as it will usually taste of can.
When on the verge of having a hearty meal you need something with a bit more solidity. Drinks based on more liqour and less fizzy drinks. Both Black and White Russian have been beaten to death, but The Godfather and Godmother are both related drinks...Well worth a try if not only to acquaint yourself with the almond liquer Amaretto.
Single malt whiskey (now this could be an entirely new article) fits nicely in the after dinner slot. Always served at room temperature or slightly below and never on the rocks. Of course any whiskey (no of course not any!) might fit your digestion nicely and also bourbon could be an alternative if you want to add some American flavor to your nicotine.
Actually any kind of alcohol, except gin and tequila, might be acceptabtable after dinner, as long as you drink it straight (alright, you might want to add just a drop of water to the whiskey.)
My personal favorite would be the Rusty Nail. This delicious drink is made of Drambuie, which is a liquer based on whiskey stock, scotch and if you prefer it that way: ice crushed into medium pieces. This is actually the perfect drink for introducing a person to the taste of whiskey. Because of the ice and sweetness, it hasn´t that strong flavour that some baulk at. It won´t put hair on your back and it isn´t that demanding on the palate as some single malts. This cocktail can be consumed both after dinner and during the evening.
Evening and Night
This is where the fun starts. A cocktail is structured along some brilliant concepts: lots of alcohol, ice and... well, more alcohol. Along the way you might add vermouth, liquer etc. for added flavour.
One of the most important factors when you´re dealing with cocktails (especially if you´re doing the honours and mixing them yourself) is very cold and dry ice. The ice is for chilling the cocktail, and not diluting it. If you aren´t blessed with a nice fridge (preferably one of Krupps line of freezers reproduced from their original design of the fifties) buy your ice at the nearest supermarket. A good shaker is a must. Best actually to leave this to the bartender.
Ordering a Dry Martini, if it is obvious you don´t usually order cocktails, is not to be recommended. You´ll risk looking like a twat (not to mention falling down drunk if you're not used to drinking 95% pure gin - Drunk Ed). Order something not so obvious. It doesn´t have to be obscure (if it is, it´s likely not to be any good anyway, very much contrary to music). Now James Bond orders a Vodka Martini. The difference should be obvious (though still just as lethal - Drunk Ed). Oh and watch it when ordering one, don´t use a husky Sean Connery voice, the bartender is the one who determines if you´ve had enough to drink so humour him (or rather don´t). The Dry Martini contains gin & vermouth (Martini), although legend has it that some people simply pass the shadow of a bottle of vermouth over their drink.
A perfectly respectable alternative is the Manhattan. Pour bourbon or rye whiskey in a shaker with some ice. Add some red Italian vermouth (about a quarter of the amount of bourbon) a dash of Angostura Bitter. Stir. Pour this in a chilled glas. Add a maraschino cherry. Et voila. A nice servicable cocktail that goes well with some nice upholstery. Oh, and in case of doubt, it´s perfectly alright for a man to drink a Manhattan.
A Daiquiri is made like the Whiskey Sour with the exception that you exchange the whiskey for some white rum. There are several versions of the Daiquiri: Banana, Frozen Strawberry... the list could be made long. Just keep in mind that the ones containing dairy products (like the frozen strawberry one) could be a tad bit challenging for a delicate stomach.
A personal favourite (one which I am almost loath to disclose) is the Missisippi Mule. We´ve all had the Moscow Mule but actually these two doesn´t resemble each other in any way. To make a Missisippi Mule pour some gin in a shaker filled with ice, add some Creme de Cassis and some lemon juice. Vary the amount of ingredients depending on how sweet or sour you´d prefer it. Shake this quite hard. Pour into glass, make sure the top of the cocktail is frothy. You can either serve this with crushed ice or without depending on how slow a drinker you are.
If you´re interested in the subject, drink some or get a book on drinks and cocktails. Maybe you´ll find it more enjoyable than beer.
Well I´ll see you down at the local AA then?
[Published 28 March 2001]
|go_minx||jul 21 2005 6:16PM|
|In the States, lunchtime drinking is strongly frowned upon. Many companies have a dismissal policy towards employees who have anything alcoholic during the day. You might well say, "But it's MY lunchtime!" To which they reply, "Tough. Thems the rules, pal."|
Just thought I'd mention it in case anyone is contemplating relocating.
Aside from that, I would like to mention three of my fav cocktails:
Cosmopolitan: vodka, cranberry juice, triple sec, lime juice. Yes, it was done to death during the heyday of Sex in the City, but it's a damn fine drink.
Mai Tai: dark rum, light rum, triple sec, grenadine, lime juice, powdered sugar. It may make your teeth hurt just reading the ingredients. Still, nothing says girly like a Mai Tai with a tiny paper parasol in it.
Blue Hawaiian: Light rum, blue curacao, pineapple juice, cream of coconut, ice, blended.
Proper margaritas and sangria are excellent on a hot day.
|Jules||jul 4 2005 7:26AM|
thanks for the kind words. Spritz Macchiato sounds delightful. It pains me to admit I've suddenly developed an aversion to champagne (it ambushed me during a wedding on Ireland this weekend). Maybe this is how life will be: you over indulge until you have nothing left to drink but milk or espresso. Might not be such a bad outcome... Both go well with biscotti. :)
|claudio||jun 25 2005 5:15AM|
|Very pleasant read Jules! I guess wine was willingly left asside from lunch and/or dinner as its in a totally different class ..|
However, there is nothing like a good Prossecco from Valdobbiadene or Conegliano as an apperitivo.
Lastly, THE apperitivo in north-east italy would be the Spritz Macchiato: ice, prossecco, mineral water frizzante and a dash of aperol (or Campari, or even Cynar)
|JTO||aug 15 2004 4:59PM|
|If they can't taste the difference they absolutely deserve it.|
|Martin||aug 15 2004 3:37PM|
|Keen on the Mojito, I am. Just wondering, do I get hung in public for buying drink-mixes and simply pouring the alcohol into a glass along with it, instead of going through the, after a couple of shots, weary labour of mixing them from scratch?|
|julia||maj 26 2003 1:07PM|
|hmmm, very nice!! thank you|
something about the "gin-discussion": there are so many ways to make a good martini but never without nolly prat. its the only vermouth that gets along with gin...
and a question to the "collin" and the "fizz": whats the real difference between them- is it just the white of the egg or is there more?
finally i d like mention the negroni or the americano- sweet and nice - please without soda! (unless you want to breake the heart of an italian bartender)
|Jules Olivier||maj 19 2003 9:44AM|
|NK> Well the background of the gin and tonic was drinking alcohol at the same time as using the positive effects of quinine (very wise if you for some reason are living, stationed or working in tropical climes) which is found in tonic water. In a similar way it can also be wise to drink things containing lemon or lime juice. Recommended even. Use your imagination. Cheers.|
|Negerkyss||maj 19 2003 9:30AM|
|In what way is a gin fizz derived from the gin and tonic? A gin fizz consists of gin, lemon juice and sugar shaken vigorously with ice and poured into a glass into which some soda water is siphoned. A wonderful drink.|
|Jules||apr 30 2001 8:51PM|
|Mr Vagrant> Glad it was enjoyable. This was all written from a very personal viewpoint... and as I myself have problems with both port and brandy (ironically these upset my stomach) I didn´t write about these... I am currently pondering the theory that I might be allergic to alcohol.|
|Universal Vagrant||apr 27 2001 2:33PM|
|An enjoyable article but I am dismayed that Single Malt (never dilute!) which I always use as a night cap or early evening snifter seems to be the preferred after dinner drink.|
I would suggest that a good brandy tends to better settle the stomach, particularly after the wine during the meal. And of course no mention was made at all of the obligatory port - decanted vintage whenever possible.
|Dry martini||apr 1 2001 5:11PM|
|Brian> How did they actually mix the mango martini? |
|Brian Poust||mar 29 2001 8:06PM|
|Jules> olive juice in the martini would be called a "dirty martini" and something that I also do from time to time. |
Dry Martini> point well made about the freezer. As to a brand of olive disturbing balance, that would depend on the kind of martini you prefer. Obviously, you wouldn't enjoy a "chocolate martini". I don't either, but there is a martini for any occasion. I had some sort of Mango martini "specialty" last summer in Chicago. Unusual, but tasty.
|Jules Olivier||mar 29 2001 1:55PM|
|Dry Martini> I´ve actually met bartenders who use the oily water from the olive jar in their Martinis. Strange.|
All the kind souls who´ve commented> Glad you liked it. Suffice it to say, when I was writing this, my girlfriend was not pleased about my noisy musings from the kitchen.
|Dry martini||mar 29 2001 12:50PM|
|Brian> Good advice there with the dry martini, but I still prefer to keep the bottle in the freezer to minimise the amount of water.|
Also, some brands of olives can "disturb" the balance of the drink as they tend to give too much flavour...
|Pablo de la Cruz||mar 29 2001 12:11AM|
|Extremely well put, Jules. Curiously, the subject has the 3 co-moderators of Bespoke! writing in a row. |
More Martini facts: the shadow of the bottle method is Luis Buñuel, the godless moviemaker - it actually involved a ray of sunlight passing through the bottle and into the gin ala Lost Ark. My favourite method is Winston Churchill's: you show the Martini bottle to the glass of gin.
I see no mention of Gibsons - it's a Dry Martini minus olive plus onion, and you know, Mods Love Green Onions!
My favourite part of your essay, though, is that you don't mention beer - which is nice, as if beer is not considered alcohol, I am not an alcoholic. Time to pour me a long tall one. Cheers everybody!
|Jason Tinkey||mar 28 2001 11:44PM|
|finally, a subject i feel an expert on. here are a few of my current faves:|
the vodka gimlet...basically a martini with sweetened lime juice substituted for the vermouth. has a lovely pale chartreuse hue, and tastes almost like candy, in spite of it's obvious high liquor content. i like to make these with freezer-chilled finlandia.
rye & ginger...when i say rye, i don't mean canadian blended whiskey, i'm talking kentucky straight rye. and for the ginger ale, try grating some fresh ginger root into the glass and mixing with soda. my favorite brand is old overholt, it has a lot of the qualities of a good bourbon, but with a bit more of a bite to it.
|Brian Poust||mar 28 2001 10:26PM|
|Very nice work, Jules. I'm sure you did plenty of research for this one :)|
ALWAYS heed Richard H's advice - Rusty Nail or otherwise.
The below martini advice is also good. However, my preferred method is to soak an olive (either jalapeno or blue cheese stuffed) with Vermouth in a separate glass, shake your gin with ice for about 20 seconds - long enough to chill but not long enough for excess ice to melt into the gin. Place your olive in a chilled martini glass (discarding excess vermouth) and pour the gin over the olive.
|Charles||mar 28 2001 10:18PM|
|Nice piece of drunken wisdom, brother. Although I'm normally a straight scotch guy after dinner, I'm going to try the Rusty Nail. |
|Mint Julep||mar 28 2001 8:27PM|
|Nice one geezer.|
|Richard H||mar 28 2001 12:49PM|
My rule of thumb when ordering a Rusty Nail:
If the bartender asks "what's in that one again?", order something else.
I think it works best with that Prince of Pimpy drinks, Chivas Regal.
|Dry martini||mar 28 2001 10:30AM|
|A perfect dry martini should start with a freezer cool glass. Pour some martini (dry) in the glass, give it a good swirl and pour the excess away. By now only the inside is covered in martini. Fill the glass with chilled gin and perhaps a tiny piece of lemon peel.|
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