Some in general, excellent advice from a man who – like me – seriously objected to the intrusion of religion into the true, alcoholic, spirit of Christmas. His judgement broadly coincides with my own, and is therefore sound, except upon the question of beer: bloody Carlsberg!?! What was the man thinking of? I recommend Guinness’s revived West Indian Porter, anything from the Hobgoblin people , or – if you really must have larger, Veltin’s. Anyway, here’s Amis:
From Every Day Drinking (1981 – to be bourn in mind re: prices quoted ), by Kingsley Amis
Here is a mixed bag of seasonable concoctions. First and foremost and indispensable, Irish Coffee. It’s a bit of a pest to make, but never was such labour more richly rewarded. To make each drink, stir thoroughly in a large pre-heated wine-glass 1 teaspoon of sugar or a bit more, about a quarter of a pint of your best and freshest black coffee, and 1-2 oz Irish whiskey — no other sort will do. When the mixture is completely still, pout onto its surface over the back of a spoon about 2 oz chilled double cream. The cream must float on the other stuff, not mingle with it. If this goes wrong, take Michael Jackson’s excellent advice: “Don’t serve the drink to your guests — knock it back quickly yourself, and try again.”
Other drinks have sprung up in imitation with the same coffee and cream content but with other spirits as a basis, like Benedictine, which gives Monks’ coffee, and Drambuie, which gives Prince Charles’s Coffee — yes that’s what the UK Bartenders Guild call it. Of those I’ve tried, none compared with the original.
Except for being warm, the next drink could hardly be more different. This is the Raging Bull, an Amis original, though no great powers of invention were called for. Make Bovril in a mug in the ordinary way and stir with a shot of vodka , a couple of shakes of Worcester sauce and a squeeze of lemon juice (optional). That’s it. Very heartening in cold and/or hung-over conditions.
Now, an unusual evening warmer, the Broken Leg. having had a real broken leg myself earlier this year I puzzle over the significance of the name, but the drink’s straightforward enough. Slowly heat about a quarter of a pint of apple juice in a saucepan with a few raisins, a cinnamon stick and a lemon slice. When it starts to bubble, strain into a preheated glass or mug. Pour a couple of ounces of bourbon whiskey into the pan, warm for a few seconds and pour into the remainder. Formula from John Doxat.
Lastly, American Milk Punch. You drink this cold, but it’ll soon light a fire in you. The previous evening — this is the hard part put milk instead of water into your refrigerator ice trays. On the day, mix thoroughly in a jug one part bourbon whiskey, one part French cooking brandy and four parts fresh milk. Pour into biggish glasses, drop in milk cubes, stir gently, dust with grated nutmeg and serve. This punch is the very thing for halfway through the morning of Boxing Day, when you may be feeling a little jaded and need a spot of encouragement before some marvellous treat like the sons-in-laws coming over for lunch. In fact, it can be treated as Snowy Mary, sustaining as well as uplifting, and much kinder to the digestion than the old Bloody Mary, a delicious drink, I agree, but full of acid fruit juices.
Remember the Milk Punch for the New Year as a heartener before air trips, interviews, etc.
Christmas is traditionally a time when we behave kindly to our fellow human beings and push goodwill about all over the place. Well, to get myself into any kind of shape for being nice to others, I’ll have to take a lot of care of myself — and no more devotedly than in the sphere of drink. I intend to see that I have ample supplies of the few key items without which my Christmas would be a mockery, leaving me with no good will to spare for anyone.
My list leads with the Macallan Highland malt whiskey, my Drink of the Year (also of last year) and widely regarded in the trade as the king of malts. The flavour’s rich, even powerful, but completely smooth, as smooth as that of a fine cognac, and immediately enjoyable. Over Christmas I’ll be staying off it until comparatively late in the day, because the only drink you want after it is more of it. Macallen comes in various strengths and ages. I’ll be going for the standard 40 per cent alcohol at ten years old rather than the Macallen Royal Marriage, a unique blend of whiskies from 1948 and 1961, the couple’s respective birth years — wonderful stuff but a bit steep at £26.
I’ll also need a malt of a different type for when I’m not drinking the Macallen, selected from Highland Park, Isle of Jura, Tormore, Bowmore. And a good blend, preferably Famous Grouse, both for itself and for the interesting results if you move to a malt after it.
Must check that the Dry Martini makings arte in place — Gordon’s gin, Martini Rossi dry vermouth, and a jar of the largest possible hard, white, acid cocktail onions, much more of a sweat to find than the gin and vermouth. Check too on basic Bloody Mary makings — vodka, Worcester sauce and expensive tomato juice.
Table wines are not my forte, but on special occasions like the appearance of the Christmas turkey and trimmings I enjoy throwing down a good strong red. The one I’d go for is a Chateauneuf-du-Pape, not too recent, say ’76 or ’77. Any left over will go well with the Stilton. (perhaps a spot of port too with that, nothing fancy — somebody’s Special Reserve at about £5.)
I won’t be able to resist spoiling myself with some Musca de Beaumes de Venise, a sweet white wine from the Rhône that’s been tremendously successful here in the last couple of years. Made with the muscatel grape, fruity, flowery, and all that, an ideal desert wine, good with melon too.
We’re now beginning to deal with luxuries and treats, rather than the sheer necessity of Scotch or gin. Among liqueurs I’d certainly favour Kümmel, which with its caraway flavour does seem to take the fullness off after the plum pudding. Or a gross concession to guzzling like Bols apricot brandy or cherry brandy. But I’ll probably end up with Drambuie, drinking some of it cut 50-50 with my malt whisky, if I can spare any.
Back to the realm of stark need with the question of beer. I’ll be filling the refrigerator as full as I’m allowed to with large can of Carlsberg Special Brew and about half as many of the ordinary Carlsberg Pilsner Lager. Special Brew is a wonderful drink, but after a certain amount of it you do tend to fall over. Diluted with a weaker version of itself it gives you a longer run. To quaff the two of them half and half, really cold, out of a silver tankard produces as much goodwill as anything I know.
Some truly crazy ideas have been bouncing around various Whitehall policy departments. Taken together they give a sense of a general trend.
Back in December we had the welfare card proposal, so that unemployed people couldn’t spend their benefits on cigarettes and alcohol. This week: an idea that fat unemployed people should be ordered to exercise or else lose benefits.
Many people will approve of these ideas, because they would make life difficult for people on benefits. The rationale is ‘You are dependent on the state for your income, so we have a right to dictate how you spend it.’ But there is no way that the government will stop with welfare claimants. Plain packaging, minimum pricing, proposals for legal limits on sugar and fat content will affect working people too. If unemployed people should have a welfare card, why shouldn’t working people get paid in food vouchers? After all, otherwise we would just waste our salaries on Camel Lights, pizzas and red wine. And we are all dependent on the state to some extent. Even Jeremy Clarkson drives on publicly maintained roads.
Under a Tory led austerity government you would at least expect negative freedom. They won’t empower you, or help you out in hard times. You could at least expect them to leave you the fuck alone. But they won’t leave you alone. The Fabian authoritarianism that New Labour brought into public life has not been abandoned: quite the reverse.
So they cut essential services – sickness benefits, debt advice, legal representation, you know, things that people use, stuff that matters – while grasping for more and more control over what people do in their free time.
It is a kind of government by brainstorm or thought camp, where bizarre and silly ideas are implemented with seemingly no thought for the science, the economics or the practical reality of people’s lives.
Of course sometimes we need to be protected from ourselves.
But people also need the freedom to make their own mistakes.
DoH launches new public health poster campaign
Having a life outside blogging is obviously a good thing. As, no doubt, is being driven round dixieland by Madam Stroppy in a red Mustang convertible…
…but let’s hope Dave comes back one day.
RIP Hurricane, 1949 -2010
The People’s Champion found dead, alone and emaciated in his flat. He was poverty-stricken, toothless and had endured two major operations for throat cancer. But…
…(in the words given to him by actor Richard Dormer in the one-man play Hurricane)…
“Don’t pity me. I’ve stood on top of the world.”
Our leading writers make their selections from around the world:
The combination of classical learning, lavish book production and a hint of scholarly controversy makes Il papiro di Artemidoro (LED: Editizioni Universitarie di Lettere Economia Diritto), edited by Claudio Gallazzi, Barbel Kramer and Salvatore Settis, one of the the most important books of the century so far. On the other hand, if you want practical guidance on piss artistry, try this:
Especially useful (and I recommend this to my colleague Mr Priest, a notorious tightwad when it comes to buying a round), is the section entitled “The Mean Sod’s Guide (incorporating The Mean Slag’s Guide)“. To give you a flavour:
“The point here is not simply to stint your guests on quality and quantity – any fool can pre-pour Moroccan red into burgundy bottles, or behave as if all knowledge of the existance of drink has been suddenly excised from his brain at 10 p.m – but to screw them while seeming, at any rate to their wives, to have done them rather well. Note the limitation: your ideal objective is a quarrel on the way home between husband and wife, he disparaging your hospitality, she saying you were very sweet and thoughtful and he is just a frustrated drunk…
“(#8): Your own drinks. These must obviously not be allowed to fall below any kind of accustomed level, however cruel the deprivations you force on your guests. You will naturally refresh yourself with periodic nips in your pantry, but going thither at all often may make undesirable shags think, even say, that you ought to be bringing thence a drink for them. So either choose between a darkly tinted glass (“an old friend of mine in Venice gave it me – apparently it’s rather valuable, ha ha ha“) and a silver cup of some sort (“actually it’s my christening-mug from TS Eliot – believe it or not, ha ha ha”) which you stick inseperably to and can undetectably fill with neat whisky…”
As for hangovers, Kingers provides the following sound advice:
“ * If your wife or other partner is beside you, and (of course) is willing, perform the sexual act as vigorously as you can. The exercise will do you good and – on the assumption that you enjoy sex – you will feel toned up emotionally, thus delivering a hit-and-run raid on your metaphysical hangover (M.H.) before you formally declare war on it.
“Warnings. (i) If you are in bed with somebody you should not be in bed with, and have in the least degree a bad conscience about this, abstain. Guilt and shame are prominent constituents of the M.H., and will certainly be sharpened by indulgence on such an occassion.
“(ii) For the same generic reason, do not take the matter into your own hands if you wake by yourself.”
Not everyone likes this book (eg John Crace), but then you can’t please ’em all. can you? I enjoyed it (despite Amis’s disrespect for my own favourite tipple), and laughed out loud at parts. Published by Bloomsbury at £9.99.
Oh for the love of God Charlie, all it takes is a bat of the eyelids, huh? I shall never allow you a small wine spritzer ever again if you continue to misbehave in this fashion, you cad!
No, join me. I have nuns!
So what exactly is this “other stuff” that my occasional co-blogger Volty has been so “busy with” of late?
Red Ingle and his Natural Seven may have the answer (NB: you’ll probably have to play this clip through twice to get it running smoothly, but it’s well worth it, I promise):
Well, in spite of being skint, I’ve come to a decision. I’m going to pawn the family jewels and spend the proceeds on a train fare to London to have a few beers. Sorta logical decision you make on a Saturday morning.I’ll be joining an unlikely crew. They’re known to some as a group of bullying AWL hanger-on white supremacist tolerators who are not even politically active outside of blogging, and who have formed a self-selecting clique. Mind you, there is another point of view which says they’re a group of politically active socialists of various (and often opposing) political stances, who are strongly anti-racist and anti-sexist, and who become really quite welcoming if you buy them a pint. Of course certain of them happen to disagree with Andy “hard boiled” Newman, hence the Kim Il Sung style denunciations that I have conglomerated above. Salt mines for me then…All I’d say is come along (Euston Flyer, 4pm) if you’re free, meet the individuals concerned and judge for yourselves. Heck, even you should go Andy – I’m willing enough to forgive and forget…
SOCIALIST BLOGGERS MEET UP V: SANTA JIM & THE ANTI-RACISTS
We’re rounding up the Lefty Bloggers again for another piss up. This Saturday the 1st of December is the proposed date – starting at 4pm and ending God knows when at the Euston Flyer on Euston Road. It’s holiday time which means Santa Jim will be handing out the JDs and ESBs to all of the good lefty boys and girls!
There are a good deal of events taking place on Saturday – but we should be there for some time so feel free to pop along. Hopefully we can get some of the UNISON degenrates along as well.
Everyone is welcome!!!