On 17th May, I undertook a challenge to spend a day drinking the right thing for the right moment, avoiding my standard glass of white wine. Here are my notes.
Commence Day of Discerning Drinking with a strong cup of coffee. I am more than a little bit daunted by a whole day of mixing my drinks. Have I ever told you about the majestic scope of my hangovers? Don’t get me started.
Put on my big girl panties and ask Twitter for appropriate morning drink tips. Twitter says Buck’s Fizz. The barman at the Thatched House grimaces and says he mixes a great Bloody Mary.
It is, indeed, great. I’ve had some distinctly odd Bloody Marys lately – I’m sure the trend to add sherry is a step in the wrong direction – but this one is perfect. Apparently the trick is to shake the vodka, lemon, lime, Tabsaco and other flavourings first, and then add it to a glass with ice. The tomato juice should not be shaken. I absentmindedly eat my celery stick, which I suspect is not the chic thing to do.
I am told off by my gracious host for lingering over the first drink too long. Rumbled.
Unsure what to drink to bridge the gap between morning and lunch (and I believe Special Brew is the most common choice at this point), I am offered a refreshing combination of Havana Club rum, Bundaberg ginger beer and lime. I wonder, though, if there’s a more traditional pre-lunch drink?
Kath Melandri joins me for lunch, and we proceed to engage in a spot of alcohol-absorption. Scotch eggs, rarebit and burger absorb the morning’s drinking very nicely.
We match them with The Thatched’s very own Thatched House Pale Ale, which is Sambrook’s Pale Ale made fizzy by [hazy: something about extra yeast under pressure] to make a light, floral, very summer beer that reminds me of Hoegaarden or Hopback Summer Lightening, but with bubbles of a really excellent scale. I like it. A great deal.
I’m feeling all warm and fuzzy inside. We head over to the Sipsmith distillery, which is completely awesome. I’m saving it for another post, but I don’t think I’m ever going to buy another brand of gin again.
I taste not one, but four drinks: gin, vodka, Summer Cup and damson gin. I am now a bit concerned that I won’t be able to remember anything after this point.
In an attempt to find the ultimate afternoon drinking environment, I head over to Rules just off The Strand. Except first I stop off at Byron for a fat Coke, in a vague attempt to regain my equilibrium. It doesn’t work. I feel all jumbled and stare-y.
At Rules, I head for the upstairs bar, which is all dark wood wainscotting and monogrammed chairs. I’m normally quite fond of sitting in a bar on my own, but this place is a bit too quiet: I’m the only one there, and it’s hard not to feel self-conscious. The waiters are studiedly professional, but that just makes me feel like I have to mind my manners.
I order a Rules 76, which is a sherberty champagne cocktail that tastes of apples and pears. It’s light and probably appropriate for the time of day, but it makes me wish I was in a noisier place with a martini. The waiters retreat watchfully to the end of the room, and begin to talk about the price of London property and how much they’ll make in tips from that night’s covers. I feel a bit embarrassed to be there.
This is an old-fashioned kind of discernment, and it doesn’t suit me. I can’t blend in and disappear. Instead of people-watching, I am The Watched. I’m also flagging a bit. I need a strong coffee, a couple of paracetamol and a lie-down.
I don’t finish my drink, and instead catch the train to Clapham Junction.
I meet Osh at the station, and we walk over to Sambrook’s Brewery. My whole body is begging me to drink no more alcohol. I’m also a bit funny about beer. I love the taste of it – particularly real ale – but it makes the bit of my head hurt where I fractured my skull. It’s a Voldemort/Harry Potter thing.
But, you know, I’m a professional, and their Wandle Ale is pretty wonderful stuff. I’m going to blog about it in more detail later, but suffice it to say that I was happy to pretend that beer doesn’t kill me every time I drink it.
Over to The Ship. Feeling pretty jaded, and basically craving a sofa and a remote control. I meet @Nicky_T at the bar, and we go for a pair of Campari sodas, because I remember a friend telling me that her Italian grandmother uses it as an afternoon pick-me-up.
By golly, it works! It’s appetisingly bitter, and light in alcohol, but there’s something really uplifting about it. I feel refreshed and ready to face the world.
By which I mean: hungry.
On the basis that the more food I eat, the more alcohol I will absorb, I decide not to hold back on supper. Rack of lamb and chips it is, then. With it, I lose all creativity and go for a glass of wine, a Shiraz. That’s what it says in my notes. I have no idea what it tasted like.
Man, I’m tired.
Flagging very badly. The wonderful John Williams joins me for supper, and perks me up a little. Also, I order dessert because frankly in for a penny, in for a pound. Rhubarb jelly and other rhubarby things. Lovely.
It would be rude not to order dessert wine to go with it, wouldn’t it? I have a bit of a thing for The Ship’s black muscat, which is a like liquid raisins. I think I basically like the colour, to be honest. I have given up on all semblance of sophistication at this stage.
Having threatened extensively to go home to bed, I am persuaded to have one last drink. In fact, it’s more of a negotiation: Osh suggests a Jagermeister, I blanch, and compromise over a whisky. This one smells of oranges and peat (it actually does. It’s not just something I read on the bottle), but by now my whole body is rising up in rebellion against consuming any more alcohol.
At a little after 10, I slope off to my bed, having wondering if a glass of water can count as my last drink of the day.
What did I learn? Well, mainly that there’s nothing remotely discerning about drinking all day. But also that there are many wondrous things out there in the world of alcohol. I was left with the impression that the British pub is an under-used resource, full of excellent things that everyone ignores in favour of a cold glass of Pinot Grigio. It’s just that you don’t have to drink all those excellent things at once.
Huge thanks to Osh Rogers for looking after me all day at his wonderful pubs, The Thatched House and The Ship. And apologies for not getting quite as drunk as he hoped. He’ll have to find something else to bribe me with.