Monday, 21 December 2009

How to Drink

No, I wouldn't have thought any of us really required instructions on how to tip more alcohol down our ever more lubricated gullets at this time of year, but there is a small book that's been sat on my shelves for a few months that is worth a read.

A few days ago I was mooching round the various book repositories in the house trying to find something stimulating and light to read with breakfast - I had in mind a light, zabaglione-style read to counter-act the serious, weighty steamed pudding that is the never-ending 2666 by Roberto Bolano.

Ok strange choice for breakfast but go with me here. Victoria Moore's How to Drink was serialised in the Guardian during the summer, so you may have seen some extracts. It completely gripped my imagination. Funnily enough, she's not actually a heavy drinker - she doesn't even like drinking during the day, so my first thought of a meeting of minds with a female Hemingway was pretty sharply blown away. (I must just add in here, my incredulity at her stance on daytime drinking extends only to this time of year or perhaps a serious lunch... I don't actually sit here sipping vodka out of bone china cups all day long).

How to Drink is a light, refreshing guide on all things quaffable, both alcoholic and virgin, if you will. She doesn't aim to reel off reams of off-puttingly - ironically - dry information on terroirs, chateaux, peat bogs and potatoes, but you sense her learning is worn lightly throughout chapters on Breakfast & Brunch; Spring; Summer; Autumn; Winter; and Year-round show-stoppers - an eminently sensible format, I feel, as you know exactly where to turn for inspiration on what it is exactly you feel like drinking at any given time of year.

Some of it is a little counter-intuitive; for example, she does extol the virtues of rosé in winter for a cheery pick-me-up, providing you look for something with 'a bit more red in its cheeks.' For my part, I was completely smitten after the Christmas lunch. Picture the scene: we have feasted the whole day long and drunk like said Hemingway on a mission with a croissant and a glass of Bucks Fizz (which I have to confess I still don't like) at breakfast; canapés in the form of tiny hot sausage rolls and drunken devils on horseback at 12:30 with a bottle of Louis Roederer, then the afore-mentioned smidge of dessert wine and a bottle of 1998 Pauillac with the meal and another smidge of a light Spanish dessert wine with the pudding. We are grossly sated, sitting on the sofa, sipping water and waiting for Strictly... I can barely contemplate more of anything but around 7:30, once everything had gone down a bit, I felt like a bit of a pick-me-up, something cold and light. And then I read this:

'Kir, and why it's far superior to kir royale

[...] Kir is the real thing; a cool glass of white wine which might be a little astringent on its own, but to whose limpid acidity the liqueur adds a lick of heat, and the relief of some sweetness. Taking a sip should feel like standing on a frozen lake on a clear day so raw the wine stings your cheekbones and having someone put a blackcurrant pastille in your mouth.'

Just the very thing, I thought. Bracing is just what is required. So I made two with a splash of cassis and a sauvignon blanc and just 1 ice cube and it was so exactly, inspirationally right after the rich, heavy meal. Genius.
Can't recommend it highly enough.
PS: Utterly unrelated but I have just seen my first feral green parakeet, emerald green against the snow. What's even more extraordinary as how every other bird, even our fat wood pigeons, scarpered beforehand. I prefer the robins.

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