Every season the Alderman’s three editors make a few informal drinking suggestions for the coming months. These aren’t supposed to be comprehensive, learned, or even reliable; they’re just private hints, thrown out casually with an affectation of drunken certainty. As for all the seasonal drinking pieces, this summer one is as much about an idea of the season as its actual character, meteorological and otherwise. So: heat, a Mediterranean sort of heat; food burnt over an open fire; thirst, terrible thirst; a sense of holiday, leisure and freedom.
Summer has set in with its usual severity1.
This is the first instalment of a three-part feature—it’s about refreshment, while the second is about reinforcement (including food) and the third is about carrying on, which is to say, drinking on.
Here’s some refreshment.
Hamilton’s summer refreshment
There are two things guaranteed to send the general public insane: too many bank holidays and too much sun. Add booze to that mix and you have bright red carcasses running around topless trying to light barbecues with petrol and high-proof rum.
We drink more booze during the summer than any other season, yep it even beats Christmas. The trouble is, the bigger breweries and supermarkets know this and that is why you can often buy 200 cans of lager for £2.30 (or something) during the summer. But what should the discerning drinker turn to in these summer months, what can quench the thirst of a thousand camels? These are my go-to drinks over the summer months.
The Bellis Nonsquam
I could drink gin and tonic all year round and I often do. However, thanks to the gin craze there are so many gins to choose from and not all of them are best suited to a drowning in tonic. The more subtle spiced flavours of Opihr are much more suited to pomegranate, it opens up the gin, which becomes much more refreshing. This is why I created the Bellis Nonsquam.
- 1 part Opihr Oriental Spiced Gin (or another dry spiced gin)
- 1 part grenadine
- top up with soda water
Shake the gin and grenadine over ice. Pour into a Tom Collins glass over ice and add a sprig of mint for garnish.
Booze hack—opening bottles without an opener
You may find yourself on the beach, in the garden, at your barbecue, with rows of gleaming bottles winking charmingly in your direction, and where are the openers? Your throat is already dry and it begins to close with panic … there is no opener. Here’s what you do.
Nicely refreshing beer
I do have to say that I’m becoming a little bored with the run of IPAs. There are too many brewers out there who will just throw in far too many hops to cover over the fact that they can’t brew. Then there are the brewers who know what they are doing and who will craft the malts and the hops in such a way that the resulting beer is in perfect balance and also pushing the boundaries of what beer can be. Fyne Ales have done this with their Nice IPA, a beer that uses wheat malt and a blend of hops, including one of my favourite New Zealand hops—Motueka. A medley of citrus peel (lemon, lime and grapefruit) is also added at the end of the boil to give a delicious aroma. They have a team of brewers at Fyne ales, each with different specialities, and I wonder if the experimenter Andrea Ladas had a hand in this one. He’s been a gypsy brewer across the world and is unassumingly very brilliant, certainly a brewer to watch.
Back to the resulting beer, well, it is “nice”, just enough zest to not be a zest bomb, straw and grassy hops, a long bitter/dry finish and above all it’s very refreshing; the only criticism is that one isn’t enough.
Fishman’s summer refreshment
Fresh, cool, clean and sprightly is what I want, and that means chilling, tartness, perhaps a lick of salt. Nothing too heavy or potent, not yet. For white wine, this usually means something with noticeable acidity, i.e. crispness. There are obvious candidates, such as Sauvignon Blanc, but then there are some less obvious, or at least less well-known (in the Anglophone world) alternatives. My recommendations start in Spain.
Spanish wine: effervescent or fortified, you choose
Txakoli (chak-oh-lee) is the effervescent wine of the Basques. That’s my standard line when uncorking a bottle for novices, said with an obnoxious flourish. I then try to pour it the traditional way, from a great height above the glass, which may or may not come off. Who cares? It’s delicious in a lightweight, not-too-strong, inconsequential sort of way. And refreshing: pleasing acidity, not too much body or alcohol, perhaps a whiff of sea brine, a little, a very little fizz in the mouth. People says it’s quaffable, gluggable or, if they can’t help themselves/work in advertising, deliciously more-ish. It also goes well with snacks, and indeed the Basques traditionally drink it with pintxos, which are much like tapas. Txakoli can also just about handle olives, which most wines can’t. The best match for olives, however, and a prime summer wine, is sherry.
Yes, sherry. Some of you will be thinking about drinking room temperature, slightly sweet cooking wine from an old bottle, just a little greasy–dusty, probably served by an elderly female relative, under a blazing sun, and wondering why. Then the sherry buffs and tapas bashers will be pant-pissingly eager to tell you that no, sherry is usually dry, very dry, and served chilled; it’s a great and moronically overlooked drink in the English-speaking world, for shame. ‘Medium’ sherry is a British thing, unknown in Jerez (sherry country). So there, etc.
A good dry sherry is delicate, with a pleasing asperity, and is beautifully refreshing. It has the necessary lightness and bite, while the Manzanilla famously also has a briny sea savour, or so it’s said. The dry styles should be served chilled, somewhere between fridge cold and cellar cool. This is the usual recommendation, though you can experiment to find your ideal, and vary according to whether you’re having it with food or to kill a hot and terrible thirst: Fino/Manzanilla: 7–9 ºC and dry Amontillado/Oloroso: 13 ºC . (There are other sherries, but let’s not worry about them now.) An ice bucket (with a mix of ice and water for greatest bottle contact) is the best way to add quick chill if you’re trying this out. Fino and Manzanilla are similarly light and well suited to drinking alone as an aperitif or with, say, olives, smoked almonds and simple tapas. For more substantial food something weightier like an Amontillado starts to come into the reckoning, while there is an increasing number of more complex aged Finos/Manzanillas. I quite enjoy drinking sherry from a copita glass, but you may want to ditch grandma’s schooner; some buffs now use a standard clear white wine glass to enjoy the full aroma and show some greater respect, and I don’t mind that at all, it does change the way you think about the sherry as you’re drinking it—this is a fine wine, not an oddity.
Note: sherry isn’t especially strong (typically 15–20%), but it is weirdly intoxicating and seems to bring on a drunkenness of its own. Further note: sherry is a fortified wine and while it won’t degrade as obviously as table wine after opening, it will degrade: open and drink within a week.
Not rosé, but refreshing
I was also going to say something about rosé, which is also perhaps neglected, or at least misunderstood—while it can be horrible, unctuous, soupsweet, it can also be finely dry, crisp and satisfying—but instead I’m going to push forward an alternative. At a recent tasting I was surprised to find myself enjoying a fruit beer. It’s from the new Zero Degrees bottled range and is based on a sour Berliner weisse beer, but is made with strawberries to take the edge off. This isn’t a beery beer, but it’s something good all the same. The sweetness and acidity of the fruit balance out the sourness of the beer to give it a nice balance, and it has an agreeable snappishness. This could be an alternative to pink fizz or a Kir Royale, perhaps.
If you’re especially thirsty and/or have some indifferent beer to work through, try adding ginger-beer to make a shandygaff, much nicer and more refreshing than a lemonade shandy. Note: ginger ale is too sweet and not spicy enough for the same effect.
I was introduced to Txakoli around a decade ago by my local merchant in Bristol, Corks, and recommend their current wine—Gaintza Txakoli 2013 at £11.99. Like most Txakoli you’ll find in the UK, US and the rest of the English-speaking world, it’s from the Getariako area (Denominación de Origen), but the fact is that you’re unlikely to be spoiled for choice, if you have any choice at all; just pick up what’s available and try some. If someone’s bothered to import a wine that’s not an obvious seller with a large existing following, then it’s probably decent.
I’d always recommend trying out your local merchant for advice, and if you’re not confident in buying sherry this is a good approach. My local merchant (did I already mention Corks?) has a really good selection of sherries that you won’t find in mainstream stores, while they’re good at fishing out what you like/want and matching it. They had all these sherries before sherry started to become slightly less desperately unfashionable. This, of course, makes me sound achingly hipsterish—hey, I liked sherry before it sold out, look at me—so I’ll try to make up for this by pointing out that the tide is turning and some fine sherries are increasingly widely available, and that one I really like—Hidalgo’s Pastrana Manzanilla Pasada—is now sold by a number of large UK retailers, as well as the Wine Society, who have carried it for years. Pasada-style wines have been barrel aged for greater weight and complexity, and this one is still fresh and lively in the Manzanilla style but it can also match food like an Amontillado. Versatile and delicious. It’s fine value at just over £10. In fact, sherry generally is superb value, or it will be until it becomes more popular.
Lewandowski’s summer refreshment
I’ve been researching the subject of refreshment. It went like this. We got with a sick tight clique and rented a beachfront house for the week of The Fourth. Well-seasoned confidants have arrived and filled the place with laughter, food, and booze. This is Summertime, USA, and refreshment is a top priority.
A wise man once said to me, well, something about the richness of a man’s life being directly influenced by the friends he chooses to keep. The data fit that hypothesis, as having a geeky cocktail maven buddy along for the ride this week has been fantastic. Serving as our own private mixologist out of the beach house kitchen, Alex immediately suggested the daiquiri when I charged him with the quest for refreshment. “The classic daiquiri is a near-perfect cocktail, and it is probably my very favorite. Especially at the beach.”
Fresh salt air and the ceaseless sound of waves crashing permeated the room as Alex mixed the first daiquiri, a basic model. Cruzan (lightly) aged rum, fresh squeezed lime juice, and simple syrup in an approximately 4:2:1 ratio were shaken with ice and served up with a lime wedge garnish. The culinary backdrop includes fresh, succulent fruits from local roadside stands, real boiled peanuts smuggled from south of South of the Border, and crispy fried chicken and East Carolina pulled pork—pit cooked with oak wood and dressed with hot and tangy pepper vinegar sauce—from Wilber’s on Highway 70 in Goldsboro. The tartness of the daiquiri is leveled by the sweetness of the sugar and rum (note: Cruzan brings a lot of value to this mix as a solid, if not a true white, rum that is readily available and affordable). The fruit and sugar match up well with the snacks of cherries, peaches and melon, and the acidic citrus cuts through the salty, fatty Southern cuisine. The daiquiri is pure refreshment in a cocktail glass, and I sipped mine while watching a father show his two-year-old son the finer points of playing a musical washtub bass as the sea breeze gently nudged the porch door ajar.
Later in the week the daiquiri was resurrected again, this time in lore. Alex told stories about a list of daiquiris at the famed El Floridita in Havana, Cuba, frequented by Ernest Hemingway in the 1930s. The menu was simply a list of numbered cocktails, and apparently La Floridita No. 3 was the preferred drink of Hemingway, and is sometimes referred to as the Hemingway Daiquiri. We constructed versions of the No. 3—essentially the standard daiquiri but with additional ingredients of fresh grapefruit juice and Luxardo maraschino liqueur. Some say Hemingway ordered these with extra booze in place of syrup, and so it might be that an extra-potent No. 3 sans sugar is in fact the true Hemingway Daiquiri. We tried one Ernest-style, and that variation might be a tad too tart and boozy to be a crowd-pleaser. But I can see what Hemingway was thinking. Luxardo is very sweet, like stirring in a stick of Juicy Fruit gum, and the sugar extracted from the flesh and pits of cherries is complex and a great addition to the classic daiquiri, with or without additional sweetness from sugar syrup.
Finally, we decided, we’re on vacation, let’s go all out. We mixed up another round of true (with syrup, sorry Ernest) Floridita No. 3, but this time we made them Cadillac. In place of the Cruzan we substituted an especially good dark rum, Diplomatico Reserva Exclusiva. This Venezuelan import delivered another, subtly distinct sweetness to the blend, but most striking were the vanilla notes ringing loud and clear throughout each mouthful of this potion. We’re calling the drink Ernest Hemingway’s Cadillac, and we wholeheartedly recommend you drive one to Refreshment Town this summer.
I have two more quick tips to file under refreshment.
The daiquiris described are familiar to cocktail aficionados, but when most Americans think daiquiri they imagine artificially colored yellow or red (strawberry) syrup machine-blended with crushed ice and booze (sometimes rum, but often vodka!). My wife is taking a 40-week hiatus from drink, but still enjoys summer refreshment, so I took inspiration from the frozen daiquiri. I filled a blender half with ice and half with handfuls of blueberries, strawberries and peaches; I omitted the bottled mixer and the booze. After a dozen quick pulses of the blades, a cocktail for my better half was in hand (and the remainder was quickly mixed with Cruzan and consumed by scavenging boozehounds).
Finally, I will never deny the refreshment value of an ice-cold, lowbrow, lawnmower-style beer on a scorching hot day. I’m talking about PBR cans, Coronita pony bottles, and Bud Heavies. Drink snobs, hold your noses up, but for each jaunt into the sand this clan requires a cooler packed with such simple pleasures. Because a cheap beer only becomes a refreshing Cold One if it is in fact ice cold, good form is a must. In packing the ice chest, always remember: case of beer on the bottom, ten pounds of ice on top. Never in the reverse order; this is simple thermodynamics, and it is non-negotiable.
Andy Hamilton, Paul Fishman and Jeff Lewandowski (Bristol and Washington, DC, June 2015)
Andy had his first alcoholic drink at eight and has never looked back. He now works as a freelance drunkard and does many booze related things to earn a crust. These include taking people out into the woods and teaching them how to make booze from wild plants, writing about booze in his books, the bestselling Booze for Free, his in-depth treatise on beer, Brewing Britain, and more recently the book he is working on, Wild Booze and Hedgerow Cocktails. He often writes for the Telegraph and occasionally for the Guardian. He’s also been know to help various establishments design their own signature drinks. Andy is known as one of the politest people in the drinks industry, he never swears and is always convivial and never an incompressible drunk. Honest. And he really is the editor at large for Alderman Lushington.
Jeff is a publishing professional by day. By moonlight he does baseball geek stuff and serves as US/Americas editor for Alderman Lushington. On Sunday mornings he wears a baseball player costume and seeks glory on the diamond. Jeff was born and raised in Massachusetts, but currently enjoys drink, drinkers and drinking near his home, about halfway between Baltimore and Washington, DC, and wherever else his travels take him.
1. S T Coleridge (quoted by Charles Lamb in a letter to Vincent Novello) ↩