The Alderman isn’t much of a rule-monger at any time, and as for carrying on, well, “This is Liberty Hall, you can spit on the mat and call the cat a bastard”. There are only a few guiding principles and these are so vague or obvious that they’re useless or redundant. We don’t mind: as we said in the first seasonal piece, 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.
Non-rule 1. Be ballasted already. (See reinforcement.) If you haven’t eaten, be careful. Note that in the first hour you absorb alcohol more quickly, your stomach lining hasn’t yet reacted, so the unballasted drinker should be especially wary. Short of ballasting yourself quickly—as you should—take emergency measures. None of these really work, of course. In Everyday Drinking, Kingsley Amis runs through some, starting with lining your stomach:
There is a great deal of folklore about taking some olive oil or milk before joining the party. This will indeed retard absorption of alcohol … but it will all get to you in the end. Do not, in any case, overdo the fatty prelude. An acquaintance of mine, led astray by quantitative thinking, once started the evening with a tumbler of olive oil, following this with a dozen or so whiskies. These, after a couple of hours of nibbling at the film of mucilage supposedly lining his stomach, finally broke through in a body and laid him on the floor of the saloon bar of the Metropole Hotel, Swansea.
This may or may not be true, but in the end there’s no substitute for food: eat something early, you’ll have a happier, longer, more satisfying drunk. You’re less likely to weep or be sick. You may feel better the next day.
Non-rule 2. Listen to the mental and bodily signals being thrown out within. The changes of mood, appetite, taste.
Non-rule 3. This may be an extension of #2. Some drinkers will sink, say, pint after pint of beer with steady, unvarying application. The Alderman salutes them; admires them; wishes them well. However, he likes to let the dogs off the lead and let them nose around a little. This is your chance to explore, invent, drink some fine and terrible things.
Hamilton’s carrying on
I can remember sitting in a very ornate tea shop in southern France. Relaxing with a cup of white tea. Not the white tea we have in England, you understand, the stuff made with tea shavings stuffed into a bleached teabag and drenched with cow’s milk. No, I mean Silver Needle or Bai Mudan. The high-quality refreshing stuff that has more phytonutrients than its cheaper relatives, green and black tea. It also makes its drinkers better people. A couple walked in, he looked rather ridiculous in his white socks, ill-fitting pale shorts and huge hat that may have been robbed from an Victorian elephant hunter’s grave. She, at least, had some idea of dress and wore a half-decent Chanel dress. They were both what might be considered ridiculously posh in some circles and ridiculously English and stuffy in others.
I cringed when she asked for “White tea, and I mean with milk, young man”. Before loudly whispering to her deaf husband that the waiter, who spoke better English than I did, wouldn’t have understood. She sat for the next five minutes twitching and complaining about what she was about receive.
I might not speak much French, or any other language for that matter. But when abroad I do at least like to try something that is a little more exotic than usual. On that afternoon a tea cocktail was right up my street, okay, not French, and not really that exotic, but at least it wasn’t PG-fucking-Tips with milk. And that was how I came to start drinking this fine cocktail. A drink that one can have in quantity, one that doesn’t have the hit of a Martini or the slow burn of a Manhattan. Indeed, this is Session Juice, the cocktail equivalent of a pint of Foster’s. Only with far more finesse and, of course, flavour.
Rosemary Cynar Iced Tea for two (a.k.a. Session Juice for Gentlefolk, twice)
For the iced green tea:
250 ml/1 US cup water
1 heaped teaspoon of green tea leaves/1 green tea bag
1 sprig of rosemary
For the cocktails:
80ml/3 oz Cynar
5 dashes grapefruit bitters
2 tea cups of chilled green tea (250ml/one mug/one US cup)
garnish of pink grapefruit peel (optional)
Make yourself a nice pot of green tea, ideally the water should be just off the boil to avoid scorching the leaves. Also add the rosemary sprig. Brew your tea for about 2–3 minutes before straining or removing the tea bags. Let it cool to room temp then cool further in the fridge. Stir all the ingredients except the grapefruit together in a tea cup, then add the grapefruit as a garnish.
Fishman’s carrying on
My model for this is an eleven-hour summer lunch I enjoyed in the English spa town of Harrogate about fifteen years ago. There was wine (red, white and sparkling, by the glass and in bottles); ice cream cocktails (recipe here); liqueur coffees; bottles of lager with espresso on the side; Bloody Marys; stout; every classic lime-bearing cocktail; bottle after bottle of fizzy water (with fizz it seems to freshen the mouth more from the clagging liquorish stew); port; brandy; gin—it went on and on. It felt as if we could drink endlessly at the same level, hilarious, companionable, not over-emphatic. From time to time we would congratulate ourselves on our wisdom and artistry; this is how adults drink, if they know what they’re about.
It was an illusion, of course; it’s always an illusion. Sometimes it isn’t blown until the next day, but for us it happened when we stood up to leave. It was a big place and the exit suddenly seemed distant and strangely elusive. We must have looked like an elderly, shaky-legged, arthritic couple playing blind man’s buff in the near dark—the lights had been turned down and we were the last patrons—clutching at and kicking against chairs, working our way to the door. But it had been a beautiful illusion and we enjoyed it.
Here’s a couple of old illusion-fostering friends, both mixed drinks. They stand up fairly regularly for a certain drinking moment. Most pubs and bars can offer at least a basic version, while being able to supply a decent Bloody Mary is often a signature of a decent place; spit and sawdust establishments can often surprise with all the proper makings.
The Dark and Stormy
It’s unlikely to win you a long, low whistle of appreciation from a cocktail bartender (mixologist), but it has virtue. The lime and ginger are livening and mouth-cleansing; the rum adds intoxicating ballast; bitters, if you use them, give a rousing little nip. It’s a good one for the jaded palate and it’s adaptable: mix it strong and it’ll lift you, use a bit more ginger beer and it’ll help you stay where you are for a while.
My standard would be (roughly):
- 1 part dark rum (Gosling’s Black Seal is the classic, being Bermudan and good; I also like a spiced rum—Foursquare from Barbados is very good, not overly sweet, and with complementary cinnamon, vanilla and nutmeg)
- 2 parts ginger beer (it must be a good, spicy ginger beer; ale is insipid and over-sweet)
- fresh lime to taste; give it a good measure
- Angostura bitters (or similar); a few drops (optional)
Aside: the D&S was probably invented by the Royal Navy, in the course of its long marriage to rum. It’s also said to be the national drink of Bermuda. Does the name come from the notoriously awful opening to Bulwer-Lytton’s novel, Paul Clifford?
It was a dark and stormy night; the rain fell in torrents — except at occasional intervals, when it was checked by a violent gust of wind which swept up the streets (for it is in London that our scene lies), rattling along the housetops, and fiercely agitating the scanty flame of the lamps that struggled against the darkness.
The drink’s name isn’t the only legacy: the annual Bulwer-Lytton Prize is awarded for terrible novel opening lines.
The Bloody Mary
Many people say they don’t like tomato juice; well, neither do I, just like I don’t like eating raw, unseasoned pork—cook it up and see what happens. The BM is profoundly satisfying: savoury, sweet, acidic, salty, spicy, hot and almost infinitely supportive of variation. It offers lift and fortification; refreshment and reinforcement. Sometimes it’s just the thing when you sicken of beer.
The bare minimum is vodka, tomato juice, Worcestershire sauce and hot sauce, usually Tabasco. Sometimes you’re offered Worcester and not hot sauce; forget it. Without the heat, it’s sickly. There’s much else you can add, to the point of absurdity. Here’s something between my ideal and my standard:
- 1 part vodka (it’s not a vehicle for good vodka, the heat masks it; use whatever)
- 2–3 parts tomato juice
- good squeeze of fresh lemon
- Worcestershire sauce (to taste; be cautious, you can always add more)
- Tabasco (to taste; see above, I generally like it fairly hot)
- celery salt
- black pepper
- small slug of dry sherry (not in most recipes, but an accepted variation)
- lemon slice
If you can, shake it over ice and strain into an old fashioned glass with two or three ice cubes and then season with the salt and pepper and add the slice. Stirring it is hardly a disaster and you’ll probably be doing that yourself with a swizzle stick in many places. A little horseradish (in addition to, not instead of) the Tabasco or other hot sauce is a variation I much like, while I don’t mind the now commonplace celery stick, so long as it’s not half a yard long. Hemingway preferred lime over lemon and cayenne pepper over Tabasco; Kingsley Amis added both ketchup and orange juice, swearing that ketchup was the secret of the thing. It’s always been messed about with, which is one of the things I like; it’s not a delicate flower and you can make it (and the D&S) on the fly, while a little elevated or inspired. None of this excuses the sober excesses of hipster bars and restaurants, mind.
Finally, if you’re in funds and doing the thing fancy, for post-reinforcement try Boal (a.k.a. Bual) Madeira, lightly chilled—Barbeito is the one to drink. Boal Madeira is sweet, but not very sweet (Malmsey is the sweetest), while unlike many makers Barbeito doesn’t artificially sweeten or de-acidify its wines, which means they’re especially clean, fresh and balanced. Dessert wine, cool, refreshing port alternative or just damned fine drinking. If you’re on a boat, try chilling your Madeira navy-style by tying it with a slender rope and dangling it underwater.
Lewandowski’s carrying on
Summer days are the longest, and some call for carrying on beyond the refreshment and reinforcement phases of the drinking session narrative. Some of these days are fantastically fun todays, followed by quite lousy tomorrows. Far be it from me to declare that hangovers are entirely bad; some people appreciate them as part of the experience, or believe that the only way to truly realize moderation is to occasionally feel the pain brought on by having overdone it a bit. That said, responsible adults should know how to enjoy extended moments of voting for the Alderman3 without flushing time, productivity, etc, down the toilet for days to follow. To enhance your skills in inebriation, I offer some advice for carrying on in the summer todays with a mind towards alleviating the suffering tomorrows.
In the summertime when the weather is hot, dehydration is always the enemy. Consumption of alcohol will accelerate dehydration and while it is always a good idea to drink water in the heat, this is especially important where the Alderman is concerned. On long, muggy nights of drinking it is commonly recommended to alternate between alcoholic beverages and glasses of water. Easier said than done, I admit, but “drink water” is the first and most general rule of thumb for summer carrying on.
Experience has also taught me to avoid certain types of drink when carrying on in a long session. Wine is fine and dandy for refreshment and reinforcement purposes, but I recommend avoiding it after dark when drink is flowing very freely. The same goes for draught beer. No doubt, in this age of innovative brews there is some wonderful stuff on tap, but enjoy one for pleasure or with your meal, rather than in copious volume across a long night. For hard alcohol, it is probably a good idea to opt for white or lighter colored alcohols, rather than brown liquor, such as whiskey or barrel-aged anything. Why? Well, without getting too technical, it is safe to say that the aforementioned varieties of drink contain chemicals other than ethanol and water, and some of those agents can be responsible for escalating a minor caught-in-limbo headache into one of Dante’s nastier circles of hell. No, I do not always follow this, my own advice, but when I do I find it to be sound.
One last general guideline is to do with sugar: avoid it. This overlaps a bit with the tips above, as sugar is indeed a component of wine, beer and whiskey that potentially wreaks extra, unwelcome havoc on the body of the drinker.
Given all this wisdom, and understanding it is difficult to remember to gulp enough glasses of water during sessions of drinking, what is the perfect drink for carrying on? I suggest the Vodka Soda. Fill a pint glass—or Dixie cup, if you find yourself poolside—with ice, add a shot of vodka, top with seltzer, and garnish with a twist or citrus slab of your choice. There is magic in its simplicity. Vodka, like water, is supposed to be colorless, odorless, and flavorless, and so no, the Vodka Soda is not the most exciting or tasty drink known to man. But it can do a drinker’s body good, or at least less harm than other options. Water of two sorts—frozen and carbonated—makes up most of the volume of the cocktail, and helps to keep a drinker hydrated whilst in action. Vodka is essentially a 40% (by volume) ethanol solution, and thus contains very little sugar and few extraneous chemicals. The Vodka Soda is no nonsense, all business. If your summertime business is carrying on via Vodka Sodas, business is good.
I asked longtime friend, barroom vet, and Alderman contributor Rob Vetere for his thoughts on the Vodka Soda, and he offered this: “Definitely clean. Limited hangover, low calorie and carbs, which is good if you are having 15+ drinks. Like any real man would.” I consider that expert advice congruent to the tips I offer above (but with greater economy of words). Rob made another good point—that flavor is important, even if you are “drinking primarily for drunkenness4”. He elaborated by expressing, in his unique voice, distaste for my recommended cocktail: “Vodka Soda is like drinking witch hazel with bubbles.”
My beach vacation has been a theme in this series, and so I’ll continue with another story from my trip to Carolina Beach. For one week, the Ocean Grill and Tiki Bar became my local. Offering good food and drink, friendly and tolerant staff and a great playlist of music on the box, the tiki bar on the pier jutting out over the Atlantic was the perfect spot. “Do a lot of people walking along the beach discover this place, get drunk, then jump in the ocean and swim home?” I asked the staff in jest5. The kind and gentle souls even pretended to think I was funny.
One evening at the tiki bar I spotted, amidst the array of liquors, a solitary bottle of Aperol. It was unopened and I asked what it was for. No one had a clue. Could I have some? Yes. With the concept of the Vodka Soda in mind, but a charge for more flavor in my heart, I invented a new cocktail6. I asked for this: fill a cup with ice, add a shot of Espolon Blanco Tequila (a very nice white tequila for cocktails, and a good value), add half that amount of Aperol, top with soda, and finish with a twist of lime. A lovely woman behind the bar did just this, and so it was born. Aperol is great, and the bitter orange flavor of the aperitif plays against the Espolon Blanco like triple sec acts in a Margarita. The difference is that the complexity of the tequila shines through, rather than being muted by the sweetness of orange liqueur and the saccharine lime-flavored mixers commonly used in tiki bar concoctions. Functionally, the drink has the hefty aqueous component necessary to keep dehydration at bay, and a hint of lime to keep off the scurvy. Satisfied and proud, I bought a round of the novel elixir for my friends. It was unanimous: this is good drink … but it needed a moniker. We all carried on for a bit until finally I insisted we call it the Stasiu, which is a Polish analog for Stanley. We enjoyed naming a cocktail composed of Mexican tequila and Italian aperitif after an imaginary Polish old man, and we carried on, and on, and on, deep into the summer night.
Andy Hamilton, Paul Fishman and Jeff Lewandowski (Bristol and Washington, DC, July 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.
Image credits: ‘Chinese tea utensils’, Gary Stevens, Wikimedia Commons (CC BY-SA 2.0); ‘Dark n Stormy’, Mad City Bastard, Wikimedia Commons (CC BY-SA 2.0); ‘The best Bloody Mary in the world’, Trilbeee, Wikimedia Commons (public domain).
1. I am confident that this joke was born from my own mind, but, like country song chord progressions, it is likely that very few truly new jokes have been invented recently. ↩
2. It is advisable not to take everything I say too seriously. I do not advocate overconsumption of alcohol. References available upon request. ↩
3. Drinking. It’s slang, if you haven’t read the about page yet. ↩
4. A synonym for “carrying on”? ↩
5. Don’t do this, it was a joke. ↩
6. Like jokes and country songs, new cocktails may no longer be possible to invent. After this experience I took to Google and found this very similar concoction, the Aperol Tequila Swizzle, in the very first listed link. ↩