Ask the Alderman. A festive Q&A

If you really want to chill your wine, make sure there's water as well as ice in the bucket. Credit: Pixabay.

The Alderman’s editors consider a few thoughtful seasonal questions from readers. Regrettably, they were too busy carousing to answer them in a timely fashion. Merry Christmas that was, and happy New Year to come.

I recently injured my leg playing sport and am concerned that it will affect my mobility over the festive period. It is fair to say that I have been lying awake at night worrying about traversing busy bars and public houses whilst hobbling and holding a drink. Can you suggest a strategy and/or suitable drinks to meet this unfortunate situation?

Answer 1. You need to get yourself a mobility scooter and attach a kangaroo catcher to the front to barge people out of the way. You can also attach a small mobile bar to the back so that you are never without a drink.

Answer 2. When I was at sea the old salts always used to say “keep one hand for the ship”, meaning always have a free hand available to steady yourself when the vessel lurches. So only carry one drink at a time and take a carrying companion to the bar when buying a round. For good measure, try not to hold a full glass, for example, buy a half and ask for it in a pint glass or drink whisky in a large tumbler. Also avoid wearing a white shirt as the cuffs may soon be awash in staining liquor.

What to drink with a Wetherspoon’s Meal Deal?

Answer 1. Now this really is a great question and it will depend on the meal deal. If you are buying something with substandard chicken, then I would plump for a substandard lager, something like a Carlsberg would be very good. The beef will need something that helps soak up the leather flavour, a very acidic red wine will do the job and there should be no problem getting that. But what I tend to do is push the food aside and plump for a double gin and tonic.

Answer 2. When in Rome… Drink the strongest lager and the blandest bitter. Or drink cold Guinness, which is barely perceptible taste-wise and almost infinitely adaptable. The food all tastes more or less the same, so don’t worry on that score. Note that at this busy time it’s all about serving quickly, so the only important thing is to order decisively, out of consideration for staff and fellow customers—unless you’re peeved, in which case ask them about their specials, change your order at least twice and add extra people to your round every time they tot up on the till.

I have a colleague who woke up after the office Christmas party in bed with his secretary. Somehow his wife found out about this and has thrown him out of the house. My question—what would be a suitable bottle to turn up on her doorstep with to “console” her?

Answer 1. As you’re an Alderman reader, we assume you’re a gentleman/lady and that your quotation marks are self-deprecating rather than ironic and indicative of some sort of predatory intent. Mostly we don’t rate comfort drinking, booze makes bad medicine and comfort eating is generally better; how about sending round îles flottantes? Here are some recipes for you. Having said that, Prosecco is generally the comfort drink of choice now and is relatively benign if a little unoriginal. Alternatively, you could send a case of rare and ancient claret, almost past its best, to symbolise the dignity and fragility of life, and to hint that even the best of things come to an end in this world.

Answer 2. This is indeed a tricky situation. I assume that you mean to console the wife and not the secretary? If this is the case, then I would plump for the most expensive bottle of wine that you have in your cellar AND a bottle of the most expensive Champagne you can afford. I’d also be prepared to have these both poured over your head. You may then wish to repeat the exercise for the next few weeks.

Is there a modern, more grown-up alternative to Buck’s Fizz (for those that don’t really like orange juice)? Also what would you recommend to drink to try and forget when you’ve made a fool of yourself at the office bash (not that I have ever done that of course)? Thanks!

Answer 1. Actually, this is a quick one … use clementine juice instead. As for the office bash—Special Brew, you won’t remember a thing!

Answer 2. The Negroni Sbagliato (the ‘bungled Negroni’) is Buck’s Fizz for our times. (It’s said that a barman invented it accidentally by reaching for the wrong bottle.) One part Campari, one part sweet vermouth and one or two parts sparkling wine. Being bittersweet but fizzy–festive, it’s also apt for times of cheerful regret.

If you were as wealthy as I am—which, from the look of your photographs, is extremely unlikely—what Christmas present would you buy yourself?

We suggest that you watch some hip-hop videos for gift ideas.

Please explain the difference between a sharpener and a livener. I fear I may be in need of both.

A livener should restore your animal spirits, while a sharpener is intended to bring your wits/intellect to a fine point. There is considerable overlap. Also see: restorative.

A thoughtful neighbour has given me a delightful Christmas flower arrangement that he stole from Asda. I feel I should reciprocate. He is a cheap cider enthusiast, the stronger the better, but there are so many to choose from! Which is best?

Thanks for writing in. You are correct that there are many to choose from and you could actually take this opportunity to try to educate him by giving him real Somerset cider. It might be a percentage point or two lower than the usual 9% that he is accustomed to, but nonetheless a sufficient dose will certainly get him to a level of drunkenness that will have him nicking all sorts of shit from ASDA—something that we neither recommend nor condone. I’d suggest Wilcox Farmhouse Cider, which is just 6%, but you can always applejack it by freezing and discarding the ice. Alcohol has a higher freezing temperature than water and so the cider will become more concentrated. Alas, the classic White Lightning is no longer made.

By New Year’s Eve I’ll have drunk several gallons of festive Prosecco. What can I do with it when it comes around again on the last day of the year?

You may want something with a keener edge to it after all the sweetness and stodge of Christmas, so why not make it into a Negroni Sbagliato (see above)? As a general point, given that a lot of Prosecco is slightly sweet and doesn’t have much backbone, mixing it can be iffy; many cocktails will be too sweet or lacking in snap if you use it instead of Champagne or whatnot, so have a care. You could also drink it while boring on about how Franciacorta (fran-cha-kor-tah) is the real Italian equivalent to Champagne, mixing your Prosecco with a sense of superiority rather than liquor.

Feel free to ask the Alderman a question any time. There’s a contact form on the About page, while you can also tug at his sleeve via Twitter and Facebook. #askalderman

Andy Hamilton and Paul Fishman (Bristol, December 2015)

Gin in the morningAndy 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.

Twitter: @andyrhamilton Website: The Other Andy Hamilton

Fishman-bucketPaul is a freelance writer, editor and all-round ink-slinger; he’s also the managing editor of Alderman Lushington.

Website: Twitter: @fishmandeville