Ask the Alderman. A barbecue Q&A

The Alderman’s editors consider a few thoughtful seasonal questions from readers.

When one is in charge of the barbecue, with the pressurised task of creating a variety of succulent delicacies, what must one drink to stay hydrated yet sufficiently inebriated amid the smoke and flames?

Answer 1. With all the smells and smoke around a barbecue there is no point opting for something light like a Pilsner or a delicate white wine or rosé, I think a good glass of stout does the job. Might seem a little heavy in the hot weather, but many good stouts go amazingly well with red meat. Yesterday I was eating baby ribs with a pint of Wild Beer Jambo; at 8.5% it wasn’t a session drink, but it did the job. AH

Answer 2. A white wine spritzer (see below) has just enough booze to keep you topped up, is refreshing and at least seems hydrating. Similarly, shandygaff (beer/ginger beer) isn’t too intoxicating and, being spicy, is so refreshing it almost hurts. Taking a different tack, there’s something about a negroni that goes with fire and smoke, while it’s strength and bitterness mean it usually won’t be thrown down; a few thoughtful sips during barbecue supervision is the Platonic ideal. Plus, as the ice melts it becomes easier to drink and more refreshing; it even has a goddamn narrative arc. In my experience, fizz and very cold white wine are the most dangerous barbecuing drinks: you get hot; you refresh yourself frequently and hardly notice; you let everything go to hell. PF

Which wine tastes best from a plastic beaker?

Answer 1. What you really need to do to get the best flavour is to leave a little bit of water in the bottom of your beakers and then put them away in the shed for a year. When you attempt to wash out the mould, use a very strongly scented washing-up liquid and a very abrasive sponge just to get the flavour into the very pores of your vessels. Once clean, leave them in the sun so that half-baked plastic flavour really comes to the fore. Then you can put absolutely anything you like into the beakers and it will all taste the same. AH

Answer 2Lachryma Christi (‘tears of Christ’), as only the merciful son of God could feel pity and not anger at this state of affairs. PF

What do I drink with a cheap, burnt, charcoaled burger that could easily be mistaken for a lump of hard soot?

Answer 1. The theory goes something like this… For rare meat, you want a dry, savoury red wine, Chianti would do a job for a nicely cooked burger, but for something well done a little more sweetness is called for; perhaps a grenache (a.k.a. garnacha), alone or blended for a bit more bite. Similar principles apply for beer. In reality, of course, this burger is likely to be buried underneath whatever condiments happen to be available to mask its hideousness, together with some ‘salad’, adding all sorts of flavour variables. Plus you’re probably (1) a bit drunker than you should be before eating; (2) desperate; and (3) unlikely to have much choice. So fuck it. PF

Answer 2. Can you still buy Kestrel Super Strength? AH

Whenever I have a barbecue I’m always left with other people’s booze that I don’t fancy, e.g. supermarket sauvignon blanc and mysterious brands of cider that I never see at any other time and never see anyone drinking. What should I do with them?

Answer 1. I have a re-gifting wine rack. Just try and make sure you can remember who bought it. Sometimes I use them to make my own vermouth and have found that a rosé wine makes an excellent base. AH

Answer 2. As it’s crisp, i.e. has plenty of acidity, sauvignon blanc makes a good spritzer. It doesn’t matter if it’s not much good. I like to add a few dashes of orange bitters to pep spritzers up. Use the cider to marinate and/or cook pork. PF

I like barbecuing pineapple and banana for dessert. What liquor would you marinate them in before putting them on the fire?

Answer. Dark rum, preferably spiced rum. You can add, say, cinnamon bark, cloves, vanilla and sugar, if required. Serve with coconut ice cream and you have a goddamn piña colada, except better.

At what point in the evening is it acceptable to drink a bottle or can from the tepid paddling pool?

Answer 1. That depends whether you mean taking a bottle or can from the pool and then drinking it, or drinking a bottle or can while in the pool. PF

Answer 2. It’s subjective. For some people it’ll never be acceptable, and for other people it’ll always be acceptable. AH

My greatest fear is having to resort to cannibalism. What wine would you choose to accompany ‘long pig’?

Answer. Generally pork and its cousins go with fuller whites and lighter reds, but it also depends on the cut; the fattier it is, the more you need some refreshing tannin and acidity. Plus barbecued meat often needs something with a little edge. An Alsatian riesling or a cabernet franc from the Loire might answer, or perhaps a cool, high-altitude Argentinian pinot noir. PF

Is it permitted to drink cider?

Answer. If you’re eating long pig, aye.

Beer or wine with me sossies?

Answer 1. Beer every time. Beers are far more complex than any wine, think of using them as seasoning for your sausages. AH

Answer 2. Depends on the sausage—and the drinker. Either is fine. Definitely beer with frankfurters, though. PF

Why are barbecues usually so shit?

Answer 1. The glib answer is ‘Because you’re there, you glum dog,’ but really it’s because barbecues are generally occasions, like weddings, not fine dining; good food and drink are welcome, but not essential. Drink-wise, the one thing that would improve many of them is getting things the right temperature. If you’re the host, get a huge bucket or bin from a hardware store, garden centre or whatnot and add a lot of cold water and ice. Water is as important as ice to make maximum contact with the bottles. Keep the vessel in the shade. Fill it with bottles, and give even the red wine a quick spell in there to keep it under 20ºC. If you’re a guest, ballast yourself before you go unless you’re sure you’ll get something edible before you let yourself down badly. And bring ice and pre-chilled booze. PF

Answer 2. They’re not, just get pissed and join in you miserable sod. AH

Andy Hamilton and Paul Fishman (Bristol and Windermere, June 2018)

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 known 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