Now more than ever, in these horribly unsettled times of microbial menace, people are looking for Truth. People are looking for Answers. People are looking for Hope. Should you find yourself likewise longing for such reassurances, I commend to you The Savoy Cocktail Book. I cannot think of another volume so abundantly full of truth, answers and hope as that one. Entrust yourself to its wisdom, respect its strictures and follow its instructions and I promise you, dear reader, it will help you and all of us to Get Through This Thing.
Personally, I have never understood the stigma attached to drinking alone at home. If nothing else, it is much to be preferred to drinking alone in public. Undertaken with a modest degree of restraint, drinking alone at home may even be a point of departure on a valuable personal journey that combines both intellectual and hedonistic aspects.
Certainly this is so if you make the drinks yourself. By ¡®drinks¡¯ in this context I mean proper cocktails, not something you merely decant from an uncorked bottle into a glass or crack open with a calloused monkey-thumb and unload directly down the hatch. The act of making the drink is the big difference. It is the difference between ripping open a box of Mr Kipling¡¯s French Fancies and gobbling them all up from a standing position with an open hand to catch some of the crumbs and setting aside an entire afternoon to bake a tarte tatin from scratch.
I suspect there is a combination of impulses at play here, involving curiosity and competitiveness. ¡®Why the heck shouldn¡¯t I be able to make a Hanky Panky as good as Ada Coleman¡¯s original, or a White Lady as good as Harry Craddock¡¯s?¡¯ (See pages 80 and 175 of The Savoy Cocktail Book respectively.) And indeed there is no reason, on the face of it, why you shouldn¡¯t be able to perform those miracles ¨C even if the likelihood is that you won¡¯t. The project is basically doomed. But that¡¯s not to say it isn¡¯t worthwhile.
a good cocktail is always more than the sum of its constituent parts
Doomed because, though making a cocktail isn¡¯t rocket science, actually, it sort of is. Doomed, too, because a good cocktail is always more than the sum of its constituent parts. When you knock back a tasty little something or other in the American Bar at The Savoy you are, in an obscure but fundamental sense, swallowing not just a few well-mixed and elegantly presented liquid ingredients but the entire room along with it, a scene, a situation, a century or so¡¯s worth of other people¡¯s tipsy stories that preceded your own order.
And yet the home-cocktail-making project remains entirely worthwhile because your inevitable failures will not only sharpen your appreciation of the skills of genuine bartenders who know what they¡¯re doing but will also teach you more than any number of episodes of MasterChef about ingredients, techniques, flavour combinations, balance and other essential principles of connoisseurship that, whether you realise it or not, will subtly but significantly enhance the pleasure you take in every drop of decent hooch that passes your lips ever after.
In short, there is an awful lot to be said for drinking alone at home.
And so, for now, in the temporary absence of any other option, I invite you to join me in remotely raising a glass to the prospect of raising yet other glasses, in other places, places cheerfully crowded with friends and strangers, absolutely as soon as possible.
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