I don't believe anyone who says they have given up alcohol as one of their New Year resolutions. What's the point?
I don't believe anyone who says they have given up alcohol as one of their New Year resolutions. What's the point? Before Christmas was the time to do it, when the weight loss that comes of abstaining from the fattening "empty" calories in booze actually helps (particularly when winching oneself into a little black dress). In January, when flab is hidden in polo-necks and heavy opaque tights, and when the continuing lack of sunlight brings suicidal tendencies, that's when we really all need a good strong drink.
Cocktails always enliven the spirits (in both senses of the word). It's something to do with the care and attention in the preparation of a blended drink. Pouring a pint doesn't require quite the same dedication – and although we're seeing a burgeoning attempt to revive the good old boozer, the fact that they're necking Sea Breezes and Cosmopolitans on Coronation Street and EastEnders (actually, I don't watch them so it might not be true, but certainly on Hollyoaks and Sex and the City) means we've become a cocktail generation.
Of course, there are cocktails and there's cock-ups. There are some concoctions that just aren't meant for human consumption. And by this I mean, really, drinks made with those flavoured vodkas.
When the first bottles of Absolut Citron hit Britain, the idea of a clean, clear spirit with a funky, potent taste was novel, and most welcome. It's still a good idea, and I can just about see the point of Kurant, too. What I take exception to is the flavouring of vodka with all this other muck. For instance, at the country-wide chain of Revolution bars, one can now sample vodka flavoured with chocolate orange, coconut, glacier mint, banana, or chilli. There's actually a cocktail made of these ingredients: liquid tiramisu, Stolichnaya with Kahlua, Frangelico hazelnut liqueur, butterscotch schnapps, a double espresso, ice-cold milk and cream. Yes, that's all of them, in one glass. I can imagine that combination of flavours (without alcohol) appealing to a seven-year-old, but frankly, it's not something that James Bond would order, is it?
And that's who should be our cocktail inspiration. His choice, a classic vodka martini (and I'm not going to get into the shaken/stirred argument here), is thankfully enjoying something of a renaissance among certain older drinkers (I mean above 21). Men can order it in the myriad "lounge bars" now on every high street and not feel like a plank; women can get a welcome change from drinks that taste like Fruit Pastilles or Bounty bars. There's just one drawback – a vodka martini (two spirits, no mixers, an olive if you want to be fussy) is unbelievably strong. One is enough to rev the engines, more than three is unwise. Then again, stopping at two drinks does help with that other New Year's resolution, to spend less.