Richard Ehrlich: My round

You probably never you knew how much you needed ready-made Irish coffee but don't let that put you off
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Indy Lifestyle Online

I'm late in reporting the first great technological revolution of the century: peanut-butter slabs. Scientists at Oklahoma State University spent three years trying to speed up the process of making a peanut-butter sandwich. Their solution: sell slabs of the stuff in individual plastic wrappers, like those you see on industrial cheese-oid products. Trials have begun at selected Wal-Marts in Oklahoma, and the scientists are hopeful. Who wouldn't be, in a country where scrambled eggs are sold in a tube "to eliminate utensils"?

The world of drink has few comparisons for this bizarre convenience-seeking. For a long time there were only powdered cocktail mixes, some of the most revolting products on earth. Now Marks & Spencer has Irish Perfection. For £4.99 you can have two 120ml glasses – complete with handles – of microwaveable Irish coffee. Pierce the lid, pop into the magic box for 45 seconds, stand for three minutes, and you're drinking the drink without the fuss of mixing it.

Irish coffee, as American wit Alex Levine points out, is the only drink that "provides in a single glass all four essential food groups – alcohol, caffeine, sugar and fat". Irish Perfection is a pretty good specimen but do we need it when Irish coffee is so easy to make? To wit: 150ml coffee, 5ml sugar, 50ml Irish whisky, 5-10ml double cream. Pour the hot coffee into a glass with a handle, dissolve the sugar, add the hard stuff. Hold a dessert spoon, rounded side up, over the glass. Pour the cream on to the spoon so it dribbles into the coffee gently. Easy.

The same cannot be said of mead, that other winter warmer par excellence. Mead is fermented honey-water with spices and other botanicals. I can see the point of a new product from Botanicals, the mini-chain with stores in London, Cambridge, Chester and Manchester. Their Czech-brewed meads are delicious drinks, with proper spiciness and a nicely rounded flavour. The Cinnamon version is especially tasty. At £6 for 250ml, they're not exactly cheap. But worth a pop in these cold winter months, if only for curiosity's sake. Ring 020 7637 1610 for stockist information or mail order.

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