Everyday Drinking, Kingsley Amis

I joked with a family member who asked what I was going to read next that I hoped this was going to be a “how to” book. While it could conceivably be followed in some instances, Everyday Drinking is actually a collection of three smaller books that themselves were collections of the newspaper writings on alcohol by Kingsley Amis, more famous as the author of such novels as Lucky Jim and The Green Man, although it is pretty apparent from this book that he was more than familiar with the artistic merits of a couple of cocktails before and, especially, after the work day. This was a good addition to my growing library on bacchanalia, as it fulfills my rigorous requirements of (a) being more than just a recipe book (I have enough of those now, plus there’s always the Internet Cocktail Database) and (b) having a strong, personal, opinionated voice. Amis has the latter in spades, as he ranges between saying that drinking is always a subjective enterprise to lambasting the heathens who would mix something with a single-malt scotch (even Drambuie, as in the Rusty Nail, which is better suited to mixing with a blend, in both his and my entirely not-so-humble opinions).

Amis is clear that he’s a beer man with a taste for gin, and that while he has some expert and experience with other liquor and wine, that’s not where his heart lies. He does pretty well at covering the gamut, still, and as an intermediate wine drinker, I still found plenty to learn from him. These columns are somewhat dated, having been written mainly the in the late 70s and early 80s, as far as I can tell, but given that everything that once was old in cocktails is now new again, that’s not so much of a problem. Finally, I was happy to obtain from this at least one new drink that I’ve quickly grown to enjoy quite a lot: the “Pink Gin,” which is simply gin with a couple of dashes of Angostura (or other) bitters (I suggest serving it on the rocks if you don’t keep the gin in the freezer as I do). It’s a wonderful drink for those for whom adding ever the sight of the vermouth bottle to a martini reduces its dry nature; the bitters actually increases the dry quotient. Marvelous!

[Finished Jan. 2010]

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