By The Landlord
“Candy is dandy, but liquor is quicker.” – Ogden Nash
“No amount of physical contact could match the healing powers of a well-made cocktail.” – David Sedaris
“I’m on a whisky diet. I’ve lost three days already.” – Tommy Cooper
They are usually composed of disparate elements, sometimes complementary, sometimes clashing, but the best distill and mix these raw ingredients into a new, harmonised, stimulating, original experience. When you first encounter them, the effect may feel immediate, but they can later take on a different flavour, and the results can mature with time. Some are made with consummate skill and painstaking craft, others are simply whipped together with spontaneity and passion, and the their creative process can also involve performance, sometimes with great technique, others with an empty, pointless, showy flamboyance.
Are they works of art, or mass produced products? They have cultural associations, but also an international language. All of them are variously designed to engage, beguile, relax, stimulate, entertain, and sometimes seduce. That’s enough about songs of course, but we are also talking about cocktails, made up of a variety of hard liqueurs and all the accompanying mixers.
Whether they brandy, gin, whisky, rum, vodka, absinthe, rum, baijiu, tequila, pisco, mezcal and more, and all the combinations, these drinks, either neat, or in cocktails serve up highly colourful and potent detail into any song, and have all kinds of cultural associations. Is there any better way to get inebriated, I wonder? Old fashioned or Manhattan, anyone? What’s the difference? The former combines Bourbon or Rye whisky, Angostura Bitters and sugar, the latter adds sweet vermouth top with the Maraschino cherry on a stick.
Or perhaps you’d care for the Brazilian caipirinhia (cachaca, sugar and lime), Nicaragua’s El Macua (rum, guava and lemon and syrup), Ecuador’s Canelazo, dominated by cinnamon as well as sugar, brandy or rum?
Fancy a French kir royale made of creme to cassis and champagne?
Or a black or white Russian, which despite its main ingredient, from Russian vodka, is a speciality in in Belgium, with added coffee liqueur (sometimes with milk).
Perhaps we could travel to Italy, and take a bellini, made from from prosecco and apricot juice, or have some Spanish sangria, mixing wine and fruit juice.
Got a hangover? Then perhaps a Canadian Caesar might kill or cure with vodka, shellfish juice, chili sauce, celery and lime (perhaps this is an alternative to the Bloody Mary).
Turkish Raki? Doubly distillled grapes, anise and water.
Bermuda’s Dark’n’Stormy, it looks distrurbing, made rum and scalloped beer, a bit like the cloudy, coagulated effect of the Rusty Nail, made from Drambuie and Scotch whisky.
Or further afield, with the Ethiopian Tej, composed of wine, water honey and rhamnus prinoides, the shiny-leaf buckthorn.
Also coming up in song might be the Puerto Rican piña colada, made from rum, pineapple juice and coconut cream.
Shall we infuse and shake up our music with the Cuban mojito with rum, lime, sugar and mint? Or go down to Chile or Peru, and have Robin made from brandy, egg white, syrup and Angostura? Or down in Mexico, as well as Mezcal, there’s the non-alcholic palomas made of grape soda, lemon juice, carbonated water and sugar.
Or take a slow boat to a Singapore Sling with gin, cherry heering, benedictine, herbs, Cointreau, pineapple juice, lime and grape.
Beginning in New York, and going back the British Isles and Ireland of course we have all kinds of Irish and Scottish whiskies, a huge swell in gin production, and that most English summer of drinks, Pimms No 1, gin base with strawberries and cucumber and citrus fruit with lemonade.
Some cocktails however are beyond the norm. When you buy a decent cocktail you might expect to pay about £10. But the most expensive in the world may well cost you in excess of outrageous £10,000. The Winston, named after WInston Churchill, and contains 1858 Croizet cognac and a garnish that takes many hours to make. Don’t spill it, mate.
Then again you might fancy a bubble bath martini, complete with rubber duck:
Or a smoking Sabrinatini, nitrogen-infused orange vodka and watermelon liqueur? Or perhaps one that was created just for Grace Jones? Gigi’s cocktail at the bar of the same name in London, costing close to £9,000, it’s made of 1990 vintage Cristal, 1888 Samalens Vieille Relique Vintage Bas Armagnac, and a topping of gold leaf.
Or if you want something especially decorative, there’s the London-based Vietnamese Bahn Bao’s signature cocktail, the Jade Dragon Kiss, which uses pandan, banana liqueur, lime and rum alongside often Vietnamese flavours on the menu, from jackfruit, lotus tea infused vodka, and lychee martinis, and this very decorative presentation. Almost too good to drink?
Above all though, cocktails are an endless source, of indeed often saucy and colourful names to infuse into lyrics from the silly to the sexy. Slippery nipple, anyone? Bacon Me Angry (vodka)? Banana Hammock (rum)? Flirtini (vodka)? Friar Tuck (Frangelico)? Fuzzy Navel (peach schnapps)? Irish Cactus? Liquid Cocaine? Look Better Naked Margarita (tequila)? Mind Eraser? Slow Comfortable Screw? Satan's Whiskers (gin)? Snow Ball (brandy)? Wake the Dead or Zombie’s Brew?
But that’s enough from me. I now pass you over to this week’s industrious, illustrious and knowledgeable chief barman, Ravi, who will no doubt show special mixing skills and create something special from all the ingredients you provide into playlists with a special garnish. Place your cocktail and liquor songs in comments below for last orders at 11pm UK time on Monday, for playlists published on Wednesday. What’ll you have? Orders! Orders!
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