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Sophisticated cocktail, beer bomb or retro spirit – what does your choice of tipple reveal about you? Find out if you’re acting true to type…
Words: Nina Caplan
Illustrations: Jode Thompson
Under 30? Female? Chances are you are often to be found in Soho dives with neon signs, ‘happy hour’ sandwich boards and interiors so dark that the first person to pass out ends up buried under a disorderly pile of tripped-up fellow drinkers. (This is a good way to meet people.)
You’re drinking Long Island iced tea: as you and your hen-night friends all know, it is medically proven that you don’t get a hangover from drinking clear alcohol, even of different types (vodka, gin, Tequila, white rum) in industrial quantities. The reverse will be proven in the morning, but who wants to think about that tonight?
A LIIT looks like Coke and tastes like Coke with a squeeze of lime – there’s definitely no tea in it – which makes it very easy to forget about the assorted kinds of giggle juice it contains, drink 10 of them and wake up in bed with men whose names you have also forgotten. That, presumably, is what they do on Long Island.
You, my friend, like to lurk in the kind of pub that paints its walls black and serves up bad bands with the warm beer, thus considerately saving the clientele the bother of having to talk to each other (or, God forbid, to women).
You drink depth charges – where you drop a shot of whisky into a pint of beer – because they’re fun, like a form of alcoholic Pooh-sticks. In fact, you would go further and class downing DCs as a sporting activity, what with the race to get your shot into the pint glass first and the heroic struggle to ingest the contents rather than soak the beermat with them. You and your mates would be on the Olympic team. Bring it on!
And let’s not forget the name – what boy doesn’t wish that his office was a submarine and his day job involved blowing things up underwater?
Rum was invented by immigrants to the Caribbean so desperate for booze that they fermented whatever was nearest to hand. You know how they must have felt: if computers – or better yet, bosses – could be boiled up and converted to alcohol you’d give it a go, although the result would probably be too sour for you: that’s why you like rum, especially combined with cream and pineapple.
You’re too young to remember the 1980s, so to you, they’re cool: all bright colours and sugary drinks, like a Caribbean holiday, only less expensive. If you must drink this side of the Atlantic, your hang-out of choice is a flashy bar in a City skyscraper, with a view even sharper than the furniture, and prices that would have bought you a holiday back when piña coladas were in style.
Not that you care; when you’ve got a retro drink and 35 floors between you and the office – looking down on your employer – now, that’s progress.
You were last seen in the kind of achingly trendy East London bar that thinks it’s a Prohibition-era speakeasy, socking back straight gin made palatable by a droplet of vermouth, a weird-shaped glass and an Italian name.
The thirtysomething man drinks a martini because it’s a real man’s drink: none of that nonsense with mixers or fruit: if it isn’t at least 45% proof, it’s not invited to your party. Also, women have a pleasing – or is it crazy? –tendency to view the male martini drinker as sophisticated. Which you are, in a post-Bond, ironic kind of way.
In fact, maybe your cutting-edge appeal does hark back to the Prohibition era: back then, with a see-through drink, you’d have spotted the arrival of the police or Al Capone that bit quicker. Although, given that your glass is packing more units of alcohol than a machine-gun does bullets, that might not have helped you much.
You hang out in eye-wateringly expensive hotel bars. Because you CAN. And because you have learned, by now, that too much of a good time on a Saturday evening will ruin the rest of your weekend, no matter what colour drink you order, and these places give you big olives, pretzels and peanuts, free. (Well, free in a ‘you get a hell of a lot of peanuts for the mark-up on an £18 cocktail’ kind of way.)
Actually, these days, your good time is pink: you started drinking cosmopolitans back in your thirties, when Sex and the City made them the career girl’s tipple of choice, and got addicted: this is the best of New York in a glass, a perfectly balanced combination of vodka, Cointreau and cranberry juice. The cosmopolitan, as its name suggests, has strength, sweetness and sophistication – a bit like you, at long last.
You drink Manhattans in the kind of bar – brown walls, cigar humidor, perhaps a stuffed animal head, and a serious barman not up for dirty jokes, sports talk or late-night fake chummery – that reassures you that there is nothing effeminate in your decision to go for cocktails.
Beer is too fattening, and bitter experience has shown you that straight whisky is an error. Even if you stick to single malt, three hours of sipping will leave you with a grumpy wallet, a grumpier wife and a brain that feels like someone has scrumpled it up and thrown it in the recycling. Add sweet vermouth and bitters, though, and you get something very different: a soothing drink with a po-faced sourness that reminds you of the bartender and, like him, does the job quietly and effectively.
Whether it’s the sweetness, the alcohol or the price, cocktails just don’t do it for you. This frees you up to hang out in one of those female-friendly designer chain bars: long tables, good lighting, chips with mayo or paprika, glasses big enough to avoid much hanging around at the bar – or at least to ensure that by about the second time you do totter up there, you’re too pie-eyed to do much more than grin at the barman and wave the empty bottle.
This is where you used to come for Chardonnay; these days, it’s Sauvignon Blanc, which you don’t actually like as much (and you wouldn’t dare suggest Pinot Grigio), but it’s what everyone is ordering, so you roll with it. Sometimes literally.
You – surprise, surprise – drink beer. Not just normal beer, although you consume that too – but that’s all about the quantity, and with you, it’s quality that really counts.
So you visit smart gastropubs with names like Cask or Craft, where gourmet Scotch eggs are served on manly wooden boards, and quaff India Pale Ale, or oak-aged wheat ferments, or beer that’s mermaid-brewed by the light of a pink moon in its third quarter and finished in a rum barrel. Then, you compare what you’re getting with the tasting notes – ‘a lick of toffee with a smidgen of spice and a hint of straw’ – and start up a book club-type debate with your companions (‘the orange peel has got to be satirical...’). Secret: you like bitter, too, but you don’t order it much. You might be mistaken for a CAMRA crazy who has mislaid his beard.
This feature was published in the spring 2013 issue of Square Meal Lifestyle.