The sun bid farewell to the Acropolis’ marble and lay her head down behind the ripples of the Mediterranean far out of view. For the longest trice, the Parthenon is plunged into darkness, suffocating under its weight, before a warm supplicating glow from lamps mirrors the sun’s downward rays of day. Basking at the base of this majesty I recline into a willow chair. The night is on the bluer side of cool but the towering heater allows me to keep my jacket open. Tearing my eyes from the waxy columns I rest them on the class in front of me. A wide tumbler with descending pearls of condensation. Leaning out of the opening, propped up by ice and lime quarters, is a scion of mint, the Mojito’s signature trimming. My fingers wince as they grip the cutting freeze of the phial. The elevation brings the Acropolis back into view as my lips cradle the curvature of the glass. I close my eyes for a second, not to detract my senses from the concoction in hand, before my face contorts and I nearly blow the contents of my sip across the next two tables!
I love Mojitos! So much so that I will happily brave a request for one amidst the most stalwart beer and ale drinkers in my native north west of England. Brushing off slanderous challenges to my sexuality with ambivalence. The drink is simple majesty:
-Pure Lime Juice
-Mint leaves + Sprig to garnish
Rum is a personal favourite anyway, who couldn’t adore a drink essentially made from sugar? This is then sweetened with slightly more sugar and skewered mercilessly with lime. Roll it all together in a fuzzy duvet of modest club soda, delicately flavour with mint and you’re left with the most refreshing cocktail in any weather! You can even substitute the mint and lime for nearly any berry if you’re so inclined, that’s its beauty! Make it your own drastically different blend with the flurry of a berry or two. The only thing you need to keep in mind is balance. Something woefully neglected by the juvenile jester swaggering between the tables around me, desperately hoping to catch the attention of the disinterested, seated Greek goddesses. Can’t blame him for that but I certainly can for the drink!
I’m no connoisseur by any means – I failed drastically in taste tests at the Bols Museum Tour in Amsterdam and I wouldn’t know a Merlot from a marlin nine times out of ten – but this doesn’t stop me appreciating what I like!
Today the notion of appreciating alcohol seems antiquated. The very prospect often brings to mind ideas of ‘connoisseurship’ – perish the thought! GQ’s admirable attempts to make cocktails ‘cool’ again with their Grey Goose Celebrity bars tend to do the very opposite for the ‘common man’ sadly. Admiration of alcohol seems to reside in two, strangely opposing, fields: Pompous Wino’s with the noses of bloodhounds and portly Ale-drinkers who consider the garnish of every good drink to be a ‘good pie’. Far from criticizing either, I embrace their love of libation! They treat a tipple in the same way most treat a meal. They think about it, they vary their order according to what they ‘feel like’ rather than just sticking with ‘the usual,’ and they aren’t afraid of puritan reprimands.
Between today and America’s strange bout with sanity during their ‘prohibition’ days lies a golden age of refreshment. Writers like Wodehouse (in his later days) Fleming and Amis all glorified grape and grain alike. They treated alcohol with the savour and respect which is its due. Fermentation, filtration and fusing are complicated science which was respected for just that! Drinking in the twenty-first century comes with the benefit of understanding its true negative effects on our countenance. However, even smokers – whose vice is in its death-throws in Western Europe and even starting to grumble in the Mediterranean – have shaken off the shackles of fear and developed more of a sense of appreciation for their brand than drinkers do today! Anybody who has ever seen an alcoholic advertisement knows the slogan – adopted by all in the face of mutual liability avoidance – “Drink Responsibly” I would load that vernacular with further meaning. If you’re going to put it in your system, make sure it’s worth the damage!
In Fleming’s Thunderball, Felix Leiter pulls the bartender over to his table and gives him a stern lesson in cocktail making from an aficionado who has been short-changed on the amount of gin present in his glass. Even without the language barrier it would be difficult to apprehend my barman for being over generous. I contemplate if there really is such thing as ‘too much of a good thing’ as I take another fire-breathing sip. Yes, yes there is! I’ll stick to the ouzo from now on.