I don’t really own many books on boozing. I do have a copy of Everyday Drinking: The Distilled Kingsley Amis, and a few books by the god of home-brew, C J J Berry himself, but on the whole, my bookshelves are mostly dominated by sci-fi and pop-science.
When I was contacted asking if I would like a copy of How to Drink at Christmas by Victoria Moore, I was a little hesitant, simply because I had visions of it being one of these niche books that simply gathers dust on the shelf forever more. However, I did a little research on the title and though I would give it a go.
Victoria Moore is currently the Telegraph’s wine writer and has written for the BBC, Daily Mail and Guardian.
The book is presented in traditional festive colours (red white and gold) and is a small-format hardback that will fit in a large pocket. It may be a cliché, but let’s not judge a book by its cover.
With section headings like “Ice Freakery”, “Drinks for Drivers” and “A Sip of Something by the Fire”, there are some intriguing entries.
The various sections relevant to making a G&T (not only a part on making the G&T, but choice of tonic, choice of gin and getting the best from your ice and fruit) are succinct and well constructed. There is no preaching about your gin:tonic ratios or other dogmatic tripe that you sometimes find thrown around; there seems to be an underlying recognition that everyone’s tastes vary and this is a pattern that is reflected throughout the whole book.
There is also a refreshing pragmatism threading the book that opines things like supermarket own-label bottles where the quality of a spirit isn’t going to be a big factor, and packets of frozen fruit from the supermarket freezer shelves.
The book is dotted with fascinating facts and I certainly learned a thing or two in the reading; I now know more about champagne and brandy, and have an appreciation of the frightening toll that counterfeit vodka has on the poorer populace of Russia (an estimated 42,000 deaths per year!).
The presented spectrum of winter cocktails is a good mix of the traditionally clichéd (the snowball and eggnog) right through to off-beat pick-me-ups for those moments when you need a break from the feasting (for example, the Rosemary and Lemon Infusion).
Many of the cocktail recipes are broken down into drinks for “small numbers” and “larger parties” in an elegant recognition that the number of guests can often dictate how much effort you can put into serving drinks. There is also a section on “drinks for drivers” which not only focuses on keeping them sober, but also not making them stand out like sore thumbs.
The section on Christmas Day not only presents some great advice about choosing the right beverage for your food, but challenges some of the traditional pairings, like port & stilton, and smoked salmon & champagne.
All-in-all, I am a pleased that I accepted a copy of How to Drink at Christmas and I can definitely see it influencing my choice of beverages in the run-up to Christmas.