Friday, 30 March 2012

Vermouth: What's the point?

Well, I'll tell you.

Vermouth is classed as a fortified and aromatised wine. So according to the useful website, this means that it has been infused with botanicals to add flavour and colour, and also that the alcohol percentage of the wine has been increased by the addition of spirits. It’s a good way to improve bad wine.

I didn’t know what vermouth was until I started making cocktails, and found that it was used in quite a few (including the world famous Martini), though I had seen it in several Italian cookery recipes. Never though, had I heard of anyone actually drinking it. Apparently that does happen, and you can drink it over ice.

I’ve acquired a couple of bottles – one was brought over by my friend Dave for my first ever cocktail bonanza, and the other was a cheap one that I bought from Aldi for cooking. I had added them to a couple of cocktails, but recently I thought I’d try drinking them.

I understand from the very informative website I referenced earlier that the quality of your vermouth deteriorates pretty quickly, and I’m afraid I’ve had these two bottles for quite a while now, so I can’t pretend that they’re going to taste fresh and exactly as they should, but… I really like them. suggests you should use a vacuum pump to evacuate air from open bottles before storing, store the bottle in the fridge, keep it away from heat and light, and drink it quickly. I did none of those things, so it’s quite astonishing that I enjoyed them so much. Actually, I did drink them quite quickly, but only after they’d been opened and stored on top of the kitchen cupboard for months.

Neither appear to be premium brands, and information on the internet is limited-to-none. Vinelli is an Aldi product, and therefore its origins and pedigree are somewhat ambiguous, though it was awarded a ‘Gold – Best in Class’ award at the 2010 International Wine and Spirit Competition. Judging is blind, so that’s fairly encouraging.

The Castini does taste a little stale, but it’s very dry, while the Vinelli is very sweet. Both are refreshing, and on the strength of these I think I could find a place for vermouth in my psychological drinks cabinet.

There are times when I want a simple, refreshing [, alcoholic] drink but I don’t want a beer (or cider) and I don’t want to think about mixing things. Cocktails can be fun, but sometimes you don’t want to fanny about picking one and making it. And whisky is delicious, but sometimes you need something you can attack with big swigs.

I could imagine vermouth would be a good drink to accompany a meal so recently, as Brenda and I sat down for dinner at the Lake District’s The Swan Hotel and Spa – a pleasantly swanky and middle aged (in a good way) retreat – I had a flash of inspiration. Wine doesn’t interest me, and I didn’t fancy a beer (I’d just had one in our room), but I did want something quite refreshing, so I decided I’d put the hypothesis that you should be able to drink whatever you like, when you like and how you like to the test, and try ordering vermouth.

It was a fun little adventure. I asked for dry vermouth, over ice and the waitress immediately looked confused and carefully wrote down exactly what I’d said. Clearly I’d made an unusual request – a fact that became more apparent when the waitress returned a couple of minutes later to regrettably inform me that they didn’t have any “ver… mouth,” and would I like anything else.

No, that was ok. I couldn’t really think of anything else I wanted, though I was surprised they didn’t have any – what if someone ordered a martini? Life isn’t a Bond film and this isn’t Monte Carlo, so I guess it isn’t so common an occurrence as I grew up thinking it might be. Nevertheless, a few minutes after that the waitress returned holding a bottle of Noilly Prat - like when they show you the wine you selected. They didn’t know what it was, but they had Googled ‘vermouth’, and found that they did have some. Brenda and I were pleased to be able to commend them for their tenacity and customer service, and I got to act all knowledgeable, explaining what vermouth was – Brenda chimed in with, “it’s used to make a martini!” -  as well as feel a bit special since, with the help of the waitress, I had scored a victory for ordering what you want. Take that, wine!

Thinking back now, I suppose it would have been fun to have ordered another obscure drink, and then see how many drinks I could order that they didn’t have. I probably don’t know that many obscure drinks.

How was it? Well, it was enjoyable, and it didn’t taste much different from the Castini I had been drinking at home. I had been concerned about my Castini having deteriorated given that I’d had it for so long, but on this evidence the deterioration wasn’t that acute.

On the negative side, my drink was a lot smaller than it would have been if I’d poured it myself, but that’s always the way, I suppose. In terms of quantity it was probably equivalent to a double measure, and it came in a whisky glass (more of a tumbler, I suppose – not one of those whisky glasses that experts say you should drink from but no one has them and you can’t buy them anywhere…).

I like to put four or five ice cubes in a wine glass, and pour a generous measure – about the quantity of a nice glass of wine, so perhaps the next step is to be specific about how I want it – I could say, “three fingers of dry vermouth with ice – in a wine glass” or, “pour until you think you’ve poured too much, and then pour a little bit more.” Something like that.

Vermouth 101 states that in Europe vermouth is primarily thought of as a ‘standalone aperitif’, and is served neat, chilled or over ice in 2-3 oz servings – that’s 2-3 measures as far as I’m aware. To make things simpler, I could ask for 3 measures of vermouth with ice… but I think that might not be quite enough. Whatever. Will I actually be ordering vermouth again? I don’t know; time will tell.

When we got the bill the vermouth was £2.20, so that didn’t strike me as being too bad.

So vermouth: give it a try.

Now, since it’s Friday I’d just like to mention the weekend. I’d love this blog to be able to provide the kind of cutting edge reporting that keeps you abreast of new alcohol related developments and events but unfortunately I have a job… and this isn’t it, so I’m afraid I can’t quite be current enough in that regard. This weekend though, sees the return of the Ramsbottom Chocolate Festival.

What’s that got to do with alcohol? Well, nothing obvious, but a quick glance at the programme reveals a few alcohol and chocolate related curiosities including chocolate liqueurs and chocolate beer cocktails. I’m planning on taking Brenda if the weather’s nice and the boiler repairman arrives in good time on Saturday. I have a bit of a hankering for some beer, and could be in the market for fancy chocolate flavoured liqueurs. Hopefully I’ll be able to give you a debriefing of what goes on next week. If you’re in the Manchester/Bury area, take a look. You might see me there.

Wednesday, 21 March 2012

Booze Tourism Part 3 - Canada

Popular Canadian souvenirs - maple syrup, mountie stuff, smoked salmon.

Being Canadian but living in the UK, my fiancée Brenda has to alternate her Christmases - spending one with me and my family, and the next back in Canada with hers, so this year it was time to go back to Canada, and I had promised to go with her. It wouldn’t be the first time I’d been to Canada, but it would be my first Canadian Christmas, and my first visit since becoming a booze tourist.

On my first visit I’d made sure to bring back a bottle of Wild Turkey, because I wanted to feel like Hunter S. Thompson (some say he drank Chivas Regal, but from reading his books, I remember a lot of Wild Turkey…), but as I said; I wasn’t a booze tourist then.

Canada is a good place to be a booze tourist. They have lots of different varieties of beer, and they are well situated geographically to take advantage of imports of bourbon and Tennessee whiskies from the USA as well as tequila from Mexico and rum from the Caribbean. I like all of those varieties of liquor, but they wouldn’t be on my shopping list this time. I had already decided that I’d be sourcing some Canadian whisky, and I made sure I was fully prepared with some pre-trip internet research.

I’d just like to namecheck a couple of websites here that I found useful. The first is It focuses exclusively on Canadian Whisky and is filled with in depth reviews utilising a simple 5 star scoring system. The second is This site contains tons of reviews of different kinds of gin, rum, vodka, tequila and of course whisky, as well as having a list of cocktails, and serving suggestions for each spirit reviewed. I have no idea how this guy has had enough time to try all these drinks, but it’s quite a collection, and I can only assume he doesn’t have a wife telling him that he drinks too much. He has a much more complicated rating system than, but it certainly proved very useful for me.

Both these sites are valuable resources if you’re researching purchases for your next trip to Canada, and you’ll probably find the information on them far more useful than anything you’ll find on my blog, so go and check them out once you’ve finished reading this post.

I had tried some Canadian whiskies before, including Highwood and a couple of varieties of Canadian Club (thanks, Brenda!), but this time I was determined to be a bit more choosey. Visiting a liquor store was pretty much the only thing on my to do list for the trip, and I actually visited three or four before we left Calgary. They tended to stock (pretty much) the same stuff, so it was just a matter of finding the most competitive prices.

So where should you be focusing your attention when making purchases during a booze tourism adventure? Set your own rules here (because remember; there are no rules), but I like to look for something local, authentic/traditional, and something I can’t get at home.

I did quite well with my purchases on all those scores, though neither of my choices were local to Alberta (which is where Brenda’s family lives, and where my booze shopping took place) they are specifically Canadian.

Crown Royal is one of the most popular Canadian whiskies, so I decided to go for the Crown Royal Black, with is 5% stronger and a few dollars more expensive (but significantly cheaper than at . It is darker in colour than the standard, and the flavour is similar, but a little richer – I know because the future mother-in-law bought me a bottle of the standard Crown Royal for Christmas. That’s a nice whisky too, and probably the pick of all the bottles I have available at the time of writing. Crown Royal also comes in a nifty cloth bag, that I suppose serves to protect your liquor from sunlight if you haven’t got a cupboard to keep it in.

I’d decided to buy a second bottle to bring home with me, and for that one I went with Gibson’s Finest 12 Year Old. Again, this is the next step up from the normal Gibson’s, and it’s only available in Canada – I read that they can’t produce enough of it to export for some reason – maybe the Canadians drink a lot of it. This one has a very mild flavour compared to the Crown Royal. It’s sweet and pleasant, but not full-flavoured enough to dilute with ice.

The Crown Royal comes in a weird crown-shaped bottle, while the Gibson’s comes in a portly one, not dissimilar to the Bailey’s Irish Cream bottle in shape, though it is transparent so you can see how much is left – unlike Bailey’s where you’re always asking, “have I got enough left to make this cocktail?”  

There is one drawback with the Gibson’s – it has a screwcap with such a smooth action that it is almost impossible to resist spinning it off at high velocity. This almost always results in a series of fumbled catches leading to a frenzied chase around the kitchen floor – and if you’re extremely unlucky a foray into the furry depths beneath the fridge, or even having to pull the fridge out. Be warned; go easy on that cap.

Now, you’re only allowed to bring one 1.14l bottle of hard liquor back from Canada – that’s a good deal larger than a standard bottle, but not as big as two bottles, so if you do want to stick to your limits and you want to bring more than one variety home with you, you’re going to need a friend. I bought 75cl bottles. Brenda kindly offered to carry one for me. That still left me with two, but I was able to polish off the Crown Royal Black by New Year’s Day, thanks to a late night cigar/whisky-share deal I was able to arrange with someone we met at the Toronto wedding we’d been invited to on New Year’s Eve – though he was calling it ‘scotch’ for some reason. It seemed inappropriate to correct him.

 I’d opened it a week or so before so that Brenda’s brother Brian could try it (he was familiar with the standard Crown Royal, but likes to mix it with coke – still, it’s nice to share… and have an excuse to open a new bottle) and then I was able to dip into it from time to time in the evenings.

So given that the remaining bottles were 75cl that left us a little under the limit, even with the little Bruichladdich Rocks bottle (20cl) that Brian gave me. So it was a most successful trip. Not that anyone ever checks at Customs, but maybe they will one day.

I finished the Bruichladdich Rocks a couple of months after returning home, having been hanging on to the last drop for a while. I didn’t want to fritter it away willy-nilly because, even though it’s a blend of young single malts (6-8 years old), it had a complex flavour, and was one of the most interesting whiskies I’ve tried so far. It did tend to cause a slight burn on my tongue though, which is something I don’t notice very often, and is supposed to be the reason that real whisky experts add a drop or two of water. I still haven’t tried that, but I have heard that you can tell how aged a whisky is by where on your tongue it burns – young ones at the front, older further to the back.

I tried the standard Bruichladdich 10 year old recently on a recent visit to the Lake District and, while it was nice, I actually prefer the Rocks so far. It can take a few more drinks to really know what to think about a whisky though, and I only had one double. I think I’ll be investing in a full bottle the next time I’m in the market for a single malt - it’s among the contenders, anyway.

Canadian whisky is in nature very different to scotch. In my layman’s terms I’d say it tends to be sweeter and less complex but still enjoyable and worth getting your hands on.

I had been tempted to pick up some ice wine before returning home, but it’s fairly expensive, and my budget was worryingly stretched by that point, so I didn’t even pick up anything else in Duty Free. We get paid early in December, and my November wages was all gone on gifts, so December’s had to last 6 weeks. I don’t usually have to fit a two week holiday (and the necessary booze tourism that comes with it) into that equation, so I had to forego the ice wine.

Ice wine is made by leaving the grapes on the vine until sometime after the first frost, so that they freeze. Then they are pressed, making a sweet, syrupy wine that is very pleasant for sipping. The bottles are only half the size of normal wine bottles, but I recommend you give it a try - they were doing a nice German one in Aldi at a reasonable price a while ago, so there’s no excuse for not seeking one out - unless you’re ashamed to be seen in Aldi.

In Canada they have a huge fondness for beer. I’ve found that people will offer you a beer the moment you arrive at their house – even if it’s 10 in the morning. It seems that the general rule is: if beer is available, then it is acceptable to drink it. Most times 10am is even a little early for me, but it certainly is encouraging – especially when it’s your future mother-in-law. She stocked up on some cans for our stay – some Coors Lite (which isn’t light in alcohol compared to most British lager) and a selection of beers from the local Big Rock brewery, which we’d actually toured during our last visit. That had been the first time I’d ever visited a brewery, and I have to say: I don’t find information about how beer is made very interesting. Just get me to the tasting part, and the part where you can choose any six varieties to take home.

In general your Canadian beer is like a cross between lager and ale, so it’s perfectly drinkable and comes in a staggering number of varieties. It was nice to have my own private stash that I was expected to polish off during my stay – and the quantity was sufficient, so there wasn’t any awkwardness about drinking too much - which is ideal, because I wasn’t drinking too much. Good.

Frankly, to give a full impression of the drinking culture in Canada, I’d probably have to write a PhD, so that ain’t happening. I can tell you we had a pretty terrific time – without going into too many details about what we did (stick to the booze, stick to the booze) and I hope I’ve given you at least a little useful information should you be planning a trip there. Be sure to check out those websites if you do. I’m sure they’ll help you make the most of your Canadian booze tourism experience.

I’ll see you next time for some more general ruminations on booze and booze related products.

Friday, 16 March 2012

Booze Tourism Part 2 - Spain

So it's time for part 2 of my guide to Booze Tourism, where I relate tales of buying interesting booze souvenirs from foreign lands instead of the usual gift shop tat. This time I'll be looking at Spain, where in the past you might have bought a sombrero, a Barcelona shirt or a straw donkey.

Here we go...

In July of last year I was able to spend a week in San Javier, Spain playing golf and drinking with two friends (John and Chris), and this time I’d had chance to do a little booze research before heading out. I am already the relative you buy whisky for at Christmas, but on this holiday I became the person who brings the interesting booze to the party – in my own mind, at least.

As my targets I’d identified Cardinal Mendoza Solera Grand Reserva brandy (based on recommendations from and Licor 43 (or Cuarenta Y Tres). I actually found both the first time we went to the proper supermarket, and bought them immediately. I say ‘immediately’, it actually took an age for the stock boy to fetch the actual bottle of brandy to the checkout – it was one of those where you pick up an empty box, and the bottle is added later. I offered to let the people queuing behind us go first, but the staff didn’t seem to be able to deal with such maverick improvisation.

Now, I don’t actually know anything about the brandy, but it sure was nice. This blog isn’t about all the tiny details relating to a bottle of booze though, so if that’s what you’re looking for I’m sorry to disappoint you, though I am happy to point you in the direction of someone that can fulfil your requirements. On this occasion, a cursory internet search hasn’t yielded any information I’d consider interesting enough to tell you about so… yeah… sorry about that.

Between the three of us we drank the whole bottle comfortably before I needed to start thinking about how to pack my clothes and golf clubs without exceeding the weight limit again. We’d booked our flights assuming that if we selected the ‘golf clubs’ option we’d have no weight limit as long as everything was in the same bag. It turned out when we arrived at the airport that we were still only allowed 20kg – the same as everyone else. What had we paid extra for? No one at Monarch seemed to know. I was looking at paying £70 extra (£10 per kg), but by wearing a few extra layers and bunging some stuff in my hand luggage I managed to get it down to £20. Of course, the first thing they did when I returned to the check-in desk was weigh my hand luggage. It was an acceptable weight; just.

I made a careful plan for the way back, came in under weight, and though John was over, the staff at the Spanish end didn’t care anyway.

Back to the liquor though; Cardinal Mendoza Solera Gran Reserva is dark and sweet, and though I wasn’t sure I was going to enjoy it at first, any doubts were soon allayed and it made a pleasant companion for my afternoon shower and chilling on the balcony. Here’s a moody picture of the view from our balcony. That could have been at sunrise or senset. Not sure which. Lovely.

On one of the days I drove down to Granada to see Pablo – my first time driving on the er… wrong side of the road. It sure was fun when the SatNav sent me down a slip road before telling me to ‘turn around… when possible” and then gave up altogether on entry into Granada itself. The whole town was under renovation, and the roads didn’t make any sense.

Pablo, the most cheerful guy in the world, had stayed with Brenda and I for a month as a foreign language student, and I’d figured I’d better make an effort to visit while I was a mere 3 hour drive away. When I happened to mention that I’d bought some brandy, he said that brandy is for old people. I see. I’m not sure why brandy doesn’t have a cooler reputation – it’s stronger than beer, so logically it should be more revered among the young. Young people have a respect for you if you like whisky (or so I tell myself), so you’d think that respect would extend to brandy. Perhaps the flavour of brandy is easier to like, so it doesn’t give you the hardcore edge that whisky, vodka and tequila do. If you drink vodka or tequila neat, people think you’re a nutcase.

As for the Licor 43 – a liqueur so named because it is made from a secret combination of 43 herbs and spices – I had read that it’s nice over ice, or teamed with milk, lemonade or cola. Chris and I tried it over ice first (John wasn’t so interested) and Chris noticed it has an unusual appearance. I’ve tried to show it in a picture for you, but I’m not sure you can see. It’s like the melting ice and the liqueur are unable to mix, so they snuggle up against each other like germs in a petri dish.

The flavour’s a weird one, I don’t think I can describe it. It’s very sweet, and I don’t know if I’m tasting vanilla there – everything seems to taste of vanilla if you read reviews of spirits. I took more than half a bottle back home with me, and I can confirm, it adds an interesting twist if mixed with lemonade or cola (not so keen with milk)– so far it’s probably my favourite single item for making a soft drink slightly less soft since, unlike rum or whisky, I’d rather not drink it on its own, and at 31% alcohol it provides a happy medium between your full strength spirits and your half-strength liqueurs.

You can find suggestions for cocktails to make with Licor 43 on the website ( – or you could last time I looked [I had a look last night, and couldn’t really find anything useful].  I tried one of the simpler ones, but the best use I’ve found for this so far is the very first cocktail I have ever invented… and I’ll be posting about that at another time.

I was close to not getting a post up at all this week, but I’ve finally made it. I can’t say I have any special booze-related plans for the weekend, though I do have an idea for another cocktail that I’m going to try to put together tonight, and there’s something else I’ve been planning to do with The Devils Breath (see earlier post) for a while.. We’ll see how those go in a later post. Have a great weekend and a happy mother’s day, and I’ll probably be back next week.


Thursday, 8 March 2012

Pub Crawl Fallout

Last week I hit you with a post about the art of pub crawling in advance of my first planned pub crawl since Drink it How You Like it began. I realised over the weekend though, that there was something important I forgot to include in my basic guidelines – something that I actually fell foul of this weekend, and that luckily didn’t result in disaster; don’t drink too much on the night before your planned pub crawl.

This is a very easy mistake to make, since excitement can be running quite high as the weekend approaches. As I told you, I had planned to tackle the famous Didsbury Dozen on Saturday, and had selected an experienced and hardy crew. However, being that my fiancée Brenda, would be out of town from Friday it seemed necessary to go out for some drinks on Friday, too. So that led to a mini pub crawl of Manchester’s Oxford Road area. Being all excited, I drank far too much, and didn’t bother having any food, so it all resulted in a fairly severe hangover on Saturday morning. By the time my first group of friends arrived at 11.30 I wasn’t feeling much better and still looked like I’d just woken up, though I’d actually been up since 7 feeling that the house was too hot.

Now some people (future alcoholics) will say, ‘hair of the dog!’ because that’s supposed to work, and I did consider having a can of beer at 9am, but it’s a fine line. Yes, a fine line. So I’m here to tell you: you can’t rely on hair of the dog – it’s still a lottery. Your second drinking session might be a success, or it might turn out that you peaked a day too early, the beers aren’t going to go down nicely that day at all, and you’re going to be tired and grumpy and might carry a headache with you the whole way.

Luckily for me, this weekend the gods of beer were on my side. A couple of cans at my friend Chris’ house for the early afternoon match soon led to three pints of Directors and lunch at The Didsbury, and we were off. We didn’t visit 12 pubs, but given that we did visit 8, had 3 pints in the first one, and 2 cans beforehand, it transpired that we drank enough to have visited 12 pubs.

And we had two meals! This is an unprecedented development in pub crawling for me. I’m notorious for not wanting to eat once I’ve started drinking, but it is essential for prolonging the duration of your crawl. It is useful to have pubs on your route that do decent food so you can take care of the food requirement without taking a break from the drinking. It’s also great if it means you can get the beers brought to you for a couple of rounds instead of having to go to the bar.

The Didsbury is an ideal starting point if you’re intending on trying a dozen Didsbury pubs one day. It’s situated between Didsbury Village and Parrs Wood, so it’s pretty much the first pub in Didsbury (coming from the Stockport side). It has a decent reputation for food, and tends to be very popular on Sunday lunchtimes, but then so are most gastro-pubs in this country. I have to say, the rump steak I had was all right, but given the pub’s reputation, I expected something a bit better. Nevertheless, beer was first class - the Directors was going down very well, and I’m not a food blogger anyway.

I don’t remember the names of all the pubs we visited, but we kept the venues fairly old skool, so it was traditional [read: old man pubs] all the way really. Fletcher Moss was probably the best stocked bar in terms of spirits but generally we didn’t have too much trouble making our various selections. 

I think I took the award for most expensive round with £27.20 when some of us decided to have Sailor Jerrys and some Courvoisiers. I think Gav had the cheapest round - £11, when he stole the round I was in the process of buying at The Didsbury.

Along the way I unveiled The Devils Breath which you can read about in an earlier post, and it proved very popular. Then we almost started a food fight in the Four in Hand before good sense reasserted itself and we finally strayed over the border into Withington with a pub who’s name I can’t remember, but it had a proper tiled floor, and seemed to have been lifted directly from a mining town in the 50s. Nearly everyone was really impressed with that one. Paul declared, “This is brilliant!” (see how I’ve italicised the word ‘brilliant’ there, but left the exclamation mark un-italicised? That’s exactly how he said it).

So I can categorically declare: a good time was had by all. They were probably the two best pub crawls I’ve participated in for a long time, so it was a bonus that they came on consecutive days.

I’m afraid I don’t have any booze porn for you this week, but here’s a picture I found on my camera from the pub crawl on Friday night. I can only assume that’s me silhouetted in there. I probably won’t be able to post again until next week, so until then have fun, and enjoy yer booze.

Friday, 2 March 2012

The Art of the Pub Crawl

Since I learned to drink, I have favoured the pub crawl. Sitting in a bar all night just doesn’t do it for me. I always have to be on the move. Constantly moving maintains the momentum of a drinking session. It is constantly bringing you into contact with new sights, experiences and drinks.

Sometimes you might find yourself drinking with people who would rather stay where they are – because they have a seat – than go out and experience something else. You can always find another seat – maybe not in the next place, but you won’t be there long, so maybe the one after that. If it’s a seat you’re after, you may as well stay at home.

And anyway, it’s a fact: a pub crawl is more fun than sitting in a pub. And it’s more than just drinking. As I am about to show you… it is an art.

It’s not an art; it’s a science. Actually, it’s not a science either, but there are some useful things to know (not rules) for making a good pub crawl. Before I get into those (things, not rules), you should know there are two types of pub crawl. The first (and best) is the Impromptu Piss-up. In this scenario you take whoever you are with, wherever you are, and careen blithely from one pub to another, not a care in the world. You might even call more friends and invite them to join you. And they might. This is truly a beautiful experience, and sadly a rare one. It feels extra special because it’s like you’ve stolen it – this wasn’t supposed to be happening! But it is! Let’s ride this crazy train for as long as it lasts! The Impromptu Piss-up, as its name suggests, requires absolutely no planning.

The other kind of pub crawl does need planning, and also a little bit of technical experience. These are the things you need to know. First you need to invite some dedicated drinkers, people who aren’t afraid to step up to the plate and stay there. People who are ready. You need to make sure they know this is a pub crawl.

Second you need a focus. This can be a theme if you like, but it doesn’t involve dressing up (though you can do that, if you want). More specifically, it should be an area that you intend to drink in, a starting point and an end point with pubs in between that you will drink in, or a selection of pubs with something in common. This could be something as inane as pubs with beer gardens, rock pubs, pubs with an animal in the name, rough pubs – use your imagination. Make sure you have this in your mind before you start, or you may spend too much time not going anywhere, just trying to think of somewhere to go next. Try to visit at least a few pubs that you haven’t been to before.

Third; start early. Any time before 6pm is fine, but earlier is better (noon for the hardcore). There is no feeling to equal the glow you get after a few early afternoon pints when the world’s shining bright and you still have a long way to go.

The final guideline is keep everyone together, but keep moving. The larger the group, the harder it is to synchronise people’s drinking. This is fine, but you need to make sure that people are ready to leave at the same time. This means communication. Make sure people know when you are approaching time to move on. Make sure they know that they need to have finished their drinks by this time. If you’re a fast drinker, and they’re a long way behind, it is acceptable for you to get another drink, but you need to make sure that they don’t – otherwise the cycle will repeat and you’ll never move on. If you do get a second drink, you need to make sure you finish it when everyone else finishes their first. And away you go.

Repeat that last one until it’s time to go home… or for a curry.

That’s it really. It requires a bit of discipline and a strong leader. It helps if you’ve developed a pub crawl team – a crack core of veterans that you’ve done this with before. You should make that your mission.

I got my pub crawl stripes in the Quayside area of Newcastle on Saturday afternoons in the late 90s. A group of us would meet at the Haymarket at noon, walk down to the Head of Steam and begin. Stops along the way included The Bridge Hotel (where I swore I had the best ever pint of John Smith’s), The Cooperage, The Red House, Bonded Warehouse (or Bondage Whorehouse, as we called it) and any others we fancied along the way. Just before 8pm we’d call into Flynn’s to get some cocktails and vodka jellies before happy hour finished, and then we’d be very drunk. 

I don’t remember too much of what would happen after that; we might go up into other parts of town for more drinks, or go to a club, or the Student’s Union, or a party. We had stamina in those days, and we were young enough to laugh in the face of hangovers; we rarely got them. 

I know I won’t see days like those anymore, but I try now to have a pub crawl once a month, just to recapture that glow, to feel young and carefree again.

This weekend sees the first pub crawl since Drink it How You Like it began, and having struggled with crawler’s block (that can happen after you’ve survived a large number of pub crawls in a town) my friends and I have decided to keep it simple; we’ll be doing the famous “Didsbury Dozen” – but in our own way. We may visit 12 pubs or we may not, but it will most likely finish with a curry. If I have anything interesting to say about it, I’ll fill you in next week. Until then, have a great weekend.