Sunday, 15 December 2013

We need to talk about New Year

Well, we’ve had a couple of posts about Christmas, so I suppose the least I can do is follow them up with a post about New Year’s Eve – the climax of the Christmas period, and traditionally the time that everyone goes out all at once and gets pissed up. Then, when it’s all over, I can just get on with blogging about booze, and never mention these two events again. And that will be lovely.

It drives me mad how everything stops at this time of year, and just concedes defeat to the relentless tide that is all things festive. Music stops, and is replaced by the same Christmas songs you hear every year. Restaurants stop, and run Christmas menus where everything’s turkey, salmon, cranberry sauces and stuffing. TV stops and all you get is shit festive specials and repeats of The Vicar of Dibley.

It’s ridiculous really, because you have all that fuss, all that build up… and then it’s just over and it’s January. It’s like waking up from a long dream where everyone’s acting over-enthusiastic, and during which someone has been force feeding you chocolate, party treats and alcohol. You wipe the sleep from your eyes and go, “what the fuck was all that about?"

So, New Year, the biggest anti-climax known to man. You’re supposed to go out and have a great time, but I’ve been thinking, and I can’t think of a single great New Year’s Eve. I probably need to stop before I get on to moaning about how everywhere is too crowded, taxis are too expensive, you have to buy a ticket in advance to get into a bar, and that means you have to stay in that bar all night, and that’s shit because I hate staying in one place… but! I don’t know what all the fuss is about. Everyone seems to think that working on New Year’s Eve entitles them to being paid double or even triple time. It shouldn’t really, because they’re not really even missing out on anything. At least if you’re working, you don’t have to worry about how you’re going to celebrate.

One year when we lived in Didsbury, we got the bus into town on new year, and for some reason the bus company (Finglands) had decided to instil a policy of ‘whatever your journey, £3’. That was a bit steep, considering you could get a weekly pass for £2 in those days.

It proved to be really annoying too, because it took every single customer along the route by surprise – and obviously the closer to town people lived, the less value they were getting for their money. They all got on, thinking they were going to get a bargain trip into town, but when greeted with ‘wherever you get on, wherever you’re going, it’s 3 quid’, they didn’t know what to do. And this happened at every stop, so you’d have to wait an age while they deliberated: “what? £3?”

On or off!

Getting into town took forever – literally of course.

The best New Year that was entirely booze-fuelled, and on which I actually went out, was probably the millennium. I know; it should have been an anti-climax, and I suppose it was in a way… I hadn’t even made any plans to go out – in fact, I was planning to stay in with the parents and watch the final episode of the Das Boot TV series.

Instead of that, I got a phone call at the 11th hour from my friend Pits. Somehow he hadn’t got anything to do, and we decided he’d come over to the sprawling metropolis that is Wath-upon-Dearne, and we’d go out looking for trouble.

Dad; VCR on standy. Don’t forget to record Das Boot. I want to make sure them Jerrys are drowned good and proper…

It was a weird night, because you needed tickets to get in everywhere – even at all the local pubs. We tried one in Swinton, but the bouncer asked for our tickets, and we pretended we’d left them at home, and would just pop back to get them.

Next we tried a pub down Wath. There wasn’t anyone on the door, so with Pits being the fearless blagger that he is, we just went in. We managed one drink before we were rumbled and thrown out.

Finally we found a pub in the centre of Wath that wasn’t working on an all-ticket basis. It was like walking into an episode of The League of Gentlemen. There were only about four people in there, and they were all older than time, but nevertheless, they were delighted to see us. The prices were pretty good, too.

I can’t remember much of what we did, but a very old painted-faced lady insisted on kissing us as we left – in that wet way that only grannies have.

So, yes, that is the best going out New Year’s Eve I can remember. Pretty sad, really. Your best bet in my opinion, is to go to a house party. Or even better, host one. You just need to make sure you plan it far enough in advance, and hope enough people think it’s going to be good enough to go to.

Last year we were planning to go for a meal with some friends. It was something like £60 each, but you get all champagne and that. Unfortunately our friends were completely skint, so just ended up going round theirs.

This year the decision has been taken out of our hands, since we’ll be in Canada over the festive period, and our flight back is on New Year’s Day, so we’ll just be hanging out with Mrs Cake’s family.

Well, I’m not here to tell you what to do or where to go, but wherever you end up going or not going, whatever you end up doing, have a good one, and try to stay out of trouble, eh?

That’s me for this year, then. I won’t be able to post now until the beginning of January, so look out for that. I’m thinking of starting with a brief nod to three Spirits of the Year, though that could well change before then. I also thought about doing a little look ahead to what you can expect from me next year, but I tried that and it wasn’t interesting. That’s not to say next year won’t be interesting! It will. Seriously! I’m sure there will be some booze tourism adventures and I’ll always think of a new experiment to carry out or something new to investigate – as a taster, I’m particularly looking forward to finding out which standard supermarket blended scotch is the best. So if you’re going to make a new year’s resolution, make it to come back and visit my blog a bit more often. It’ll be easier and better than quitting smoking. So I’ll see you soon then, yeh? Good. Take it easy. Oh, and happy new year.

Sunday, 8 December 2013

Day Drunk

Continuing the theme of Christmas related posts, since it's more or less that time of year, this week we'll be looking at something Mrs Cake and I did one day last Christmas... Day Drunk

I’ve had an early beer before, even a whisky, and I’ve started countless pub crawls at noon, but last Christmas, the wife and I decided to have a go at Day Drunk. Starting at say, around 9am it was coffee with Irish cream replacing the milk, then it was Prosecco in front of the telly and from there, wherever we felt like going – which was nowhere, except to the local Tesco to pick up more Prosecco and a little something for lunch.

Other than that, it was a whole day drinking and laying on the sofa watching films and suchlike. Below you can see a photo montage of the various drinks we had throughout the day. We didn’t drink non-stop, but we did drink all day (me mostly, mind). Occasionally there was between an hour and two hours when we didn’t have any drinks, but only very occasionally. I made us cocktails and after a bit we had a smoke.

I’m not sure whether that was a good idea or not. It certainly compromised the integrity of the experiment. I’m not going to go into why, but obviously it meant we were susceptible to different influences and our behaviour was affected. We still had fun, though.

I’d like to say the Day Drunk experiment didn’t contribute to the general low feeling we had for the remainder of our Christmas holidays, but let’s face it; it probably did. I did far more drinking than I intended to, and looking at my calendar now, the only day I can be certain I didn’t have anything to drink was New Year’s Day – I was too ill. The rest of the time encompassed Christmas nights out with various groups of people, visits with various friends and family, and it all involved drinking. Never mind; the funk did last well into January, but you get over it eventually - or things are never the same again and you get used to it. Whatever, man. Day drunk.
morning prosecco
morning cava...

Irish coffee...

unidentified cocktails

kahlua and Irish Cream
moving into the pm... tequila sunrise

Tuesday, 3 December 2013

How do you buy whisky as a gift? Part 2

Mrs Cake and I were discussing Christmas present budgets the other week and, while we’re comfortably off we agreed that we would have to be a little more cautious this year. So an upper limit was set. “Just so you know,” continued Mrs Cake, ”I won’t be buying you any whisky this year.”

Yes, I was slightly disappointed, but I took it quite well. I probably will get some whisky from someone, but even so, I know we’re going to Canada for Christmas and that I’ll be looking to pick some whiskies up there anyway, so in all honesty, I didn’t really need to receive any as a present. I’m thinking one to drink while I’m there, a bourbon and a Canadian whisky to bring back, possibly along with a Canadian pomace brandy to if I can find one.

A couple of days later, Mrs Cake said “I wouldn’t know how to buy you whisky anymore anyway. I used to just go into a shop and ask for a recommendation, but now you’ve tried so many more and there are ones you like and ones you don’t like – I just wouldn’t know what to go for.”

Well, I don’t ever want anyone to be discouraged from buying me whisky, so having already written a beginner’s guide for buying whisky as a gift (see last week), it occurred to me that I had some advice for Mrs Cake, and that you might be able to benefit from it too. So, how do you buy whisky as a gift for someone who is enthusiastic about whisky? Here are some suggestions for things you can do.

  1. Determine whether there is a genre of whisky that they are less familiar with, e.g. bourbon, Irish, Indian, grain (many whisky enthusiasts are yet to try a single grain whisky). Yes it requires a bit of research (read: ask them), but you can find a way to do it without giving the game away. Even if you give the game away, it’s just going to make them look forward to getting some whisky for Christmas.
  2. Find out if they have an absolute favourite that they would be happy to receive all the time – I, for example, am known to be a fan of the Caol Ila 12, but I never buy it for myself because there is always something else I want to try. It makes sense then, that for me Caol Ila 12 would make a perfect gift [hint, hint].
  3. Still not sure? Try this: new whisky expressions are being released all the time, so one thing you can do is get a new expression. Your local whisky specialist should be able to point something out, or there’s Master of Malt, The Whisky Exchange or Single Malts Direct.
  4. If that doesn’t help, or it doesn’t narrow down your choices enough, or you’re having trouble choosing between candidates… just get one that is non chill-filtered and/or greater than 40% ABV. If it isn’t chill-filtered, that alone is cause for celebration for a whisky enthusiast, while I just find whiskies bottled at higher strength more intriguing.

Now, some people say there is no such thing as bad whisky. I don’t subscribe to that view, having had one or two bad ones in the past, but the important thing to remember is that different people experience the same whiskies in many different ways, such that no matter how much preparation you do, you can never be absolutely sure you’re going to score a hit with your purchase, hopefully these suggestions prove useful to you in some way. I would be delighted to hear whether they did or if you have anything to add.

There are now just two weeks before we head to Canada for Christmas, so that means just two more posts before 2014. Next week is likely to be a photo feature about a drink-related activity Mrs Cake and I indulged in last Christmas. Come back and join me for that.