Posted 02nd January 2013        

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Christmas and New Year’s Eve are recognized traditional windows for normalized alcohol abuse.

When you’ve made a conscious decision to drink as much as your wife will let you – or as much as will still allow you to drag yourself out of bed at the earliest of hours to entertain a much more energetic and younger human being – it’s only natural to begin mixing unlikely things together and pretending you’re a cocktail expert. Like Tom Cruise. In the film “Cocktail”.

Unfortunately our house stocks no drinks cabinet – for if it did, it’d be drunk, and the nearest thing in our cupboards to Aberdeen Angus Bitters (or whatever its called) is Worcestershire Sauce. And everybody knows you can’t put that in cocktails. At least not proper ones. Maybe a Bloody Mary, if you think that counts.

This year our arsenal for Christmas cocktails essentially comprised a Tesco wine case or two and some beer.

I’ll get the “Do” over and done with as quickly as possible because it sadly did not have the opportunity to become plural: Kir Royals. That’s it. We bought some Creme de Cassis from M&S and I splashed it (over the back of a spoon of course) into anything fizzy I was drinking over the holiday. It livened up average Champagne, Prosecco and Cava, giving that lovely two-tone colour effect and adding a dash of cloying but oddly moreish syrupy blackcurrant goo to the end of every glass.

I tried it in some beer but that wasn’t quite so hot.

Other cocktails essentially involved mixing the aforementioned fizz with other things that were lying around. I had a go at a Black Velvet using some Cava and a Scottish stout called “March of the penguins“, but alas my feet were made no happier by it (that’s a penguin joke), nor was my tongue. It brought out the worst in both drinks – neither of which was especially lovely to begin with. The stout was a bit watery too, so the two liquids combined into an unpleasant cola-like whole instead of sitting on top of one another. Very disappointing all-round.

I made some Buck’s Fizz too of course (Champagne and orange juice), and found to my horror that my own “home-mixed” batch wasn’t as nice as M&S’s pre-bottled stuff. I think my 50/50 mix was inferior to their orange-juice-heavy take on the middle-class morning-boozer’s fave.

My wife made something she insisted was a Bellini by mixing Cava with our ginger and lemon-grass cordial, but I wasn’t convinced either by the taste or the authenticity.

Last and undoubtedly least was my ill-judged attempt to create a luxury cocktail of my own devising by mixing the very lovely M&S 10-year-old tawny port (even better than the other two I enjoyed this season) with some of the Tesco Bog-Standard Chateaux D-Indifferénce Champagne. The former was great and the latter was passable and definitely fizzy, so what could go wrong?

Well; all the subtleties of the burnt toffee, banana and cinnamon notes in the tawny port were dampened, and all that remained was a sort of thickish sense of fortified sweetness. The Champers, on the other hand, lost most of its fizz and all of its taste but a hint of acidity. The result was a sure-fire failure in cocktail terms: a drink that was decidedly inferior to each of its constituent parts.

I’m calling it either a Sham Port or a Tawny Pain because it puts one in mind of either/both navigating your vessel into what appears to be a safe docking area only to find yourself set upon by pirates and/or being savaged to death by owls.

I haven’t decided which, but either way I am never making it again and neither should you.


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Meet the Author:
Alexander Velky
Alexander grew up on Anglesey, almost as far away from civilization as he’d have liked. He studied English at university and subsequently moved to Prague to teach it to Czech people for just long enough that he could say he’d done that. He then returned to the UK to do an MA in Professional Writing, and later moved to London by accident and worked in the music industry for a while. His interest in wine has been developing throughout. He took the WSET Intermediate exam, for which he was rewarded with a certificate and a pin badge, but he probably won't bother doing any more. He now lives in Pembrokeshire with his wife and daughter. He writes, and drinks, for a living. You can follow him on Twitter if that's how you choose to spend your time. Photograph by Léonie Keeble