From Whingers To Bingers

The Devil Drink

Thanks this week go to the National Health And Medical Research Council, who have tentatively brought forward the deliciously ridiculous proposal to redefine binge drinking. Three glasses of wine or four middies a day puts you, reader, into the apparent same health category as trans-continental tinny-sinking legend David Boon. We can expect the legally defined binge to be separated from the capital-B Binge only by degree.

Drinking is a hobby engaged in by far more adult Australians than difficult, inconvenient and potentially dangerous sporting activity. Certainly Aussies might not know that much about health limits, but they know what they like. If Aussie-bender-friendliness wasn’t already a self-evident proposition, there’s evidence this week in the questions put to your Adversarial correspondent, largely having to do with gin, gin-based drinks and sex: all three the most popular historical pastimes of your national antecedents. I’d like to start here the people’s campaign against the NHMRC’s replacing the perjorative term “binge drinker” with the totally awesome phrase “elite drinker”. Get up off your couches, sedentary Norms of Australia, and life be in it! Get a cold can from the fridge, and c’mon Aussie!

Tanqueray 10 – is it twice as good as ordinary Tanqueray?

No. Tanqueray 10 should be read Tanqueray10, indicating that it contains more Tanquerayness than ordinary Tanqueray to the power of ten. This can also be referred to using standard SI notation simply as one deci-Tanqueray. As usual this will confuse bartenders and drinkers across the United States.

Whether it is better or not is of course an entirely subjective matter…

…According to my favourite barlady in the world, at the Lennox Lounge in Harlem. Tanqueray, about a teaspoon of lemon juice and a dessert-spoon of brine, 2 olives. I’d ordered a dirty, she asked if I’d “like to taste her special one” – and really, I’m not the sort to refuse that kind of double-entendre without a very good reason.

…except when it’s served with a side of special sauciness. Yum.

How devilish are spirits on the rocks versus those that are straight?
Can i get away with calling a slug of Mt Gay straight a bi-sexual?
What would you call a slug of vodka, three drops of bitters and a squeeze of lime?

“Straight up” or “neat” are better descriptions of spirits served with neither mixer nor ice, as “straight” leads to jokes of tasteless innuendo and… ah, yes, I see what you’ve done with your questions. “Straight”. I get it, ahha hah ha, gin and smut, the orders of the day. Well, spirits on the rocks pretty devilish, and two can play at that game. Straight up Mt. Gay has a ring to it: a vigorous rock climber’s drink, for those heading quickly to the peak, but as they say, what goes up must go down. (Oooh errr).

In an old-fashioned glass, a finger of vodka, three drops of bitters and a squeeze of lime has to be the most inoffensive of all of the bland cocktails I’ve ever encountered. Vodka? Drink it with rye bread and pickled vegetables, with caviar paste on cold thin toast, or with orange juice, but for goodness sakes give it something tasty. I suppose you could call your new drink “a Rabbi, a Priest and a Nun” and wait for the lame punchline?

I am not allowed to have much to drink so when I can get one it assumes a possibly disproportionately large importance. So, the other night at the local tarted-up pub I ordered a meal which the menu said was a ‘salad of spicy Asian greens’ and a glass of reisling to drink with it. When the food came the salad was cut-up iceberg lettuce, ie Asian greens my arse. So I sent it back, of course, and ordered something else, which when it came was edible at least and if the cook had spat in it I could see no signs of same.
But my new dinner did not match the wine I chose to go with the old one. In these circumstances would I have been justified in returning the glass of wine and asking for another?

I’m afraid, Laura, you wouldn’t have had cause in that situation to send back the glass of riesling, however badly it might have complemented your second choice of dish, and regardless of whether you’d sipped it or not. If the bar sold the drink to you as an abstract package, one-drink-of-your-choice with one-meal-of-your-choice, not as a specially chosen wine for the plate, then you have no grounds: it was the salad which failed to live up to the advertisement, not the drink. Were you enjoying part of a degustation menu things might have been different, but such a menu would hardly contain iceberg “Asian greens”, non?

The bar, alas, though they might offer good advice, has no responsibility to make sure you choose an appropriate wine to suit your palate. If the nice glass of white was what you ordered, correctly measured, into a safe glass, then it’s at the bar’s discretion whether or not to stand you a replacement to go with your new meal. Perhaps you can bat your eyelids to get a free drink; if you can, you have a local pub worth patronising despite its up-tartedness, and I am happy for you.

In general, you can and should send back your drink if it’s not what you ordered, because if you order a specific drink, you should get that drink, and not another. You should send back your drink if it’s not correctly measured, because you should get the full amount you’ve paid for, no less or more. You should send back your drink if it’s not safely presented to you, and you should upbraid the staff immediately if the glass has cracks (which indicate possible glass fragments in your drink), lipstick smears, grease smears, dirt or debris (which all indicate a failure to wash glasses properly). You should send back your drink if you can’t drink it. If your beer is flat, you are entitled to wait for the immediate change of keg; if the wine, when you smell-taste it on pouring, is oxidised, you are entitled to a replacement bottle; if you think either has been watered down or adultered, call your State’s appropriate Fair Trading or Consumer Affairs authority.

I’m very sorry to hear that you’re not allowed to have much to drink, and I offer you my sincerest condolences. I hope that that may change in the future, if necessary, with practice.

Is there anything better than a Negroni?
Cath the Canberra Cook

Another good question, Cath. You’ve picked a rather good drink, one of the better aperitifs around, and a superior marker of sophistication that ought to be served in place of the repulsive Cosmopolitan in every bar where young professional women pretend to Carrie Bradshaw’s status, over-selfestimation and underemployment. De gustibus non est disputandum, on the other hand, is what the world’s food and drink snobs are forced to incant as they traverse their own fractional arc of the glutton’s circle of Hell: alcohol is for drinking, and if it does the job, it does the job.

Me, I’m fond of a pink gin—that’s, err, gin with a splash of bitters in it—which makes a good gin great, a rotten gin passable, and the late afternoon at work a breeze. “Aperitif” should come before a meal, yes, but “before” should be interpreted very liberally. In just the same way as it’s always happy hour somewhere in the world, there’s always a meal sometime before and after your drink.

The Devil Drink answers your curiosities, satisfies your disagreements, and lays down the law on drinkers’ etiquette. My contractual obligations have been revised; future editions will be fortnightly. Your questions for the next edition may be asked in comments below or anonymously to


5 thoughts on “From Whingers To Bingers

  1. On the upside, under the new regulations suddenly I’ve gone from a cadburys* to a regular binge drinker like all my peers. It’s done wonders for my street cred.

    My question – I’m new to the world of cocktails (or muddled drinks or whatever they hell they’re called) and so far only G&Ts, bloody marys and caprioskas qualify to me as drinkable.

    What else can I order when next I’m at a fancy-pants drinking establishment and I want to appear sophisticated and classy?

  2. Thanks again DD for the Infernal Lowdown.

    For next time:

    Manhattan (the drink) – Unmitigated horror or just really really bad?

  3. Ooooh, this is fun. I have a question:
    I’m a Scot who’s not keen on whiskey. This is not only embarrassing but wasteful too for I live and work close to MANY distitlleries and drink at bars with amazing collections of malts. Willing to work on this but can you recommend an introductory whiskey which might ease me gently into the world of uisge beatha? 🙂

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