Gimlets And Bad Dudes

The Devil Drink

“Yes, yes,” he said curtly. “The crossroads. There’s a devil. So you want something from me, man?”

Start with a joke, and finish earlier than your audience expects: there’s some free and eternally wise advice for formal speeches, drinking sessions, striptease and blog posts. Thank me, reader, when you next rrrrock the microphone at the wedding of your unlovely relative, and give me praise when you next set the roof of your company’s boardroom on fire. With your presentation.

In this edition, Kate makes a class inquiry, Wendy wonders about whiskies, and Mindy asks about old cold black gold.

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?


Good to see you aspiring, Kate, and I like your attitude. There’s no drinker born yet who’s ever perfected their art: like Grasshopper sent out by his sensei, your drinking career is ultimately going to involve walking the earth, learning as you go, and handing the arses of bad dudes back to them on plates, whenever bad dudes need arse-handing.

A simple tip, though, is this: ordering at a sophisticated bar can involve two kinds of class. Either you know exactly what you want and you ask the staff to make it for you, or you trust the bar’s advertisements for drinks of which you’ve never heard enough to order something new. Ordering on the bar’s recommendation can introduce you to wonderful drinks invented by bartenders you’ll never drink again, but drink-fu can only be gained through practice. Any drink, Kate, literally any drink can show class if you know what you want and you can assess for yourself how well it’s been made for you.

Yes, it might involve a bit of research and homework on your part. I’m sure you’re up to the task.

Try yourself out a gimlet, for starters: it’s a fancy name for gin, soda water and lime cordial. Helen Mirren drinks them. They’re as British as the Famous Five, they’re tasty and they’re ace.

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

There are exceptions, to my rule above. The Manhattan is such an awful drink that anyone who actually hands over money for one demonstrates, thus, their inability to exercise a rational preference.

Make it yourself, reader: one part bourbon, one part vermouth, a splash of bitters and a bit of lemon. You’ll find it’s unique amongst cocktails in ruining the taste of every single ingredient.

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? 🙂

Tread carefully, please, you’re stepping on my dreams! Please, take your question away before my sweet illusions of Scotland disappear, and I shed forever the promise of a magical land of constant scotch and pints of heavy. Don’t let me imagine that the Scotland of Robbie Burns, Mary Stuart, chubbily cynical detectives, late ’90s heroin chic, and midnight sectarian football fistfights exists only in my imagination. Don’t let my big-rock-candy-mountainland of a nation of babies weaned from their mother’s bosom with whiskey be shattered like so many empty calories. Don’t let that be.

It shouldn’t be a matter for your shame to dislike whiskies. They’re an acquired taste, especially the stronger-smelling ones, and if you’re setting out in your journey you should probably be forewarned about some of the whiffier varieties. Lots of people, for instance, love their Laphroaig, while others raise it to their noses and are reminded of nothing but the back end of an angry tomcat. Islay malts inspire high praise from those who like smokey peatiness, but condemnation from those who prefer not to drink burnt dirt—it’s strictly a matter for individual taste. At the other end of the scale, I have never heard a word raised against the taste of Glenfiddich, the real nice respectable and reliable fellow of the bar, the whisky your parents would be proud to see you bring home.

If I could advise anything to ease you gently into the world of whiskies it’d be attitude, rather than brand. It’d be unhealthy to approach Scotch as to a new diet, disciplining yourself, for instance, to refuse dessert until you finished the whole bottle. Though there’s nothing wrong with finishing the bottle, your drinking should be a matter of joy and exploration, not imposition. Bleaugh. Diets ruin everything.

Why not impose on one of your friends to drive you to one of the many distilleries near you and sit yourself down for a tour, allowing your friend the distiller to introduce you to his or her fare? You can’t lose.

Further, as a matter of definitional curiosity, and to settle a previous disputation, what are you referring to by the word “malt”? May your “malt” be a blend, as according to my antagonist here?

Is it permissable to use a can of Guinness, that has been in the fridge for some time, to make Beef and Guinness pie?

It is permissible, with one important qualification. Beer stored in aluminium cans may change in taste over time to a greater extent than beer stored in glass. This effect is greater where the can itself is not refrigerated or properly stored. The aluminium taste is unlikely to be of any significance in your recipe, however, as you want the Guinness as part of an emulsion, adding bitterness and sweetness to the meat in your pie, right? So long as the can has not passed its use-by date, it will make a delicious meal. If it has, you can easily substitue any dark beer, though I admit a “Beef And Tooheys Old Pie” lacks the same ring.

I do not recommend ever drinking anything past its use-by date. The printed injunction against consumption ought to be warning enough, but let me emphasise the importance of that arbitrary date. On many things I give advice that seems irresponsible, but if I were to codify my philosophy of life, this commandment would come first: know as much as you can about what you’re putting into your body. It’s not that hard to pop down the bottleshop for a replacement.

And now, if you’ll excuse me, I have a bush to burn up.

The Devil Drink answers your curiosities, satisfies your disagreements, and lays down the law on drinkers’ etiquette. Your questions for the next edition may be asked in comments below or anonymously to


16 thoughts on “Gimlets And Bad Dudes

  1. It is entirely untrue that “(b)eer stored in aluminium cans may change in taste over time to a greater extent than beer stored in glass” – modern alumnium cans are coated on the inside with a lacquer so that the beer never touches aluminium, unless you dent the can severely. Metal taint generally occurs due to poor brewing equipment. Bottles on the other hand admit light, which breaks down the hops and causes the beer to taste “skunky”, and hold more oxygen than cans (depending on the fanciness of the bottling line – some inject CO2 into the bottles to stop oxidation).

    The problems with beer past its best-before date tend to be that components of the beer break down (especially hops) rather than packaging flaws.

  2. Fret not. The Scotland of your dreams is still here. I was, of course, weaned on whiskey. Just didn’t like it very much.

    Thank you for the advice. Shall seek out a Glenfiddich soon and report back.

    And the malt? I’m not very sure at all. The term “single malt” suggests there may also be double, triple etc malts… Have an aunt who is a whiskey broker. Shall ask her. 🙂

  3. The myth of can-affected flavour persists because it’s not strictly a myth. The beer itself is basically fine, but you can taste the metal off the can when you drink it.

  4. You’re not supposed to chew the can.

    Drink from a glass. Or a novelty straw. Alternately, you could try wiping the top of the can before you drink out of it – if the cans have been stacked, you could probably get a slug of ground aluminium and dust in the first few sips.

  5. Yes, I’ve done a blind test with a stubby and a tinnie of Carlton Draught – both poured into glasses. Couldn’t pick any difference.

  6. My life is full of joy and wonder, as you can see.

    Oh and DD – thanks for the vindication on the Manhattan. I was worried there might be something wrong with me.

  7. I’ll break my own rule about commenting in my own threads, just for this one, Phil.
    You shouldn’t store glass bottles of beer anywhere but in a dark, cool place. That’s what the cardboard on the case is for, that’s (also) what the paper bag the shop gives you is for, and I thought that storage-out-of-the-light would have been common ground amongst beer drinkers.

    The problems with beer past its best-before date

    …all stem from drinking the stuff past its best-before date. I thought I’d made it clear in my post that one shouldn’t drink anything past its time, man. Every beer sooner or later has to dance with the Reaper.
    Further-furthermore, regarding your use of Beck’s as “control” in your linked blog post, I wish to declare my enjoyment of your ethnic joke. It’s so Teutonic.
    Further further-furthermore, drinking beer through a novelty straw is something every fifteen year-old binger should try, just… because.

  8. Oh, Hell. Now that I’ve broken the gates of commenting I might as well keep doin’ it. I shall continue to refrain from actually answering here.
    FDB, there is nothing wrong with you.
    Wendy, I’m glad to hear about Scotland’s remaining latent arbitrary violence and underage drinking culture. So you know, my first draft of this blog entry was titled “Boob Scotch”, just to go with the reference to scotch-weaning, the Bob Log III link and your own unique spelling of “distitllery”. Mmmm, mother’s milk.

  9. Gimlet. Right. Gotcha. Right after I recover from this hangover acquired via the drinking of rather a lot of Abbey Leffe Blonde, which was not consumed in a classy way at all.

  10. And Guinness, harry. It’s a sad, bland thing they’ve done to a once-proud stout. In a country that makes stouts like the sublime Southwark, the grouse Coopers Extra and the reliable Sheaf, there’s no explanation for the continued popularity of Australian-brewed Guinness but for marketing.
    So. Does anyone actually have any questions? I’ll take non-drink related ones as well if it’ll make you happy. Relationship advice? Handiwork and DIY tips? Scriptural scholarship and theology?

  11. What would Jesus drink?

    I know that one may not be so close to your heart, Dark One, but I’m curious as to what sort of grapes they were growing way back when, given lots of other crops have been bred into such different forms. Red for the most part I guess, but for Christ’s sake I hope it was better than communion wine or Kosher wine today.

  12. DD, re the burning bush bit.

    Isn’t that the work of the Almighty? As I recall it was part of His campaign to impart an insight or two to Elijah.

    Credit where credit is due etc.

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