Men are from Uruk, Women are from Assyria

The Devil Drink
Thank you all, for failing to point out the other week that the story of Moses’ communication with God through the medium of a burning bush is not actually in Genesis, but rather in the book of Exodus. Hurrah for modern Scripture, I say.

In this edition, Dylwah gets anthropo-theologico-literary, Kirsty looks curiously at the cooking sherry, and Zoe has two bites of the cherry, asking about cocktails and the proper place for homebrew.

Shaken or stirred?

Ah, now this is both a recipe question, and an espionage question.

As it relates to the dry martini, Bond was on his own. It’s generally a stirred drink—two parts gin, one part dry vermouth, pop in an olive or two on a stick and you’re done—but what’s not often remembered in the early 20th Century it was often made in large jugs to be shared, making shaking a technically impossible task. That form of the drink doesn’t often survive in these contemporary days of showy Tom Cruise bartendering and polished cocktail shakers, and when Ian Fleming’s hero asked for his to be shaken, it was supposed to be to read as a clear signalling of his individualism, difference and deviance. Modern readers and viewers tend only to get the first implication of the drink order. With what we know about the author’s… peculiarities, it’s probably best to leave 007 there.

As British spies go, I’m far more a fan of George Smiley, who enjoyed his claret at his club while he considered Cold War paradoxes and German baroque poetry, of outright despicable liars and traitors like the real-life scumbag Kim Philby, and of Graham Greene’s confidential agent, protagonist of a book written over the course of a benzedrine-fuelled, debt-driven six weeks or so. (I read it in the author’s foreword, so it must be true.) But then, I’m a traditionalist like that.

I don’t do Conrad or Dostoyevsky, but I’ve been known to enjoy Dumas… and with what you know about this author’s peculiarities, it’s probably best to leave the subject there.

In the Mesopotamian epic, Gilgamesh, Enkidu is introduced to us as naked and wild. He is ‘tamed’ through a combination of beer and the erotic arts of a temple priestess. My questions are these, is being tamed an unavoidable consequence of drinking beer or are the attentions of a highly trained priest or priestess also necessary for the taming process? will i avoid being tamed by sticking to wine and spirituous liquors? and finally, does the elevation of filthy lucre to godhead status mean that accountants are the new priest and priestesses, and should i let my children date one?

It’s hard to tell, Dylwah, given that there have been so few examples of the act. We’re really generalising from a sample of one—and certainly people in our contemporary days who drink lots of beer show little signs of taming. However, your magnificent question illustrates precisely why I’m a strong supporter of the ordination of women, and the equal participation of women in all religion.

Put simply: I don’t know whether beer and priestess sex correlate with taming, but by all means, let’s find out.

Christ chose Peter to be the rock upon which he built his Church, and from that sound basis, we got the Arian Controversy, the Councils of Nicaea, the split between Roman and Byzantine Churches, the Medieval Popes, Reformation, Counter-Reformation, furious Calvinist iconoclasm, the Spanish Inquisition and the Conquistadors in Latin America. We got Puritans with pillories, the metaphysical poets, Cathars in castles, Billy Graham, Fred Nile, Cardinal Newman, G.K. Chesterton and and Evelyn Waugh. We got Gregorian chant, Bach, Andrew Lloyd Webber, gospel music, and nuns with guitars. Sure, it was two millenia of fun, but (Medieval Popes, Evelyn Waugh, and gospel music apart) there wasn’t a lot of drunken priestess sex, now, was there?

It’s not too late to turn society, ecumenically, around. From what we know about the attentions of erotically-trained Mesopotamian priestesses on ancient mythical epic heroes, we can certainly look forward to much more interesting religion if they’re hired in every suburban MegaChurch™. As Dylwah describes, Enkidu, wild man of the forests, gets drunk and is seduced, and as a consequence of his taming from the natural state, he has warlike and totally rad adventures with his best mate Gilgamesh across ancient Mesopotamia. (For those of you under thirty, imagine Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure, but less Californian, and with more sex and killing). Imagining that taming is an unavoidable consequence of beer drinking, is it really that bad? All I’m saying, is give Shamhat a chance.

As for accountants, well, I’ll let the joke about people who think they’re Gods just go without the telling.

I’ve just remembered a question that came up a while ago in discussion with dogpossum about the whole ‘only cook with what you’d drink’ debate. She was told by a bottle shop attendant that it was a myth, that you could put any old vinegar in your cooking.

I’ve heard both sides of this argument as well, Kirsty. For what it’s worth, I think it’s a fundamental misunderstanding about alcohol in cookery based on mutual good intentions. I don’t know on which sides of the argument you and dogpossum lie, but I know where I do. Let’s see if I can recap the arguments—please correct me if I’m wrong.

Watching her friend reach up on top of the fridge for the three-quarters empty chateau cardboard to start the evaporation over the arborio rice in her risotto, the connoisseur of fine wine and good beer points to the unpredictablity of life, the risk of waking up dead tomorrow, and points out in a reasonable tone that life’s too short to drink shitty generic cask white. Why wouldn’t you cook with what you drink, she asks, if her friend places as high a value on the quality of her cookery as on her erudite palate? In return, the risotto cook points out that as she does place a high value on the wine she’s drinking, she’s hardly likely to want to waste even half a glass of the $40 Barossa Valley riesling they’re drinking just to flavour onions, and anyway, what’s her problem with a decent, well-trusted and high-selling Australian brand of dry cask white like Coolibah, and whose house does she think she’s in anyway, and would she please keep chopping those fucking mushrooms she’s ignoring and shut her hard-face-bitch mouth?

(Well, you know, that’s how I picture debate over contemporary cuisine in Australia.)

My point of view is this: the connoisseur is entirely wrong, and the risotto cook entirely right and justified. As cooking is a means to an individual or social end—a meal—so is drinking a means to the wonderful, sought after end of being drunk. Certainly I’m prepared to believe that one can taste a risotto made with vintage white as opposed to one made with vinegary ends of a bottle or even with leftover vermouth, but even more certainly you can taste the difference between Veuve Clicquot and Mildura Spumante when you’re drinking the stuff as God and I intended: without rice.

If you can afford Yarra Valley pinots now that most of the Valley’s been burned and the prices have gone up, bloody well drink them, don’t pour ’em into your coq au vin. The chicken’s dead, it’s hardly likely to enjoy the stuff as much as you are. Did oenologists and viniculturists sweat into those barrels just for the benefit of the cheap Coles broiler? Would you pour that Hennessy XO into your trifle? Would you contribute a Margaret River red to your children’s spaghetti bolognaise along with the usual teaspoon of sugar and splosh of Worcestershire sauce? When cooking with alcohol, use cooking alcohol, and when drinking, drink drinking alcohol (which may, I rush to point out, depending on your budget and circumstances, also be cooking alcohol). That’s my rather intolerant verdict.

Cooking and drinking: equal, but separate.

how does one balance the intense pleasure of quantities of extremely fine home brewed beer available for the drinking at one’s pleasure with the many – MANY – accompanying hours of discussion on matters such as sparging, yeast harvesting and the colonisation of the small boy’s wardrobe for beer conditioning?

That’s your second question, Zoe, but since it’s your blog, I suppose you get your own way.

It seems that, like in physics, your problems relate to the interconnectedness of energy, space, and time. A carboy in a child’s wardrobe could be a sign of tremendous ingenuity, like the Chicago Pile-1 nuclear reactor built in the pioneer 1940s out of bits of timber and graphite in a Chicago rackets court, or it could be the sign of a runaway chain reaction of hops and malty brewing mass that could engulf your children in an explosion of warm, sticky, yeasty goo. Without considerable research and blind testing (ie. until blind) it’ll be hard to tell which it is. Or is it the capped sealed beer bottles slowly carbonating towards a drinkable state that lie in your son’s room amongst the clothes and toys? I hesitate to suggest that as he gets to be a teenager, this is a problem of storage that might solve itself.

If what you want is the relocation of the brewing process outside your house, what about a co-operative with its own shed or hired garage? It occurs to me that brewing’s just the kind of activity that would benefit from the sharing of tools and knowledge, and that could be made cheaper by the pooling of money to buy raw material. A group of brewers would be able to use space and energy together a lot more effectively, and they’d be able to share, as you describe it, their extremely fine home brewed beer. You’d get beer swapping, you’d get communal advice and learnings, you’d get all of the crap out of your own shed and into someone else’s.

I can offer no advice, I am sorry to say, about dealing with constant tedious bullshit from one’s spouse. I’m the Antichrist, not Dr. John Gray.

And for that, let us all be truly grateful.

The Devil Drink answers your curiosities, satisfies your disagreements, and lays down the law on drinkers’ etiquette. Your questions for the next, irregular, edition may be asked in comments below or anonymously to The sage advice of columns past can be found here.


If You Don’t Like My Fire, Don’t Cite Genesis

The Devil Drink Once upon a time, our mutual host and gourmand Zoe prevailed upon me, communicating through the means of a bottle of bourbon, a half a dozen bummed B&Hs and her Judas Priest cassette compilation played on a held-together-with-sticky-tape 1990s Walkman with flat batteries, to come and give a fortnightly column of advice and agony auntery. Glad to, I said then. My pleasure.

Well, I am altering the deal. Pray I do not alter it any further.

It’s been a while since I rocked this progressive dinner party, and your pleas for advice, I regret, have gone without succour. I can only hope you haven’t been seeking out alternative sources of wisdom or—worst of all—attempting dangerous self-help. Dame Mint Pattie in her own special way has been doing My work and I salute her for it.

From now on, though they might be your questions, it’s My timetable.

Are we allowed to firebomb those responsible for brewing overseas brands here eg Becks and Heineken? I mean: what’s the point?

Honestly, I am not going to stop you doing it. If arson’s your thing, man, as the prophet said, let me stand next to your… fire.

I’m a bit unclear though on your motives. Are you offended by their market position, as a supporter of smaller brewers? By their pretentions to premium-beer status over other more worthy local labels—thinking in particular of the rather good Bluetongues? By the cultural imperialism of brands, nestling everywhere, settling everywhere, making connections everywhere, as Naomi Klein might have channelled Marx? Or is it just for shits ‘n’ giggles (as a wise man once noted, an underrated motive for terroristic violence)?

What’s the point of international brewing licences? I’d say it was making a recognisable consistent and reliable (if bland) product with a profitable brand. My principle is this: if the contents do the job, the label on the outside is just a bit of paper. It’s all going to the same place (well, one of two places) in the end anyway, so why be hung up on appellations? A rosé by any other name would… well, you know.

I’m not saying don’t do it. I’m just saying, in all things, do unto others as you would be done by—then light that petrol bomb and fling it with My blessing.

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.

What am I, FDB, Wikipedia?

Regarding the question of what Jesus drank: the traditional story (John 2:10-12) isn’t so much evidence about what Christ drank as about how:

…‘Everyone serves the good wine first, and then the inferior wine after the guests have become drunk. But you have kept the good wine until now.’ Jesus did this, the first of his signs, in Cana of Galilee…

It’s a story about being good to your guests. Jesus, way cool as he was, was illustrating the correct party-throwing procedures. The guy might have been a self-righteous pain-in-the-arse cultist, but he knew about catering.

Please note also the quantities involved in the wedding.

We’ve got these six (let’s say) 25-gallon jars. That would make how many bottles of wine? Well, 75 cl. to a bottle, 56.8 cl. to a pint, 8 pints to a gallon, so that makes 454.4 cl. to a gallon; so 150 gallons (from the six stone jars) equals 68,160 cl. of wine, divided by 75 cl. per bottle, equals 908.8 – round off to 900 – 900! – bottles of wine! Let’s say that, like today, there are around 100 guests at the reception. That comes to nine – nine! – bottles of wine per guest. Talk about binge drinking! And – the punchline of the story – by producing this excellent vintage in such copious quantities, Jesus “revealed his glory.”

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.
The Feral Abacus

Moses, Feral Abacus. Credit where credit is due, etc.

 The Devil Drink answers your curiosities, satisfies your disagreements, and lays down the law on drinkers’ etiquette. Your questions for the next, irregular, edition may be asked in comments below or anonymously to The sage advice of columns past can be found here.

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.

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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!

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The Devil Drink presents: The Alcoholical Oracle

The Devil Drink

How do you do. Allow me to introduce myself, I am the Devil Drink. Pull up a chair, make yourself comfortable, and help yourself to a glass of whatever you’d like.

You see, with her child-chewed Penguin paperback edition of the Delomelanicon, a bit of incantation and a burned sacrifice or two on the suburban gas-burning altar-stove, I have been summoned here by Zoe to provide my services. I must say I find myself unusually at home at this progressive’s dinner party, I’m quite familiar with your best of intentions. My driveway is paved with them—but let’s not get started on discussing real estate just yet.

It’s the usual deal, as I’ve explained thoroughly to others; temporal benefit for payment delayed, a deal unique in bargain-basement value. No job is too small, naturally, and I’m offering here all my efforts in agony auntery, booze pointers and advice on grogiquette. In short, let me answer your curiosity about anything drink-related.

Readers, let your idle hands make the Devil’s work. I am entirely at your service. Questions in comments below or if you’d prefer to remain anonymous, to My answers will be published in one week.