Decorating the Mahogany this Christmas?

If you are having a tipple this Christmas, you know the drill. Nominate the designated driver, take a taxi or these days summon that Uber, so that nobody has their festive season or life ruined.

 

So, keeping it in the spirit of spirits and Champagne, Prosecco, Beer, Wine, Sherry, a Cocktail etc, etc, etc… here’s some 5 fun facts about boozing...

 

A stacked bar

 

 

1. There are many different types of ‘alcohol’. In the study of organic chemistry what classifies a compound as an alcohol is that within its structure there exists a hydroxyl group, that’s an hydrogen and an oxygen atom, attached to a larger molecule consisting of Carbon and Hydrogen atoms. Too much science? Here’s a smidgeon more; only the form ethanol, or ethyl alcohol is suitable for human consumption without serious risk to your health, and even in its pure form Ethanol is not less than toxic

 

I am reminded of my years studying A-Level Chemistry when we were met with the news of a student in the year above who took it upon himself to drink from the flask labeled ‘100% ethanol’, only to find himself temporarily blind shortly thereafter and regaled as archetypally stupid evermore.

 

Called to the Bar Cuff Links

 Called to the Bar Cuff Links

 

2. In 2012, the Brewmeister Brewery in Banffshire, Scotland produced the World’s strongest beer selling 6000 bottles that year of the 65% proof ‘Armageddon’. On the grounds that this was considered ‘too weak’, the producers of the beer, Lewis Shand & John McKenzie, were goaded by their friends into going one step further and a year later unveiled ‘Snake Venom’ which clamps its jaws at a coma inducing 67.5% abv.

 

Unsurprisingly, ‘Snake Venom’ comes with a warning label and a price tag. Drinkers are advised not to ingest more than 35ml at a time, treating the beverage more ‘like a whiskey’ than a beer, and have to dig deep at £50 per 275ml bottle. All so very Scottish!

 

Moled Wine Silk Tie by Simon Drew

 Moled Wine Silk Tie by Simon Drew

 

3. History has often seen the payment for work with alcohol. Archeologists studying the Giza plateau in Egypt suggest excavations that reveal workers were paid a daily ration of beer made from barley. This evidence is repeated in Iraq around the site of the ancient city of Urk, in the form of clay tablet ‘receipts’ written in cuneiform.

 

Small beer, was a favoured drink in medieval Europe and colonial North America, and perhaps alike to the ancient world was consumed, although mildly alcoholic at between 0.5% & 2.8% ABV, as a substitute for drinking water, of which fresh sources uncontaminated by deadly cholera and other water-borne pathogens was not always guaranteed.

 

The expression that something is ‘small beer’, might then be born of the concept that the wealthy could facilitate the labours of the working man without having to actually give him any money.

 

The rum “tot” was a ration given to sailors aboard ship in the Royal Navy until it was abolished as recently as 1970. Although not strictly offered as ‘pay’, those partaking in the ‘tot’ served to each sailor at midday were marked accordingly in the ships log, with those abstaining, who numbered far fewer, being given three pence (3d) per day in lieu.

 

The idea of alcohol as pay lives on in the German city of Essen, where alcohol dependent homeless people are offered up to three bottles of beer to pick up street waste. A similar initiative exists in Amsterdam.

 

 

Pouring a Drink

 

 

4. One of the World’s best known Cocktails is the Martini. The classic preparation is a mixture of gin and dry vermouth in a 2:1 ratio, garnished with an olive or a twist of lemon. Since its creation at the latter part of the 19th Century there have been several variations.

 

The Gibson varies by being 6 parts gin to 1 part vermouth garnished, uniquely, with a silverskin onion in place of an olive. The origin of this variant has many legends but the most likely being that it was originated in San Francisco by businessman Walter D.K. Gibson who created it at the city’s Bohemian club, the urban private members establishment associated with the notorious Bohemian Grove retreat north of the city.

 

The most famous mention of the cocktail is, of course, its description as that most favoured by Commander James Bond, the literary creation of former Royal Navy Intelligence Officer Ian Fleming, although Bond makes two stipulations for his taste.

 

A classic martini is part gin, part vermouth but Bond, at least on screen, firstly prefers vodka in place of gin, but secondly is synonymous with directing the bartender that his drink be ’shaken, not stirred’. In the intricate world of cocktail making and naming this action would mean he is in fact now ordering a ‘Bradford’, being that a martini should in fact always be stirred. Of course It would be hard for ‘I’ll have a Bradford’, to be delivered with equal panache even by Sean Connery.

 

Champagne Socialist Cuff Links

 Champagne Socialist Cuff Links

 

5. Considered the marque alcoholic beverage champagne was first produced in the region of France that it is named for without bubbles! The inception of vineyards in the region began under the romans, and wines were produced for hundreds of years without the addition of the secondary fermentation process that creates the fizz.

 

Perhaps some proud yet unaware Champenois would be surprised to learn that neither sparkling wine nor the process referred to as méthode champenoise, now the standard method of manufacture were originated in the region. The former occurring near Carcassonne in 1531, with the latter first being described in 1662 by an Englishman, in England ! A whole 6 years before Dom Perignon got a toe-hold in the booze business.

 

The origin of launching ships by smashing a bottle of champagne against their hulls stems from the early 20th century, but the practice, perhaps appropriately for an article on the demon drink, is as old as Babylon. The ancient Babylonians would pour liquids over the hulls to check for leakage, eventually becoming a ritualised ceremony

 

The record for the most expensive bottle of champagne is currently held by the ‘2013 Gout de Diamantes’. Valued at a whopping £1.62M ($2.07million), this is in large part, like other inordinately priced alcoholic drinks, due to the design of the bottle. A variant minus the unique gold label and 19 carat white diamond that adorn the one off design, will hit you in the pocket for a mere £165 ($211).

 

Whatever your poison is, take care this Christmas and bottoms up from all here at Fox & Chave!

 

 

 


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