The professional drinker swims in a sea of whisky

“I’d hate to be a teetotaller. Imagine getting up in the morning and knowing that’s as good as you’re going to feel all day.”
Dean Martin

The first drink of the day is unquestionably my favourite. I prefer to begin with a – for some too early – whisky and soda. Upon the first drop I’m immediately relaxed and all my woes quickly disappear like an equatorial sunset.

My opening w and s is always thick with whisky, probably nearer to a trade quadruple. A blend is preferable to a single malt on this occasion- it is a waste to mix scotch- and no continental soda should be used due to the high salt content. A soda syphon is the finest option and adds to the theatre on the sideboard. The final hiss of the syphon denotes that the drink is ready, almost like the bell for start of play at Lord’s. The slow clunking of ice as I shuffle to my favourite chair is always delicious sound filled with optimism.

For others it is the well earned post-work pint, wine with a meal, a morning livener, a showy flute of fizz, or a melancholic neat spirit. The wonderful joy of alcohol is that, in its vast family, there is an appropriate drink for each hour of the day- surely even the fiercest puritan wouldn’t begrudge an early morning Harvey Wallbanger or a cleansing post luncheon ale?

I truly hope heaven has a bar because I like to drink and I think drink likes me.

People can call it what they like; alcoholism, an emotional crutch, dipsomania, or perhaps a good old case of cenosillicaphobia. We all love a cheeky bot- it just depends how overt one wants to be. I prefer to class myself as an alcophilliac – someone who would be described as a heavy imbiber. However I am, when absolutely necessary, able to have a few days on the wagon without any adverse affects.

My wonderful parents took a rather French approach to wine at the dinner table – allowing me to sip a small glass of rouge with food from an early age. I always watched their bacchic Saturday nights with envy. I listened as laughter and clinking glasses filled the house. From the age of 15 I discovered the joy of pubs in all their various guises – the seedier the better! No music, a menu consisting pork pies, pickled eggs, pints, and chasers.

On the two extremes of consumption are the bizarre teetotallers (I was told never to trust one) and the full on red nosed piss artists that shuffle along the pavement in early afternoon.

There are also, the most irksome of people, the Friday night wooohoooo brigade. Often found clustering tables drinking neon-coloured concoctions. They drink beyond excess two or three times a week. They spend days wallowing in their hangovers, talking of how crazy last night was and popping endless updates on Facebook. In my experience, if a hangover is that bad you do not want to talk, even to the mouse that lives under your bed.

This drinking demography is out in force, clogging up my routes to the bar, on that unutterably offensive night, New Years Eve. The finest nights on drink happen through serendipitous cocktails of characters and in unexpected bars.

Please note too that I abhor birthdays. The distinguishable difference between the professional drinker and the “let’s go crazy, but be in the gym and detox on Monday gang” is choosing what to drink where and when, plus having the portent to realise that hangovers happen, so deal with it!

I played cricket against a reasonably respectable chap in his mid fifties last Sunday. He bowled 12 very good overs of fast bowling. Clutching his well earned bottle of beer at lunch I congratulated him on his splendid spell.

He replied: “Well I am rather impressed considering that I began lunch on Saturday at 1.30 and ended it at 1.30AM”

The impressive thing is not the monumental binge. It is the courage and knowledge to know that, after sweating it out on the pitch and a couple of restorative beers, life would be rosy. The idea of drinking copious amounts is pure braggadocio but surely wasting a chunk of liver solely on a birthday party is worse. The Great British hell raisers – Burton, O’Toole, Harris, Reed – knew how to keep the levels balanced and offer with it a stupendous charm and wit.

There is a great skill to being gently sozzled all day – I do practice a lot but alas I’m not quite as skilled as these icons.

Drink is a great unifier of men and a true show of nerve and resilience. For example, one distinguished former MP – not technically a member of Thatcher’s government, but her private channel of communication with Mr Gorbachev, was dispatched to Russia to negotiate. He was met at breakfast by a KGB General and the Russian’s opening gambit was;

“What do you want to drink – brandy or vodka?”

“Both” replied the quick witted calm Englishman.

The General stared long and hard at the Englishman’s eyes. A heavy pat on the arm was followed, with a glint from his blue eyes, a shrug of the shoulders, and a small crease of a smile.

“You. You are my friend”

Endless rounds of both spirits were consumed and all sense of brinkmanship nullified – and I should add that the former MP is still on storming alcohol-consuming form.

Drinking is not necessarily a battle but a personal crusade towards happiness and shared fun times. Billy Joel sums up the collective squiffiness of a bar in his great song “The Piano Man.”

I always remember the lines;

“they’re sharing a drink they call loneliness
But it’s better than drinking alone”

Now today’s blog is coming to an end and it is surely time to slake my thirst. The sun is shinning in that sumptuous warm manner that only the English sun can. My recently acquired pink trousers will shimmer proudly and hopefully dazzle the world. So off to The Pony for a restorative ale or perhaps a Gin and Tonic; a conundrum to be solved on that glorious walk to the pub.

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