Tuesday, March 25, 2008


Mme Cyn has never been much of a drinker. I rarely drink and don’t care for drunkenness, which, I confess, can make socializing difficult in this town. Everybody seems to drink to excess around here, and I get odd looks when I spend an evening in a bar drinking nothing but softies. Never mind zero tolerance for drunk driving and having to get up to teach in the morning. Everybody boozes around here. But I digress.

At college parties, I was usually the one who kept the car keys and made sure everyone else got home and safely poured into bed. In spite of growing up among the vino imbibing Italians, I rarely even drink wine with dinner (unless it’s champagne of course—Veuve Cliquot is my secret vice), preferring water or (I can see you wince) diet Pepsi. However, in spite of what may appear to some as my generally appalling taste in beverages, I firmly maintain that one of the great joys in this life is a good cocktail.

Neither of my parents ever did much in the way of cocktail drinking, even in the cocktail-swilling, samba dancing 1960s, but I do remember being offered cocktails by my father on special occasions at the age of seven or eight. Of course, my cocktail at that age was a Shirley Temple (grenadine and ginger ale with a cherry and slice of lemon) or a Roy Rogers (the same, but with Coke). As far as I was concerned, they were real cocktails – fizzy, sweet, and served icy cold in a Manhattan glass. I graduated to sloe gin fizzes (sloe gin and 7Up) at about twelve, when it was deemed I should learn how to hold liquor (we were amongst the vino imbibing Italians at that time), but they were still pretty mild. Even so, they were special. I have been known to order the occasional ST even now, when I’m the designated driver, though I generally have to explain to the bartenders how it’s made.

As far as I’m concerned, cocktails fall into two categories: Aperitifs and Restoratives. Viewed as a first course at dinner, I like my cocktails dry; that hard shot of really top quality alcohol whets the appetite, and ought to be drunk very quickly. After work or instead of dinner, I like my cocktails sweet. Sweet, cold and sipped slowly. The purists would say I’m unsophisticated; I say bollocks to them. Sunset in the hammock with a sweet cocktail is the perfect way to restore a bad temper after a long day yelling at the binat. I am determined to do it more often.

So I recently went to the new Raffles Hotel Dubai with a friend in search of a Singapore Sling. We found one. She was not impressed, and thought the sling in the Singapore Raffles was better. Not having been there I couldn’t compare, but I found it a bit dry for my taste. I think anything pink containing cherry Heering ought to be sweet, and have always thought of Singapore slings as sweet by definition. However, if Raffles Hotel doesn’t know how to get it right, then no one does. I found instead something they’ve invented called a “Dubai Sling” Sounded awfully gimmicky, but I thought it was worth a shot anyway. As far as I can tell, instead of a cherry fruit theme, it’s based on syrup of figs. Surprisingly good. I will have to go back, get the ingredients off the menu, and try to concoct it in my kitchen.

My current cocktail of choice is the Mayfair. I found it in a cocktail book put out by the Savoy Hotel in London, and I must say that, sweet or dry, it does not disappoint. So, in my campaign to get people away from boring old G&Ts or the trendy Caipirinha and into something a bit more interesting… herewith, the Mayfair, as made at the American Bar, Savoy Hotel, London:

2 parts London gin
1 part apricot brandy
1 part orange juice
dash of clove syrup.

Or, my own sweet version:

1 part Bombay Sapphire or Plymouth gin
1 part apricot brandy
2 parts orange juice
1 coffee-spoon of clove syrup

Either way, shake it vigorously with ice and strain. Share it with your husband only if he’s had a worse day than you have.
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