In which I went on a wine tour

Our table at Avignonesi in Montepulciano.
Our table at Avignonesi in Montepulciano. Click to read the piece on Alderman Lushington.

Today in Bristol it’s raining heavily, it’s cool but not cold enough to be satisfying, the leaves are rotting on the pavement, and I’m thinking about drinking good wine with old friends on a hot summer’s day.

Click here to read the not-very-serious spread I published in Alderman Lushington on going on a wine tour in Tuscany.

We need to talk about Negroni

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The people’s flag is Campari red, it shrouded oft our martyred dead—what mass agitation for Campari Week might look like. Credit: Wikimedia Commons.
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They appropriate everything I’ve ever loved. Credit: Wikimedia Commons.

This is the third annual Negroni Week. From 1–7 June, that is. I suppose it’s possible that it began in Gruppo Campari’s marketing department, rather than as a popular clamour in the pubs, bars, fields, taverns and mean streets of the world, but for Campari, I don’t mind. Partly because I love the stuff—you can read my piece on that here—and partly because for years few others I knew liked it; they groaned, mocked, doubted and feared, even if many of them know better now. I always had a sense of Campari being friendless, beleaguered, unloved, neglected, and that lingers. It was always preposterous, given its mighty popularity in parts of the world, and is now much more so as the artisans and hipsters have taken it up. Anyhow, here’s to the noble Negroni, one of the best and strongest of cocktails, and a prime way to drink Campari. Continue reading

Questions in a world of new: beer tasting at Zero Degrees

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Bristol Zero Degrees at night. Credit: http://www.zerodegrees.co.uk.

To Zero Degrees in Bristol for a beer tasting, brewery tour and dinner. On its fifteenth anniversary, Zero Degrees is launching a new range of bottled beers, while it has also been working on refreshing its venues. I was with Andy Hamilton, author of Brewing Britain and co-founding editor of Alderman Lushington, an online drinks magazine we’re launching shortly. We were guests of the management as part of a press group. Continue reading

First they came for the Irish

It was Finnegan's Wake (Guinness and the craic); then it was The Hill (gourmet pizza and imported lager); now it is ... this.
It was Finnegan’s Wake (Guinness and the craic); then it was The Hill (gourmet pizza and imported lager); now it is … this.

The tale of a pub

When I moved to Bristol in 2002 people still talked about Finnegan’s Wake on Cotham Hill. I would say that I’d had a drink and eaten a pizza at The Hill and Bristolians would nod and say ‘Ah, you were at Finnegan’s Wake.’ The Hill was new, you see. For years locals still called it Finnegan’s, with a sort of lazy obstinacy. It was odd, because no one had any affectionate memories of the old pub; it was a nondescript Irish theme bar, notable only for being named after Joyce’s vast unreadable novel. In fact, during my fifteen minutes’ research for this, no one I asked could recall anything about it: ‘I don’t remember, there were probably some Irish props scattered about the place and some old-fashioned signs and agricultural implements on the wall’. Continue reading

Eat, drink and be wary? New Year diets be damned

V0042012 The dance of death: the glutton. Coloured aquatint by T. Row
‘The dance of death: the glutton.’ Credit: Wellcome Trust.

After the holiday blow-out many people start to think uneasily about New Year reformation. New Year, new you and all that biznai. From my window I saw joggers stumbling red-faced and queasy through the streets on New Year’s Day. People join gyms and sign up to diets. They make resolutions. They look at themselves unhappily, feeling old and unwell. Some of this is a natural revulsion of sentiment after the long Christmas and New Year binge, and it can be healthy enough. Where it fails is where it touches the fault lines in our peculiar attitudes to food and health. Continue reading

Bittersweetness and light: New Year’s Eve cocktails

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Bust of the double-headed Roman god Janus, Vatican museum. The month of January, also facing two ways, forward and back, is named after him. Credit: Fubar Obfusco (public domain), via Wikimedia Commons.

I began hating New Year somewhere in my teens and it took me years to make some sort of accommodation with it. After weeks of hoo-ha and feasting, rarely a quiet moment alone, there’s this. I enjoy the long Christmas, there’s much to be said for a spell of eating, drinking and irrational, even stupid cheerfulness, but after a while you  begin to at least half-crave some temperance and a book. Continue reading