We tend to associate carnivorous barbecuing with Argentina (asado), South Africa (braai), Australia (barbie), the US, etc, but in parts of Italy meat is master and cooking it over charcoal or wood is a serious tradition. Think of Tuscany’s famous Bistecca alla Fiorentina. Continue reading
I wrote a piece on the martini for Alderman Lushington.
The martini is a simple cocktail, with few ingredients and one overarching principle—it should combine maximal coldness with minimal dilution. However, it’s also quite technical and a beautiful example of the narcissism of small differences; add the wrong quantity of vermouth or cool it the wrong way and there are people who will think you’ve revealed yourself as being lower than a monkey and more vicious than a cat…
Read the whole piece here.
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.
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
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
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
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
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
Sometimes it’s useful to have some help easing through the early parts of Christmas day. This calls for a special kind of drink, if it’s drink you want. The principles are simple enough, but they require fine balance and nice judgement. Your drink should be apt to the season, it should be mild and undemanding, and it should set you up for the rest of the day. Let’s say that you could drink it mid-morning while unwrapping presents (if you have youngish children—ha!) or jawing harmlessly with the in-laws in that dead time before the food. If it seems unhealthy to be drinking before the sun hits the yardarm, at least it’s social, healthier than everyone withdrawing into their smartphones while one person cooks. Continue reading
All things considered, this is my favourite cocktail. I discovered it by happy accident one Christmas when my father said I could pick any cocktail from his pocket bar guide and he’d mix it for me. I’d been helping out at the guest house, I think cleaning or restocking the small bar. Being very young at the time I looked for one that had the most alcohol and the least mixer without being either impossible (exotic ingredients, such as absinthe) or disgusting (vile ingredients, such as absinthe). I chose a Sidecar and was relieved to find that I liked it; I’ve been liking it ever since. Other cocktails come and go, but not this one. Continue reading
It’s the time of year to say something about the nights drawing in and it being colder, this requiring hearty comfort food and all that. For myself, I like this casserole at any time of year and think it quite suits the summer, but it is hearty. It can be a simple, economical meal, but it’s also good enough to give to old friends with some good wine. Continue reading
Novembeerd: like so many good–bad/bad–good/bad–bad ideas, this began in a pub. Look at the beard, guess what beer its wearer drinks, suggest what beer its wearer should drink. Think of it as a tribute of sorts to the long relationship between beer and beards, from CAMRA to the craft movement. Continue reading
Around fifteen years ago I wrote a feature called something like ‘red grapes of Bordeaux at home and abroad’. In it I mentioned a grape called Malbec, saying that although many readers wouldn’t be familiar with it, and although it was only a minor constituent in some red Bordeaux, in Argentina* it was the dominant grape. I added that, unlikely though it might seem, some Argentinian wine really was very good, and excellent value. Today neither the description nor the reassurance would be necessary; Malbec, especially Argentinian Malbec, is commonplace and deservedly popular. Continue reading
Andy Hamilton is an author, broadcaster, foraging guide and accidental expert—he has an unusual dedication to following wherever his interests take him. Mostly this has been to the areas of alcohol and self-sufficiency, frequently in the overlap between the two. His published books include The Selfsufficient-ish Bible (2009, co-authored with his twin brother), Booze for Free (2011) and Brewing Britain (2013).
Andy contributes to various TV and radio shows on subjects ranging from survival and foraging through to home brewing and gardening. Highlights include telling BBC Radio 2’s Simon Mayo how to make the perfect elderflower champagne and nearly taking the Autumnwatch cast’s teeth out with his toffee apples. His most recent appearance was on BBC Radio 4’s Food Programme (‘Wild Booze’). He regularly blogs about home brewing, beer, foraging and gardening on his website, while you can also follow him on Twitter.