Instead of giving up alcohol entirely in January, follow the “Drink Less, Drink Better” mantra of the Thinking Drinkers – by spending your recommended 14 units of alcohol in discerning fashion.
January really is a sh*t month. Wetter than an otter’s pocket, darker than a gravedigger’s soul, it starts with a hangover and ends with a Tax Return. 31 days of unadulterated ‘meh’.
It’s named after the god Janus. Janus was presumably at the back of the line when Roman Mythology was giving out deity duties. As his peers were being given wisdom, the sea, war and love, the sun and other cool things like that, Janus was hailed as the god of doorways.
To make matters worse, he was also given a head with two faces on it which meant it was extremely difficult for him to hide his disappointment.
Apollo, Neptune and Vulcan have inspired space missions, planets and a really cool, albeit deadly, pinch to the subclavian artery. Janus, meanwhile, is the etymological inspiration for ‘janitor’. And what do janitors do? Well, according to Wikipedia, they are known to unblock toilets and urinals. Which brings us seamlessly to the original point made so succinctly above. January. It’s a bit sh*t.
So instead of desisting from alcohol for the whole month (and then falling off the wagon in spectacular fashion in February), our advice is to enjoy the epicurean joys of drink by consuming it in moderation.
Which begs the question, what is moderation? Well, according to the Government, that famous font of truth and knowledge, then 14 units a week is as much as you can have – regardless of gender.
Fourteen units is the equivalent of 4/five pints of 4.5% beer; seven cocktails/long drinks or six (125ml) glasses of wine. Now if you’re going to drink less, then it’d be daft not to drink better?
So, in tune with a “Try January” initiative launched by the nation’s pubs and bars (which encourages people to broaden the booze horizons and become more adventurous in their elbow-bending), we have drawn up a discerning “drink less drink better” diary for the entire month of January.
According to the “Dry January” website, doctors recommend two successive alcohol-free days a week. So we’ve sprinkled the recommended weekly 14 units across the remaining five days and then, just to ease any unnecessary guilt, provided a compelling, yet often extremely tenuous, reason to raise a glass.
1st January: New Years Day: Two x Bloody Mary
The classic hair of the dog. The tomato juice, rich in lycopene and antioxidants, should be nice and thick while we suggest the superb Oak Smoked Vodka from the Chase Distillery in Herefordshire – designed specifically for the Bloody Mary.
50ml Chase Smoked Vodka, 20ml Freshly squeezed lemon juice, Dash Tabasco sauce and Worcester sauce. Tomato Juice and Celery Salt. Shake ingredients with ice and strain into an ice filled highball glass. Garnish with a stick of celery, lemon wedge, and a grind of black pepper.
2nd: Get Fit – Erdinger Alkoholfrei
Right. Time to do some exercise. After your workout, re-hydrate with two bottles of Erdinger Alkoholfrei, an alcohol free Bavarian wheat beer that Germans drink after running marathons and stuff. It is low in calories, with just 125 kcal per 500ml bottle and contains vitamins B12 and folic acid. It also says here that it has isotonic properties – meaning it has the same so-called osmotic pressure as human blood, thus enabling the ingredients to be absorbed immediately and enter the bloodstream. No we don’t understand either but John Barnes probably knows. It’s also nice with enormous sausages. Try it, what’s the wurst that can happen?
5th: Earnest Shackleton Death (1922) – Mackinlay’s Shackleton Blended Malt
When he was a young lad, Earnest was a flag-waving member of a teenage Temperance movement and would sing about the evils of alcohol outside pubs. But twenty years later, ages 33, he left New Zealand with a tonne of liquor – including 300 bottles of whisky, regarded by Earnest as an essential camaraderie catalyst. In 2006, after a century entombed in ice, three cases were unearthed from beneath Earnest’s hut in the aptly-named Cape Royds, a black volcanic outcrop in the Antarctic (sitting on cold surfaces for a long time can cause serious ‘Nobby Stiles’). This balanced blend, inspired by that discovery, is best served over ice. Naturally.
6th January: Grand 75
It’s Joan of Arc’s birthday and, as she was born in Champagne, we’re having some fizzy posh gear. It’s what she would have wanted. In honour of her military prowess, we have gone for a twist on the French 75, an iconic Champagne cocktail named after a massive artillery field gun used in the first World War. Instead of gin, we’ve gone for Grand Marnier, an orange liqueur which uses the best brandies from cognac. Pourquoi? Parce-que.
Shake 50ml Grand Marnier and fresh lemon juice over ice. Strain into a coupette glass and top up with Champagne. Garnish with an orange slice.
7th: Castro Acknowledged – Castro Mojito
Not much has happened on 7th January apart from, back in 1959, Fidel Castro was recognised by the US government as President of Cuba. Create this Cuban cocktail how Castro enjoyed it – lengthened with cold lager rather than soda water.
50ml Havana Club rum, 1 lime cut in half, 15ml sugar syrup, 4 mint leaves, 1 x Small Beer Lager.
Crush the mint and simple syrup in a mixing glass. Squeeze in juice from both lime halves, add the rum and ice and stir. Pour everything into a glass, top with Small Beer lager and garnish.
8th: David Bowie’s Birthday – Four Pillars Gin Martini
The Thin White Duke would have been 73 today and, given his love for the Martini, he would have no doubt celebrated with the king of cocktails. Its ingredients are simply gin and vermouth. That’s it. No mucking about – a v-shaped salute to the daily trudge of modern life. Bowie also had a strong affinity with Australia – so we’re using Four Pillars Gin, distilled in the Yarra Valley using whole fresh oranges, Tasmanian pepperberry and Austrian lemon myrtle. It was recently named the best gin producer in the world.
Ingredients: 60ml Four Pillars Gin, 15ml Vermouth, Ice cubes, Orange zest twist
Method: Stir the ingredients in a large glass with ice and strain into a martini glass. Garnish with an Orange zest twist
9th: Dark ‘n Stormy – Lord Admiral Nelson State Funeral
To commemorate the internment of Admiral Nelson’s body in St.Pauls Cathedral, reach for a Dark ‘n Stormy. After dying at the Battle of Trafalgar, his body was preserved in a barrel of rum that was drunk dry by his adoring crew on the voyage back to Blighty. Some claim it was brandy but, given the Navy’s dislike of the French, we’re going for this iconic naval rum cocktail – which has to, by law, be made with Gosling’s Black Seal Rum.
In a tall glass filled with ice add 125ml of Gosling’s Stormy Ginger Beer and top with 50ml Gosling’s Black Seal Rum. Garnish with a lime wedge to prevent scurvy.
12th: Hot Toddy Day – King’s Mulled Cider
Today is both “Hot Toddy Day” and “Kiss a Ginger Day”, so we’ve combined the two in the shape of a Mulled Cider using King’s Ginger – an esteemed, quintessentially English royal liqueur originally created for King Edward VII who, by all accounts, was a bit of a player.
Edward inked up his body with tattoos, bedded mistresses, smoked cigars and lived the good life in the latest fashions – particularly tweed. He also liked driving around his open-top Daimler which, much to the concern of his Royal Physician, exposed him to the elements.
King Edward’s cockles needed warming so, at the physician’s behest, wine merchant Berry Bros & Rudd created The King’s Ginger – a lavish liqueur laced with spicy ginger root and lemon peel.
50ml The King’s Ginger, 150ml Aspall Draught Cyder, 150ml Apple juice.
Add all ingredients to sauce pan and heat gently. Don’t keep the pan on the heat for too long as the alcohol will burn off. Serve in a handled hot toddy glass.
14th : STIQ Day –The Penicillin Cocktail:
Hooray! It’s STIQ day – a day dedicated to raising awareness of sexual health and encouraging more people to get regular sexual health checks. It’s on January 14th because it takes two weeks for chlamydia to make itself known and you’ve got a month till Valentine’s Day to get it sorted. If you reckon you may have caught some ‘underpants ouch’ over the holiday period, get yourself checked out and then have a Penicillin, a wonderful whisky cocktail that won’t cure your galloping knob rot – but tastes damn nice.
50ml Johnnie Walker Black whisky, 10ml Lagavulin Islay Whisky, 4 teaspoons lemon juice, 4 teaspoon honey ginger syrup. Shake all the ingredients vigorously with ice and strain into a tumbler glass over fresh ice.
DO NOT Garnish with a cocktail umbrella – for obvious reasons.
15th: Boston Molasses Flood – Diplomatico Old Fashioned
101 Years ago, Boston was flooded after a tank holding 10 million litres of molasses exploded and unleashed a 8m high tsunami of treacle that killed 20 people, injured 150 more and destroyed homes and shops. Commiserate with a molasses-fuelled twist on the Old Fashioned, using a deluxe Venezuelan rum instead of bourbon.
50ml Diplomatico Reserva Exclusiva; 5ml Sugar syrup, 3 large dashes of Angostura bitters, Slice of Orange peel.
Method: Place the sugar syrup and bitters in a rocks glass, add one ice cube and stir. Add some of the rum and another ice cube and continue stirring. Keep adding ice and rum alternately, while stirring, until all the rum has been added. Stir again, then squeeze the oil from the orange zest twist over the drink, drop in the zest and continue stirring.
17th: Prohibition Centenary – Southside Cocktail
It was on this day, a century ago, that Prohibition went live. The most famous Prohibition cocktail is the Southside Rickey, an illicit gin drink said to be enjoyed by Chicago mobsters including Al Capone – whose rough tasting gin needed disguising with sweetness.
60ml Plymouth Gin, 30ml lime juice, 15ml sugar syrup. 6 mint leaves.
Shake all ingredients with ice and fine strain into chilled glass.
20th: Blue Monday – “Blue Hawaiian”
On this day, declared to be the most depressing of the year by pesky travel agents, swap dreary drizzle and debt for the sun-kissed, tongue-in-cheek tiki bars of Hawaii using this kitsch old school classic blue drink that is essentially a Pina Colada turned blue. As ordered by Don Draper in series six of Mad Men.
30ml Bacardi Carta Blanca light rum, 30ml Lejay Lagoute Blue Curacao, 90ml Pineapple juice, 30ml cream of coconut; two dashes of freshly squeezed lime juice
Shake all the ingredients in a shaker and strain into a hurricane glass filled with ice.
21st: George Orwell Died – Adnams Blackshore Stout
It’s 70 years since the death of the famous English novelist George Orwell – whose famous essay, “Moon On The Water”, described the perfect pub. Orwell spent a chunk of his life in Southwold on the Suffolk Coast, home to the Adnams brewery since 1872 – so pour yourself a glass of their delicious viscous, vanilla-ery, velvety stout – darker than a dystopian Orwellian future (yet still goes well with cheesecake).
22nd: Apple Mac Launched – Cidre Dupont Réserve
Talking of Orwell, 1984 was the year Apple unveiled its Macintosh computer – long before the likes of Siri and Alexa (allegedly) started listening to our conversations. Arguably the most apple-y drink out there is this fabulously funky French cider from Normandy that is aged in Calvados oak casks for six months. Tres bon.
24th: “The Gentleman” – Timothy Taylor Landlord & Wild Turkey Longbranch
Go and watch “The Gentleman”, the latest film from Guy Ritchie, starring Hugh Grant and Matthew McConaughey. Ritchie famously introduced Madonna to the joys of Timothy Taylor Landlord, an iconic ale from Yorkshire. While McConaughey is the man behind Wild Turkey Longbranch Kentucky Straight Bourbon. Bring them together for a rather discerning Boilermaker.
25th: Burns Night – Ola Dubh 12 year-old.
In any other month of the year, no-one would countenance an evening of unintelligible Scottish poetry; blaring bagpipes (imagine a fire in a pet shop); a ‘supper’ of root vegetables and a stomach of stuffed with suet, salt and various bits of sheep; and a dress-code strictly stipulating ‘no underpants’. But in January? We’re all over it like a flannel. What time does it start? Salute the promiscuous Scottish poet with “Black Oil”, a delicious dark beer aged in barrels formerly occupied by Highland Park 12 year-old.
28th : Henry VIII’s Death – Orval,
There was a time when monks brewed all the beer in Britain. We don’t have monastic beers in Britain anymore because, unlike Jay Z, Henry VIII had lots of problems with his ‘bitches’ and these issues forced him to dissolve all the monasteries in the 16th century. The Belgians, however, breathed life back into the beer-making monky business and Orval is arguably the most awesome of Trappist beers – still brewed by monks. Like a good Bordeaux, it’s difficult to discover Orval’s genuine greatness until it’s been aged for a while – bold of hop, rich in malt and with a funky note that comes with age.
29th: James Jamerson’s Birthday – Metaxa 12 Star Brandy
James Jamerson is arguably history’s most brilliant bass player, a phenomenally gifted musical genius whose propulsive bass lines underpinned the renowned Motown sound. He gave us the funk, providing the groove for Stevie Wonder, Diana Ross, Smokey Robinson and Junior Walker. Famously, after a big night in a Detroit bar, he was dragged into a studio by Marvin Gaye where, unable to stand, he calmly came up with the iconic bass line on ‘What’s Goin’ On’ whilst lying flat on his back on the studio floor. He kept a bottle of Metaxa brandy in his guitar case which, he claimed, loosened up his play. So try this gorgeously complex Greek brandy over a large chunk of ice in a whisky glass.
30th: Last day in the European Union – Cantillon Gueuze
What better way to commemorate 47 years in the European Union than with a slightly sour beer that’s been brewed in and around an otherwise unremarkable corner of Brussels for more than five hundred years? Cantillon is a legendary Lambic beer that is exposed to natural yeasts in the air before spending several years fermenting in small oak barrels. Funky and tart, it’s adored by beer aficionados. However, much like the EU, it can really polarise opinion. We like it though.
31st AA Milne Dies – Hiver Honey Beer.
Remember the creator of Winnie The Pooh with a glorious golden ale made using honey. Rather than simply adding it as a flavouring after the beer is brewed, Hiver is fermented and conditioned using three different honeys from beekeepers in London, Kent and Yorkshire.
The Thinking Drinkers are touring their award-winning and critically acclaimed drinks tastings in theatres across the UK in 2020. To buy tickets and to find dates visit here