Earlier this summer, I endured a day of sporting attrition at The Oval watching the first Test match between England and South Africa. I watched as the Proteas ground down the English in what was, quite frankly, one of the most boring days of cricket I have ever had the displeasure to witness.
Thankfully, this is England and, far from being a distraction, the odd rain delay here and there provided a welcome break from watching Jacques Kallis constantly ‘‘gardening” around his wicket whenever any young man with three lions on his shirt found anything near resembling line and length. In total, I think, I witnessed less than 150 runs being added to the total during an entire day’s play.
But that’s the nature of cricket, even sport in general; you never quite know what you’re going to get for your money. One thing you can be in control of, however, is the company you keep at these events as well as the booze you consume through the day. Who can’t fall in love with a game based around lunch and tea? With those two scheduled breaks, and many more due to rain, they provide the perfect opportunity to whip up the odd cocktail in between here and there.
I have a group of friends with whom I watch England play at The Oval. One is a lifelong, childhood friend called Matthew whose flat is less than 50 yards from the main stadium gates. So when the rain comes a-tumbling from the sky, we often head back to his flat where I have installed a make-shift bar for the rain delays, with two cocktails on offer—a Tom Collins and an Old Fashioned.
Both hideously easy drinks to knock up, these can make an unenforced break fly past. The Tom Collins is made using just gin, lemon juice, sugar and sparkling water. I like to use Tanqueray, with about two-thirds as much lemon juice, a spoonful of sugar, stirred, and then topped up with sparkling water and ice. This drink is so refreshing, it’s untrue.
For the whisky lovers in the group, the Old Fashioned also is an easy cocktail popularized recently by the American TV show Mad Men. In the bottom of a glass, douse a brown sugar cube with Angostura bitters and fill the glass with water to about halfway up the sugar cube. Crush this down and stir until the sugar crystals have dissolved. Fill the glass with ice and pour 50ml of whisky (I like to use Johnnie Walker Black Label, but traditionally this would have been an American whiskey), put a slice of orange, a cherry, stir well and serve. These drinks should be a welcome break from yet another beer in the stands and will refresh as well as amaze those around you.
One of the utter joys of a day watching cricket is the conversation. If you go to the movies and the film is poor, it would be very much frowned upon to pull out a broadsheet newspaper, put your feet up on the seat in front of you, and start a conversation on the state of the economy with the friend next to you. God forbid that you light a barbeque! That is sure to have you ejected from the theatre post-haste.
But on this fateful day at The Oval, as play slowed and slowed, our conversation did the opposite—gathering pace as we put the world to rights. All subjects were covered, from politics to polo, as every so often our chat was interrupted by weak applause for a rare South African boundary.
The overriding story from the day was told to me by Olly, who had been reading an interview with Stuart Broad. In the piece, ‘‘Broady” had been talking about a game the England team play when the boys go out for dinner—credit card roulette.
The rules are simple; at the end of a meal, a small ‘‘pocket” is made from a napkin on the table. All those in attendance put a credit card in, and the waiter is invited to pull them out, one by one, from the makeshift pocket. The last card is responsible for covering the whole bill. A simple and, dare I say it, genius way to settle that age-old debate of who is going to pick up the tab.
As we approach our first birthday here at Indulge, my hope is that my columns, coupled with the Whisky Special released in December, have provided you with a light, a beacon if you will, through the world of drinks, especially that of spirits.
It is my desire that your life be not a series of games of ‘‘drinking roulette”, that when you go to buy a high-end Scotch, you know why you’re buying a Johnnie Walker Blue Label or a Royal Salute. That when an important client buys you a dram of The Macallan at a five-star hotel in Singapore, you can speak with some authority about its undoubted quality. And, from last month’s piece, when ordering a gin and tonic anywhere in the world, you can ask, with a weight of authority, for Beefeater 24, showing the bartender that you won’t stand for the average.
Above all else, however, I hope this series of writings has engendered in you, dear reader, the idea that drinks are social glue.
Often, going to a cricket match is not so much about the game itself; it’s about spending quality time with good friends, chatting about the mundane, catching up on family stories, sharing community.
And this is what a drink should be in your world: a campfire to gather around. Whatever your favourite tipple, I guarantee the best mixers for it are conversation and friends.
Joel Harrison is a drinks writer and consultant and co-founder of the website Caskstrength.net
He is on Twitter at @WeHeartWhisky
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