Tuesday, August 02, 2011

“Everyday Drinking” – Book Review


Recently, I finished reading a book that would be a great read for almost any fan of regular adult beverage intake, so I decided to share it with you in this week’s blog post. The book is called “Everyday Drinking” by Kingsley Amis. It is basically a compilation of both newspaper and magazine articles Amis has written over the years on wide-ranging topics related to drinking – whether it’s the current state of pubs, the proper way to mix a cocktail or how best to either prevent a hangover or treat one after the fact.

The book opens with a sensational introduction by gadfly and controversial author Christopher Hitchens; if you are familiar with his work (I became aware of him around 15 years ago through his guest commentary on news shows rather than through his writing), you will know that this alone would justify the cost of the book. Amis was British and primarily a novelist; perhaps his most famous book was titled, “Lucky Jim” (which also happens to be the name of a cocktail he invented).

“Everyday Drinking” is divided into three main sections: “On Drink”, “Everyday Drinking” and “How’s Your Glass?”. While the rather learned author is most astute on his topic, he is also quite funny, in a snarky kind of way; as a result, you wind up learning quite a good deal as well as being thoroughly entertained – in that regard, you might want to think of him as the British equivalent of Zane Lamprey.

Perhaps the most fun portion of the book is the final section, which is comprised of a series of quizzes on various drinking-related topics that include wine, beer, spirits and mixology; answers to all questions are provided in a subsequent chapter. One warning about the quizzes is that some of them are broken into simple, intermediary and advanced; I personally found that many of the questions in the simple quizzes to be rather difficult, but then again, maybe you’ll have better luck than I. Don’t be fooled as I was: The Cotton Gin was definitely NOT some kind of cocktail based on a certain juniper-infused spirit! Hey, who knew?

Additionally, the book includes a number of cocktail recipes, some of which you may wish to try yourself – depending on how adventurous you are. I add that caveat only because a few of these can be challenging either because they’re somewhat difficult to make or because an occasional ingredient or two you may encounter trouble locating. Nevertheless, they make a fun read, especially when the author discusses their history. Some of the recipes are for cocktails the author himself invented, others are of classic drinks that have been forgotten over the years for one reason or another.

A glossary is included early on and you’d better read it or at least bookmark it because you’ll certainly need to refer to it later on as you proceed through the book. It contains a collection of words and phrases that were rather unfamiliar to me, either because of the fact that they were British terminology or esoteric argot particular to the liquor industry.


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