That One Perfect Drink

Inside the caves at Moet Chandon, gazing at some of the vintages stored there.

“Where’s the bubbly?” asks one of my guests. It is, after all, a milestone anniversary. Which has me wondering why we have such stereotypes about the drinks we consider special. Take champagne. Since every two-bit, trumped up, tax dodger in the world orders it by the bucket in nightclubs, it can hardly be a drink for a special occasion. Unless they’re celebrating every night they’re not behind another set of bars for tax fraud. So if it’s not champagne any more, then what should it be?

For starters, choose the occasion. For a business dinner, celebrating the closing of a deal, nothing beats whisky. Something you can’t walk into a bar and see sitting on a shelf. Something that tells your counterparts across the negotiating table that they have reposed their faith in the right man. No one could help being impressed with your choice of a 1946 Macallan. And it would help immensely if you were to suggest that the reason you chose it was not because it is so frightfully expensive, something so obvious it doesn’t bear pointing out, but because it is the first whisky laid down after the war years. A whisky which says, quietly, the worst is now behind us, a new world order lies ahead, and with it, hope, peace, and everlasting prosperity. Just what you wish for in your new venture.

Different women at different occasions demand different drinks. With a wedding anniversary, you can’t go wrong with Bordeaux. One of the first growths. Personally I prefer Chateau Margaux, but feel free to pick any of the others. The implications are obvious. Here is a wine that is redolent in its richness. Enticing on the nose, enchanting on the palate, despite, nay, because of the years it has spent maturing. This is not a wine that offers false promise. This is a wine that says, loudly and proudly, that it has every right to be at that table. That it has stayed constant over the years, and although occasionally overlooked, it has sat patiently, waiting to be recognised as the finest there is. Order a bottle from the year of her birth. Unless you have a child bride, it’ll be very ready to drink, and it’ll tell her that every one of those years she has been with you are to be appreciated greatly. If you have the words, write her a poem. If you don’t, let the wine say it for you. She’ll understand.

Girlfriends on the other hand, are not a Bordeaux. Girlfriends are the nectar the gods choose to share with you fleetingly. Oh, don’t kid yourself. It’ll be fleeting. She’s going to dump in you a month. But for the moment, she is so in love with you. Girlfriends are sweetness and sex and the sunshine of your life captured in a glass. And nothing says sweetness and sex and sunshine better than a Sauternes. You’ve plied her with champagne and caviar and all the other rubbish some chicks think indulgent. But after she’s picked at her Caesar salad and refused the chocolate pud, push the other glasses aside and open a bottle of Chateau d’Yquem. This is a wine that is so particular, it admits it often hasn’t had a great vintage in ten years. That’s how rare it is. Rather like your love for this exquisite creature sitting across from you. You’ll have her melting faster than that puddle of chocolate pud on your plate.

There is nothing more satisfying for a parent than watching children graduate. Not out of any sense of pride at seeing that mortarboard being flung in the air, but more the hope that they will finally make something of themselves in the world and stop sponging off you. But that transition from high school to university is just the right time to further their education and give them a taste of what’s ahead. Tequila. Every college kid with any sense mainlines the stuff at some point. So you need to prepare them, not for the rot you and I shot with a smidgeon of salt and a slice of lime in our younger days, but the better stuff you don’t ever see in a dorm room. Sit that son down and salute his first step to independence. Añejo tequila. I’m partial to El Tesoro, but the Don Julio does equally nicely. Although at those prices, if he starts shooting that in school, you’re going to be supporting him a lot longer than you think.

Every once in a while a man needs to meet with his mates and toast to a past unsullied, a future uncertain. And the best way to do that is to go back to where you all began. No, not in that cheap bar, but with what you drank. That’s right. Rum. And while I still have fond memories of Old Monk, Black Panther and Hercules XXX, you need to accept that you’re now men and not the pimply adolescents who were on a boy’s night because no girl would go out with them. Now you need to celebrate your best friend’s new trophy wife with an aged rum. Having sat in chairs still carrying the imprint of Hemingway’s butt in Cuba, I would recommend a 21 year old Havana Club. As smooth as single malt, as classic as a fine Cognac. It says you’re still one of the boys. But boy, oh boy, have you grown up.

And then there’s that rare occasion when you get to look back at your life thus far, and having been weighed and found not wanting, you get to say to yourself that it has been good. You have been lover and husband, father and son. You have sacrificed all the blood, sweat, toil and tears that were expected of you. And you have reason to give yourself the pat on the back that will otherwise only come in your obituary. That’s when you sit down alone and pour yourself that one drink that you know says everything there is to say about you. Mine was a 1902 single malt. Yours could be beer. This is your life you’re celebrating. You don’t need advice from a blog for that.

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