04 September, 2008

Where I learnt to drink

Well, if you want the truth it was probably at my grandmother's knee, coming from a slightly French family that subscribed to a wholly French approach to booze. So it was watered down wine from an early age and there is at least one picture of me tipsy at 10. Didn't take much in those days. And doesn't these days. We won't go into the years between.

But if you want to know where I was first seduced by the romance of champagne, and cocktails, and hard liquor that makes you cough, then you would have to go to the movies.

To Ninotchka where Garbo has her first sip of champagne having only previously drunk vodka and goat's milk. "It's good!" Well, it is but I was so disappointed when it came quite properly in flutes (to preserve the bubbles) instead of Hollywood-style glasses. Probably my favourite drink because it makes me want to dance round a pool with Jimmy Stewart. "Heavy mist before my eyes."

Now my first martini which didn't come until my 30s - well even in London I was hardly a sophisticated bar-going city slicker - was a shock. You can call me naive. No really, I was. I've seen enough films to know how a martini is made - William Powell explaining how you have to shake to waltz time in The Thin Man, Gig Young or was it Clark Gable explaining that you only need to rub the lid of the martini bottle round the rim before pouring in the gin in Teacher's Pet, and so on. But the thing is, Myrna Loy apparently goes on to drink six of the damn things and is still human the next day, not to say slinky and gorgeous and funny, although with ice pack attached to head. So it's fiction. Who cares? I didn't realise they would taste or be that strong. At least the glass is the same. I own two, which are now sadly very dusty because I am not sure I could do anything after a martini and I have kids and stuff.

Then there are the more exotic cocktails. None more so, in my opinion, entirely drawn from film, than Dulce de Leche because it's ordered by Marlon Brando in the course of Guys and Dolls. Oh to be Jean Simmons all buttoned up and unbuttoning. Though if you want naive, she takes the biscuit - "sweet of milk" ha!

And to finish off this round of drinks, whisky that makes you splutter, given to you after a shock, or by some hard-bitten and deeply scarred cowboy to prove you're a silly girl or callow youth. Actually that's one drink that proved to be so much better than Hollywood pretends but perhaps this is because I stick to Scottish single malt and don't stray to moonshine.

I leave you with William Powell and Myrna Loy, the two most glamorous drunks on film.


Elizabeth Musgrave said...

But what is your favourite? I have a real weakness for champagne and sauvignon blanc. Actually I would have to admit to being ready to have a go at most things, but not in any great quantity.

Eliane said...

Definitely champagne. Though I do have those G&T moments and sometimes only a whisky will do. Oh and red wine and white wine, and sometimes real ale. In fact, pretty much anything except those foul cough medicine tasting over-sweetened things like Baileys or Bacardi Breezers. Oh and there was a semi-fermented hot alcoholic drink that looked like tea that I once had in Kenya. Tasted like liquid yeast mixture and they gave me a mug full at one of those "you'll offend everyone if you don't finish it" dos. But I just couldn't. Truly horrible.