The 100 Best Things About Drinking—
Happy 100th birthday to The Chap! Does this mean a telegram from Her Majesty? A polite round of applause from the Pavilion?
Or a chance to celebrate the hundred best things about drinking? Almost certainly all three. Here for your delectation (and in no particular order) are the hundred best things about drinking. Happy Hundredth!
1. Oliver Reed. Oliver Reed is at once the best and worst thing about drinking, but without doubt shooting sofas in the middle of the night to startle your sleeping houseguests is an extraordinary way to finish a night on the sauce.
2. Ming The Merciless. Ming’s power potions are the stuff of legend. Rumour has it his sommeliers travel the far corners of the galaxy to ensure that his potency, when it comes to romance, is a hurricane of hugs.
3. Sherry. It’s probably what Ming’s secretly been drinking all these years, and there is no doubt that a chilled glass of Fino with a carefully carved platter of jamón is one of life’s greatest pleasures.
4. Withnail. A morose theatrical old soak he may be, but Withnail is without question responsible for some of the greatest quotes connected with the dark arts of drinking. “We want cake and fine wine.”
5. Condorman. A much underrated drinker, especially when Michael Crawford’s character orders a double Istanbul Express. “Nobody orders the double” trembles the waiter. “Alright then, make it a triple”. The flames shooting out of Crawford’s face after a single sip look like a butane barbecue. Magic.
6. Keith Floyd. Cooking on location with effortless improvisation was a showcase to his wit and wonder. Alas the booze had a tendency to gain the upper hand but when on song, this chap was nothing short of operatic.
7. The Queen. For her love of gin, for her love of Dubonnet, for her love of our country, “The Queen” should be the toast of all drinks.
8. Harvey’s Best Bitter. A long established tradition in these pages to extol the virtues of the world’s greatest pint.
9. Sausages. On the bar of The Grenadier, The Duke of Wellington’s old mess and a splendid Belgravia boozer, you will find sausages. And you should order them.
10. Edinburgh. The greatest drinking city in the world. Whisky, beer, wine, or just coffee laced with outrageousness, there is no better scenery in which to get steadily sloshed.
11. Cricket. What Edinburgh is to cities, cricket is to sport. No finer backdrop to getting slowly pickled.
12. Tennis. Except tennis.
13. The Hipflask. A hipflask is sacred and the contents are the diplomatic bag of personal enjoyment. Armagnac Port or Aquavit are all as acceptable as the usual suspects. Fill it with your dreams.
14. Pastis. The aniseed outrage of this drink is enough to reassure even the most jaded palate that the frontier of flavour is laced with eternal astonishment.
15. The Colombe D’Or. A favourite of my late friend Sir Roger Moore, this hostelry not far from Nice is adorned with Picassos and what the rustic food doesn’t quite deliver, the setting and ice cold rosé more than make up for.
16. The Hangover. Impossible to appreciate the glory of the night before without the penance of the morning. And the only excuse you will ever need to drink early in the day. Bloody Mary, you say?
17. The Full English. See above.
18. Al Bowlly. In your frailest moment of sublime regret, when your curses to Bacchus writhe to the ceiling, nurse your hangover with the gentlest crooner of them all, Al Bowlly singing The Very Thought Of You. Satisfaction guaranteed.
19. Jesus. Water into wine. Enough said.
20. Dawn French. For her love of cider and infectious giggles, we salute the best of the French.
21. Horace. The great Roman poet loved a glass of local wine from around his Sabine farm, rather than the posh pricey stuff back in Rome. My favourite translations of poetry are by Harry Eyres. Try this, from Odes 3:25, Quo Me Bacche: My words will soar, O Lord of the Wine Press, And they will not die: I am drinking deep, Taking the risk, binding my brow with vine shoots.
22. Long Haul Travel. A glass of excellence while flying far away is excellent. Doesn’t matter so much where as what’s in our glass – make it strong, cold and repeatable.
23. Prohibition. Not so much fun at the time but the source of many legends, stories and, oddly enough, the finessing of boutique booze production.
24. Mountain Dogs With Brandy Barrels. We’d all love one as our best bud.
25. Cognac. Grape spirit seasoned in barrels that can live for centuries. I’ve tasted 1805, the year of the Battle of Trafalgar. Time travel? In a drink? Without a Tardis? I’m in.
26. Singing. Always better after a drink.
27. Bourbon. Condemned by imbeciles as inferior, this American Whiskey is, in fact, capable of top quality. In addition, Bourbon features in the Mint Julep that Bond and Goldfinger share on Auric’s Kentucky stud farm, so Bourbon is unimpeachably wonderful.
28. Micheladas. There’s no denying how horrific these drinks sound on paper: tomato juice, beer and spices. But drink a cold one in Mexico and find your god.
29. The Square & Compass, Worth Matravers. Quite simply the greatest pub in the world in which to drink cider.
30. Coq Au Vin. Cook chicken in wine, drink wine. Sometimes the French really do nail it.
31. John Clare. The bucolic poet may indeed have lost his mind and fallen victim to the bottle, but any poet responsible for the lines “I am – yet what I am, none cares or knows” deserves a place in the top 100 of everything.
32. Sake. It’s heavenly.
33. Iggy Pop. Of course.
34. Sparkling Water. Sometimes the cascade of bubbles can finally get a grip on reality, from the inside of your face up to your brain.
35. Fondue. In reality, you can’t drink fondue, but I dream that you can.
36. Plze. Also known as Pilsner, this is the birthplace of bright golden lager in the Czech Republic. Drinking Pilsner Urquell from the barrel in the cellars is akin to sipping from the font of the gods on the very peak of Mount Booze.
37. Titian. Be mesmerised by his Bacchus and Ariadne in the National Gallery. If that painting doesn’t make you want to drink, sing or visit Titian’s grave in Venice to bow your head in thanks, then you are either made of wood or already ashes. Yes, I have done all three.
38. Lily Bollinger. “I drink Champagne when I’m happy and when I’m sad. Sometimes I drink it when I’m alone. When I have company I consider it obligatory. I trifle with it if I’m not hungry and drink it when I am. Otherwise, I never touch it – unless I’m thirsty.”
39. Admiral Lord Nelson’s dead body. Steeped in rum, Nelson’s blood infused the barrel and some say the sailors on his return home from Trafalgar. Pickled admirals, some say, are the greatest admirals.
40. Skiing. Much better after a bottle between friends.
41. The Pickled Egg. Only ever acceptable with a pint, and said pint is only ever an excuse to indulge in this most revolting yet compellingly British snack.
42. Cheese. A glass of Porter with a slice of Dolcelatte will tease the deepest secrets out of any conversation, all accompanied by mile-wide grins. This is filth at its finest.
43. Hammocks. An afternoon snooze in the dappled light of an orchard after a heavy lunch in the Room of Dreams offers unparalleled levels of enjoyment.
44. Harbin Ice & Snow World. Below minus twenty calls for serious fortification to see this illuminated wonder of the world in China. Just make sure the drink doesn’t freeze to your face. I speak from experience.
45. Captain Haddock. Loch Lomond anyone?
46. Sir Roger Moore. Noted for his work as an actor, philanthropist and devotee of fine Sancerre, a glass in His Rogesty’s company could ne’er be beat.
47. Port. Deeply fortified, this is wine’s answer to a portable potable fireside.
48. Greek Wine. For character and quality, local Greek grapes are a tasty treasury for those in the know. Get started with white wine from Santorini – ideally from a crystal chalice, to match the grandeur and purity flowing from the bottle.
49. Shisha. It is totally acceptable to seek out a shisha pipe to smoke when the battle is being won by the booze.
50. The Lewes Rooks. Pints at the annual beer festival of Lewes FC, usually in November, is always a night which opens the portal to Sussex’s answer to Valhalla.
51. Valhalla. Rowdy but recommended.
52. Sloes. Other than infusing in gin, utterly pointless.
53. Foot treading grapes. Sensual, ludicrous and highly effective in wine production.
54. Sting & Trudie Styler. Makers of their own Il Palagio vino which, as I discovered on visiting them in Tuscany last summer to interview them for my podcast ‘A Glass With…’ is rather jolly good.
55. Biblical Bottles. Be it Balthazar, Nebuchadnezzar or Brian, we love bottles that are enormous and named after legends who may or may not be imaginary.
56. Alec Guinness. His portrayal of tipsy dotard the Reverend Lord Henry D’Ascoyne in Kind Hearts and Coronets offers a simple lesson to us all: never behave in the manner of a tipsy dotard parson, lest you risk being bumped off by a disgruntled distant relative.
57. Glassware. Nothing can be more pleasing than a beautifully designed vessel from which to sip the splendour of fermentation, distillation and dreams. For wine, Zalto delivers the goods, for all else, simply deploy a giant conch.
58. Curry. It’s OK, we are all friends here and, while in your cups, you can fall into your sizzling Jalfrezi without judgement or disdain. Simply invoke the immortal words: “I’m as hungry as hell. Care to indulge in The Sauces of Fire?”
59. Dogs. Thanks to a combination of instinct, cunning and their carefully guarded secret linguistic skills, dogs are fully able to translate the roaming fancies of the easy drinker’s ramblings into cogent letters of note. Just place a quill in the dog’s paw over a stretch of vellum and let the adventures begin.
60. Apple Blossom. The contented sipper is never sent more skyward in mood and moment then when graced with a spontaneous cascade of pale pink apple blossom surrounding the nose holes.
61. Beef Wellington. Red wine, in the company of this divine roulade of ridiculousness, is the finest meal in existence.
62. The Wine Society. The world’s oldest wine club (founded 1874) have the best bottles from bargains to blow out. I am a member of the Society and if you’re half serious about the quality of vino in your life then you should be too. I don’t work for them, I just love them. Though I was born exactly one hundred years after their foundation. Coincidence? I think not.
63. Sigourney Weaver. Watching Sigourney blast and plot her way out of Aliens with a large frosty martini is the ultimate sharpener, and the fastest way to achieve cruising altitude without the need for take-off.
64. Ice. Always have a glacier’s worth on standby to chip, smash and tip from your freezer into your goblet of glory.
65. Alka-Seltzer. It’s a rare but esteemed club for those who actually like the taste, let alone the soothing effects.
66. Pompeii. No matter how dull the conversation, how deep the hangover, how hideously your face looms from the shadows in the mirror, just remember you are not in Pompeii being vaporized in Vulcan’s belch. Be thankful and order yourself a very strong drink to wash away the madness.
67. Your Imaginary Tail. We all have one. Be it lion’s, lizard’s or elongated squirrelly-bush, one’s imaginary tail swishes magnificently during drinking.
68. Mary, Queen of Scots. She had a properly rubbish time and was probably right, so raise a ruddy glass to her, would you?
69. A Rubber Mask. It is wise, while drinking, to carry a discreet mask in your travelling bag, just in case. Mine is a Moon-faced expressionless space alien; trust me, after a solid bout of drinking, when he mysteriously appears at a party, it makes quite an impression.
70. The 2006 Bordeaux vintage. Everyone raves about 1982, 2000, 2005. But who can afford them?Scour restaurant lists for the underrated 2006 and sip stellar kit within the orbit of your wallet.
71. Benny Goodman. Drinking along to Live At Carnegie Hall on vinyl is akin to surfing a wave of numbers into a matrix of mathematical jazz perfection.
72. The Well. The well is the deep hole in your mind where you forgot to remember some of life’s key events. Drinking not only locates The Well, but also throws a rope ladder down and provides scuba kit for a deep dive into half-truths, secrets and dimly lit coves of consciousness. Don’t stay down too long.
73. Dry Roasted Peanuts. There is a mysterious moment somewhere between a third and half way through a serious session when a packet of cheap Dry Roasted Peanuts always seems like a good idea. Carry a stash, just in case.
74. Spätlese Riesling. These German fruity beauties are also known, by me at least, as ‘The Juices of The Discotheque’. Lower in alcohol, hovering around the 8% mark, they taste like mangos dropped from heaven and offer access to fine wine for the price of a couple of cinema tickets. Book yourself in for the matinee.
75. The Xylophone. You can, when tipsy, play the xylophone. And you should.
76. Jigsaw Puzzles. If you are seeing the outline of jigsaw puzzles across your vision, bravo, for you have reached the apogee of idiocy. Now get on all fours and place the imaginary pieces wherever they fit best as quickly as possible – and do sober up.
77. The Tropics. With a cold beer, this combination fuels a uniquely deep sense of longing and well being all at once.
78. Moonraker. Let’s not re-hash old disputes. The film may well be far from perfect, but the Bondola’s journey across St Mark’s Square is really splendid with a glass of lightly chilled red Bardolino.
79. Uncle Monty. “I’ll say one thing for Monty. He keeps a sensational cellar.”. So should we all.
80. Bonfires. A summer’s evening elongated by staring into The Flames of Revelation is as richly rewarding as remembering it’s high time to re-watch The Wicker Man. “Oh God, oh Jesus Christ!”
81. Carménère. If you are planning to buy a red wine, this grape has become a bit of a Chilean speciality, and almost always offers a satisfying ratio of good value to bold flavour.
82. Holmansbridge Farm Shop. This Sussex gem has taken the humble hot sausage roll and turned it into a transformative tasting experience. Nothing beats it when feeling a little rough in the cheek after a session on the hard stuff.
83. The Ben Nevis. The most appropriate place to drink whisky, sometimes live music, always good cheer. Get thee to Glasgow.
84. Buck Rogers. Gil Gerard’s incarnation always makes the world seem both weirder and more wonderful, glass in hand.
85. Schubert. Piano Sonata in B Flat D960: I Molto Moderato played by Alfred Brendel is the very best soundtrack to being trapped in an alpine cable car after a few drops of drink. Yes, this did happen to me. The icy peaky mountains seemed ever more mighty and more magical with every passing tinkle of the ivory.
86. Belgium. For beers that are as bonkers as they are beautiful, from Saisons to sours, this library of lunacy is the place to sip.
87. At Sea. All rules out the window, drink widely and deeply as the ocean rises to meet your feet.
88. Ireland. See above; replace ‘sea’ with ‘land’.
89. The Green Fairy. She is real, as all absinthe aficionados agree.
90. Jilly Goolden. Say what you like about Jilly, she made wine seem fun, yet above all Jilly made it memorable.
91. Cleopatra. Loved a drop.
92. Frank Sinatra. Loved a drop so much he declared, “Alcohol may be man’s worst enemy, but the Bible says love your enemy.”
93. Reggae. With rum, it all makes perfect sense.
94. Daytime. By far the best time to be drinking.
95. Pub Games. Never pass up the challenge of trying to understand these archaic rituals.
96. Wine Lists. For the best value in these boozy bibles order a Beaujolais Cru for red, or anything white from Eastern Europe, and rejoice in your efficiency.
97. Where Eagles Dare. Pour yourself a measure of madness and tot up Clint Eastwood’s extraordinary body count as you go.
98. Pyjamas. If you are drinking in your pyjamas, consider yourself off the hook and 100% at ease.
99. Ann Peebles. Listen to Old Man With Young Ideas and raise a glass to the marvel of it all.
100. Defiance. There is no such thing as Last Orders.