Everyday Drinking: The Distilled Kingsley Amis

An unabridged (and thus repetitive) collection of Amis’ thoughts on booze and drinking and parties and hangovers. A bit of practical advice (you get more juice from a lemon dumped in a bowl of warm water for a few minutes than out of one at room temperature or from the fridge), a lot of drink recipes covered in his witticisms, and a few sections worth actually reading, namely Mean Sod’s Guide, from which I’ll quote at length.

The point here is not simply to stint your guests on quality and quantity – any fool can pre-pour Moroccan red into burgundy bottles, or behave as if all knowledge of the existence of drink has been suddenly excised from his brain at 10pm – but to screw them while seeming, at any rate to their wives, to have done them rather well. Note the limitation: your ideal objective is a quarrel on the way home between each husband and wife, he disparaging your hospitality, she saying you were very sweet and thoughtful and he is just a frustrated drunk.
1. Strike at once by, on their arrival, presenting each lady with a rose and each gent with bugger-all. Rub this in by complimenting each lady on her appearance and saying in a stentorian undertone to the odd gent, “I heard you hadn’t been so well” (= pissed as a lizard every day) or “You’re looking much better than when I saw you last” (i.e. with that emperor-sized hangover).
2. Vital requirement: prepare pre- and post-dinner drinks in some undiscoverable pantry or broom-cupboard well away from the main scene. This will not only screen your niggardlinesses; it will also make the fetching of each successive round look like a slight burden, and will case an unfavourable limelight on any individual determined to wrest additional drinks out of you. Sit in an especially deep easy-chair, and practise getting out of it with mild effort and, later in the evening, a just-audible groan, though beware of overdoing this.
3. As regards the pre-dinner period, procedures vary. The obvious one is to offer only one sort of a drink, a “cup” or “punch” made of cheap red wine, soda water, a glass of cooking sherry if you can plunge that far, and a lot of fresh fruit to give an illusion of lavishness. Say you invented it, and add menacingly that it has more of a kick than might be expected. Serve in small glasses.

If any old-stager insists on, say, Scotch, go to your pantry and read the paper for a few minutes before filling the order. Hand the glass over with plenty of emphasis, perhaps bawling as you do so, “One large Scotch whisky delivered as ordereed, sah!”
Should you feel, as you would have reason to, that this approach is getting a little shiny with use, set your teeth and give everybody a more or less proper first drink. You can salve your pocket, however, by adding a tremendous lot of ice to fill up the glass (troublesome, but cheaper than alcohol), or, in the case of martinis, by dropping in an olive the size of a baby’s fist. Cheat on later drinks as follows: in preparing a gin and tonic, for instance, put the tonic and ice and thick slice of lemon in first and pour on them a thimbleful of gin over the back of a spoon, so that it will linger near the surface and give a strong-tasting first sip, which is the one that counts. Martinis should be as cold as before, but with plenty of melted ice. Whiskies are more difficult. Use the back-of-the-spoon technique with coloured glasses, or use the darkest brand you can find. Water the sherries.
4. Arrange dinner early, and see that the food is plentiful, however cheap it is. You can get away with not serving wine with the first course, no matter what it may be. When the main course is on the table, “suddenly realize” you have not opened the wine, and proceed to do so now with a lot of cork popping. The wine itself will not, of course, be French or German; let us call it Ruritanian Gold Label. Pour it with ceremony, explaining that you and your wife “fell in love with it” on holiday there and will be “interested” in people’s reactions.
5. Sit over the remains of dinner as long as you dare or can bear to, then take the company off to the drawing-room and make great play with doling out coffee. By this stage (a vague, prolonged one anyhow), a good half-hour of abrupt and total forgetfulness about the very idea of drink can profitably be risked. At its end “suddenly realize” you have imposed a drought and offer brandy, explaining a good deal less than half apologetically that you have no cognac, only a “rather exceptional” Armagnac. This, of course, produced with due slowness from your pantry, is a watered-down cooking brandy from remote parts of France or from South Africa.
6. Play out time with groan-proceeded, tardily produced ice-crammed Scotches, remembering the recourse of saying loudly, “I find myself that a glass of cold beer is the best thing at this time of night.”
7. Along the lines of sticking more fruit than any sane person could want in the pre-dinner “punch,” put out a lot of pseudo-luxuries like flood-damaged truncheon-sized cigars, bulk-bought after-dinner mints, bankrupt-stock vari-coloured cigarettes, etc.
8. Your own drinks. This must obviously not be allowed to fall below any kind of accustomed level, however cruel the deprivations you force on your guests. You will naturally refresh yourself with periodic nips in your pantry, but going thither at all often may make undesirable shags think, even say, that you ought to be bringing thence a drink for them. So either choose between a darkly tinted glass and a silver cup of some sort which you stick inseparably to and can undetectably fill with neat whisky, or boldly use a plain glass containing one of those light-coloured blends known as a “husband’s Scotch” – ‘Why, hell, Mamie, just take a look; you can see it’s near as a damn pure water,” and hell, Jim, Jack, Joe and the rest of the crowd.
9. If you think that all or most of the above is mere satirical fantasy, you cannot have been around much yet.