At this time of year cocktails in the garden have a glamorous appeal, even if they necessitate coats, boots and gloves. My new favourite ingredient for a cocktail is sherry, for far too long a comedy drink. Shakespeare, Edgar Allen Poe and Benito Pérez Galdós all wrote about sherry; the Poet Laureate gets paid in the stuff. But despite all their best efforts, sherry has remained fatally tied to the likes of the repressed and punctilious Mr Banks from Mary Poppins who drank a glass of sherry each night at 6.02pm precisely.
Sherry’s struggle to be cool has been damaged too by the abominable schooner glass. Shaped like a dismal 1970s bellbottom trouser leg and with a stumpy little stem, it’s as far from cool as left is from right. I should say, though, that even the dreadful schooner is preferable to the glass I was once served sherry in. The circular base of the ugly, misted glass had snapped off, leaving only a spike at the bottom. ‘There’s a pot-plant on the window-sill’, the parsimonious hostess said. ‘If you want to put the glass down, just stick it in the bougainvillea.’
If only someone dangerously transgressive like Ernest Hemingway had drunk sherry. If he’d been known to growl ‘Bring me a sherry on the rocks, and make it snappy’, things could have been so different over the long, lean years of sherry’s 20th Century. But all that is starting to change. Vodka is on the wane and sherry is suddenly the Fiat 500 of the drinks world. Less alcoholic, more retro and infinitely more desirable.
I’ve just been sent a bottle of Harveys Bristol Cream, now packaged in a distinctive blue glass bottle. Its rich, round, sweet taste is perfect for a summer cocktail, even if the promise such a drink holds of long, languorous sun-lit evenings is endlessly snatched from us by granite-grey skies. I love the theatricality of cocktails; the mixing, the shaking, the twizzling and the whole fandango. My creation is called Hemingway’s Neologism because it’s a drink he never encountered and would most likely have turned his nose up at. But my bet is that he would have loved it, if the rum and whisky hadn’t finished him off first. And if he’d stuck to the low-alcohol count of Hemingway’s Neologism he would never have needed to say ‘Always do sober what you said you’d do drunk. That will teach you to keep your mouth shut.’
The trick with cocktails is to make the ice-cubes out of a component of the cocktail itself. As the cubes melt you simply get more flavour, rather than a watered down version of what you started with. In this case, I made chubby ice-rolos out of pomegranate juice.
- I part chilled Harveys Bristol Cream
- 2 parts pomegranate juice
- 3 parts chilled ginger ale
- Handful of pomegranate ice cubes
- Sprig of mint
Combine all the ingredients and pour into long glasses.
I wish I could pour you a glass of Hemingway’s Neologism personally. But since I can’t, I’m serving you a synaesthetic virtual drink instead. Stare at this allium for a count of five and it will startle your senses in the same way that the actual drink would. Sherry’s new role as a drink so sharp you could slice a loaf with it, suits it so much better than a schooner ever did. Like Willy Wonka’s square sweets that looked round, sherry is now a cold drink that’s suddenly hot. Mr Banks would hate it.
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