Ask anyone I have ever hired to work behind a bar and they will tell you that Everyday Drinking by Kingsley Amis was listed as required reading during their first month on the job. I have bought and given away more copies and I have the digital version on my digital devices. I treat this book as a small drinking Bible.

Everyday Drinking

Amis of course has his own Ten Commandments (that he lists as general principles) and they are as straight forward as the original ones jotted down by Moses himself. Here are my takes on his general principles and how to apply them to modern drinking and cocktail making.

General Principles:

  • G.P. 1: Up to a point (i.e. short of offering your guests one of those Balkan plonks marketed as wine, Cyprus sherry, poteen and the like), go for quantity rather than quality. Most people would rather have two glasses of ordinary decent port than one of a rare vintage. On the same reasoning, give them big drinks rather than small—with exceptions to be noted later. Serious drinkers will be pleased and reassured, unserious ones will not be offended, and you will use up less chatting-time going round to recharge glasses.

    • The Longest G.P. on the list and a rather important one. I think this falls under learning how to read the room but his point is very strong. Generic people want generic drinks and they would take quantity over quality. We see this constantly in the over sized drinks served at cocktail bars. Though his true feelings for his personal drinks are written out many times in his book: “the bottom half of a too-large drink is warm when you get to it.” More on this with G.P. 3.
  • G.P. 2: Any drink traditionally accompanied by a bit of fruit or vegetable is worth trying with a spot of the juice thrown in as well.

    • Basically squeeze a little lime or lemon juice in your gin and tonic. Duh. All simple highballs taste great with a shot of their pairing citrus juice. The Gin Rickey is pure evidence of this.
  • G.P. 3: It is more important that a cold drink should be as cold as possible than that it should be as concentrated as possible.

    • This is something that I take seriously and believe in wholeheartedly. I could not agree more with Amis here. Most cocktails I get out at a bar are not cold enough but may be exactly diluted enough. I think this falls to poor training and incorrect technique. He is not saying he is okay serving watery drinks…he is saying that a few more degrees towards freezing is far more important than a few more degrees closer to the still.
  • G.P. 4: For any liquor that is going to be mixed with fruit juices, vegetable juices, etc., sweetening, strongly flavoured cordials and the like, go for the cheapest reliable article. Do not waste your Russian or Polish vodka, etc.

    • This is probably why I go through more Gordon’s gin than anything in the house. For punches and shaken drinks you are covering up most of the nuances of a high end spirit. There is no need for using your top shelf booze in your simple punches, shaken sours, and ever popular brown & stirred drinks . Leave those for drinking on their own or in 2-3 ingredient stirred cocktails.
      • I go over these types of cocktail bottles pretty extensively in the spirits section on my main page. Here is a quick refresher of my go to bottles for cocktails:
  • G.P. 5: The alcohol in any bubbly drink will reach you faster than in its still version. Hence, or partly hence, the popularity of champagne at weddings and other festivities.

    • Anyone that has celebrated with a bottle of Champers at a wedding, birthday party, bowling tournament, etc. knows that this is true. There is no avoiding it. Bubbly drinks are the cocaine of cocktails. If you want the booze to hit quickly drink bubbles. Do you like to party?
  • G.P. 6: With drinks containing fruit (other than the decorative or olfactory slice of lemon, orange, etc.) it is really worth while to soak the fruit in some of the liquor for at least three hours beforehand.

    • Rule number one for making a punch. Soak the fruit in the booze and then make sure you don’t eat too many slices after it is prepared. A lot of people avoid the floating fruit in a punch bowl and they are missing the point. Make sure your punch is fizzy too (see G.P. 5).
  • Nearly worth erecting into a G.P.—that in all alcoholic matters subjectivism plays a big part, a lot of people will feel better after one or two Bloody Marys simply because they expect to.

    • I though it best to include this because Amis thought it best to mention it but did not graduate it to a full G.P.. Drinking opinions are  super subjective as you can see by my writing and tastes. Everyone is so different and all of our little taste buds and squishy internals have different interactions with the sauce. And yes…I don’t mind substituting a bloody or two for a few Advil because I do expect them to make me feel better.
  • G.P. 7: Never despise a drink because it is easy to make and/or uses commercial mixes. Unquestioning devotion to authenticity is, in any department of life, a mark of the naïve—or worse.

    • This is a hard one to swallow for the cocktail bartenders and their fan club out there. They all want to run before they can walk. Easy drinks are the building blocks of of a great bartender and are usually so poorly executed I don’t want to see what you can do with those three bottles of amari, a splash of barrel proof Bourbon, six different herb syrups, and a cocktail umbrella. Oh…also…did you know my face is on a bottle of shelf stable lime juice?
  • G.P. 8: Careful preparation will render a poor wine just tolerable and a very nice wine excellent. Skimping it will diminish a pretty fair wine to all right and a superb wine to merely bloody good. That is about as much difference as it will make. Much more important is price, which is normally a very reliable indicator of quality.

    • In the end you are drinking wine so all is good. Pay more attention to the nicer bottles and knock back the cheap ones. Not every bottle deserves close attention and some have earned respect. Vive Le Screwcap!
  • G.P. 9: He who truly believes he has a hangover has no hangover .

    • If you have accepted that you have a hangover then it is time to move on and figure out how to beat it. Amis devotes an entire chapter to not only the physical hangover but the metaphysical hangover as well. Worth a read.
  • G.P. 10: Eating fattens you.

    • That it does. The doc will tell you that if you cut out drinking you can rid yourself of all those empty carbs and eventually lose some weight. I would rather just skip dessert or go with a grapefruit in the morning over a stack of hot cakes than subtract from my daily liquid intake. I am not a doctor and my advice should only be taken with a salt rimmed glass.

Pick up this book. It is a fantastic break from all the boring cocktail books out there and written by a true drinker.

What books have you been drinking with?

Your bartender,
Luke Andrews

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