Friday Cocktail Blogging: The Culture of drinking …..
………. according to this (slightly old) article, appears to be as ancient as the Egyptians:
Today, it sounds like a spring-break splurge on the order of "Girls Gone Wild": Drink huge quantities of beer, get wasted, indulge in gratuitous sex and pass out — then wake up the next morning with the music blaring and your friends praying that everything will turn out all right.
But back in 1470 B.C., this was the agenda for one of ancient Egypt’s most raucous rituals, the "festival of drunkenness," which celebrated nothing less than the salvation of humanity.
"We are talking about a festival in which people come together in a community to get drunk," she said. "Not high, not socially fun, but drunk — knee-walking, absolutely passed-out drunk."
On a somewhat related note, I have wondered about the strongly negative cultural connotations that drinking carries in India society. I do not necessarily mean getting into drunken orgies or sloshing yourself silly, and I understand that in many areas of India there is a severe problem of chronic alcoholism with the side effects of wife beating and all. However, considering that a host of gods in the pantheon of Hindu religion indulge in alcohol (Somras – the nectar of god and all that), it is strange that even moderate social drinking never evolved into a social custom in India.
Japan has its sake, Russia has vodka and most countries in the world drink wine or variants and have traditional toasts etc for most social occasions. Not in India. Even when you try to buy alcohol legitimately, you need to talk to this person behind heavy metal bars, making you feel as if you are indulging in the worst kind of sin. Moreover, even if men can drink, the consumption of alcohol by women is highly frowned on (it is supposedly contrary to the sati-savitri image of Indian women)! While Hindi films are not the exact mirrors of society, they do depict this twisted morality – the villain and vamps drink unabashedly, hero does so only in response to unrequited love or rebelling against society and at best the drunk is a comic caricature (Keshto Mukherjee made a living out of it).
Our ancient practices of sexuality were supposedly put in wraps by Victorian prudishness. Considering the English penchant for downing a few pints, you can’t blame our abstention on them (although it could be that drinking was considered a British/Western practice and hence not adopted). Post-independence, the government has played a role by pandering to Gandhian prohibitionism and taxing the hell out of liquors, especially foreign ones. This has ensured that drinking good quality alcohol remained the rich elite’s preserve, leaving the poor to consume cheap, unregulated stuff (often with tragic consequences). By making alcohol a forbidden fruit aura, it has also ensured that when people do get their hands on the stuff, the worst kind of excesses are indulged in.
Of course, among the current generation with its disposable income and mushrooming of bars and pubs around the country, drinking is not just socially accepted, but possibly considered cool as well.
Of course, I might be just talking through my hat here. More erudite comments welcome.
[Coming up in future editions: Do drinks have genders ? ]
Finally, today’s drink recommendation – nothing fancy or new, but the old and dependable Manhattan. It is a good drink to make when you have cheap whiskey (never use good quality scotch/bourbon to make this drink). As usual, there are variations all over the place. The way like it, is closer to what is called the ‘Perfect Manhattan’.
- 2.5 parts Whiskey (Canadian Rye/Bourbon/Jack Daniels etc)
- 0.5 part sweet vermouth
- 0.5 part dry vermouth
- Dash of Angostura Bitters
- A Maraschino cherry
Add the whiskey, vermouths and the bitters to a glass shaker with crushed ice. Lightly stir the mixture (best way it to gently rotate the shaker itself rather than using a stirring spoon) and strain into a chilled tumbler glass. Add a piece of cherry (not the syrup). Some recipes call for squeezing a slice of orange peel over the drink and around the sides of the glass.
Update: For those Indian fans who are emotionally (and perhaps $-wise too) invested in the team’s fortune in the World Cup, let go of formalities, and gulp down the whiskey neat. Yeah – that might help.
Enjoy and drink responsibly.