Samui Wining & Dining
In The Mix

You can always rely on a good cocktail to shake things up.

22

 

An evening on the cocktails is like a night with a fantastic lover who talks too much. A great time at first, but you wind up with a splitting headache. The average Joe or Josephine tends not to drink cocktails every day. But on holiday, for some reason, it’s a very different story.

      Back home, a simple glass of wine or a humble pint of lager will suffice. But on holiday the requirements are different, the bar (!) is raised. Although already sweet enough to even give Willy Wonka a sugar rush, the stereotypical ‘holiday’ cocktail also comes complete with assorted fruit pieces huddled under a paper cocktail umbrella, or equivalent. The integration of this redundant adornment is to make your drink appear more ‘exotic’ – umbrellas being considered an exotic item of the Pacific Rim, back in the day. Practically speaking, however, the umbrella’s canopy serves only to impede access to your drink. But, hey, it looks good, right?

       The first cocktails are said to have been made when the Wartime Prohibition Act was put into place in the USA in 1919, when the sale of alcohol was prohibited. During this time, Americans had to both make and drink alcohol illegally. Well you didn’t think they’d just stop drinking, did you? And so people found creative new ways to disguise the alcoholic beverages they were consuming. Mixing in other ingredients of a stronger colour or scent did the trick. The origin of the word cocktail itself is a highly disputed one. One theory outlines English sailors in Mexico seeing alcoholic drinks stirred with, literally, a cock’s tail feather. Why this feathery implement would constitute a preferable tool over a spoon – or a stick even – is puzzling to say the least. Others say that what these sailors saw was actually a root called a cola de gallo which was shaped like a cock’s tail. Some maintain that the term was derived from the French word for an eggcup, coquetel, that was used to knock back a shot of medicine laced with liquor. Other stories include it being adapted from the name of an ancient Aztec goddess called Xochitl, or that of a Mexican princess of the same name. So, in summary: who knows.

       Famed Esquire magazine cocktail guru, David Wondrich, and author of the book ‘Imbibe!’, says that one of the oldest, printed cocktail recipes was created in 1831. It was done so by a man called Captain J.E. Alexander, who simply mixed gin, brandy or rum with water and added flavoured sugar and nutmeg.

       Many cities across the globe have their own signature cocktails. And a good example is the Singapore Sling. This sweet drink was created around 1915 by a bartender who worked at the Long Bar in Raffles Hotel, Singapore. A palatable fruity drink, the key component is pineapple juice. Mixed with it is gin, Cherry Heering and Bénédictine. It’s often blended, too, giving it a nice frothy top.

       These days, the notorious Long Island Iced Tea churns up a lethal combination of essentially every spirit going (vodka, gin, tequila, rum, etc.), with a dash of Coca-Cola added in a futile attempt to sweeten the potent blend. It was originally made with a sour mix instead of Coke, but most people found it unpalatable. Strangely, though, there’s hardly ever any actual tea incorporated in the mixture. And it’s safe to assume that many people over the years will have ordered it expecting an alcohol-laced iced tea to arrive. So they’re usually quite shocked when confronted with this murky rocket fuel.

       Mai Tai is a common cocktail on Thai drink lists but they’ve actually nothing to do with Thailand. They came about in tiki-themed venues in the States – think grass skirts and Hawaiian shirts. Mixing up a sweet concoction of rum, Curaçao liqueur and limejuice, they’re a popular order. Whilst it may be the staple beverage amongst American tikiphiles (people with an inordinate love of all things tiki), it tastes just as good on the beaches of Thailand.

       So, there are famous places with their own cocktails, but there’re also famous people associated with them too. For instance, James Bond and his archetypal drink order, a Dry Martini, “Shaken, not stirred.” And then there’s the Sex and the City’s character, Carrie Bradshaw, with her Pink Cosmopolitans. Somehow these characters embody their drink of choice. But when regular civilians drink a martini or a cosmo, do they feel a little like Bond or Carrie? Maybe a little bit.

       There’s something undeniably special about sipping away at a cocktail. Their sweet deliciousness is intoxicating in more ways than one. The only problem being that the alcoholic content in a cocktail is often significantly higher than many other drinks, so it’s easy to get a little drunk sooner than you’d perhaps planned. One thing’s for sure. If you’re on the cocktails it’s likely that you’re in for an interesting night. As Dorothy Parker says, “I like to drink martinis. Two at the most. Three I’m under the table, four I’m under the host.”

 

Christina Wylie


 


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