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~ ARSENIC & TONIC ~
Up to 50ml gin
150ml decent tonic water
Fill a tall glass with ice cubes. Splash in the gin and absinthe - then top with tonic. Squeeze a wedge of citrus and drop it in. You might like some mint or another aromatic herb too. Pssht.
Some A&T Notes:
1) You don’t actually have to put any gin in this. Make it with just the drop of absinthe and tonic and it’s a satisfying [almost] non-alcoholic serve.
2) By “decent tonic water” I don’t necessarily mean expensive tonic water. I mean, tonic water that is sweetened with actual cane sugar as opposed to whatever it is they put in Fever-Tree Refreshingly Light and its brethren. I am all for sugar reduction and, indeed, very much pro the UK sugar tax that prompted these companies to reformulate their recipes. But please: let us sacrifice our biscuits and doughnuts; let us throw our pre-made pasta sauces and chicken jalfrezis on the pyre; let us pour our Coca-Cola and San Pellegrino Limonatas down the drain before we mess with our G&T’s.
3) I suppose you can make it in one of those Spanish-style balloon glasses but I wouldn’t recommend it.
4) The precise amount of absinthe to drop in is very much a mood thing for me. Certain shades of ennui will prompt me to put in a whole half shot; at other times, it’s just une larme; if you are one of those strange souls who doesn’t like the stuff just go without. In all cases, keep your absinthe in an old Angostura bottle for more precise measuring.
5) Yes I missed you too.
🖊️I am Richard Godwin.
🧋My instructions for sugar syrup, ice, grenadine, orgeat, etc are here.
🧑🏫 My 10 RULES FOR MAKING COCKTAILS are here.
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➡️ Please find a round up of organisations helping Ukrainians here.
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YES it has been a while and the main reason is I simply haven’t been drinking recently - not much anyway. When I have permitted myself a glass or two, I haven’t much enjoyed it either and certainly not the after-effects. All of which hasn’t put me in a particularly ‘Yay booze!’ frame of mind when newsletter time rolls around.
Now, I hope that this admission doesn’t strike you as contrary to the entire spirit of The Spirits which is, after all an appreciation of alcohol (but also, of all the things that go well with alcohol, like music, conversation, travel and salted nuts). Actually, I would argue, a true appreciation of alcohol will take in the horrors of the middle-aged brandy hangover as much as the pleasures of a well-mixed Army and Navy; the delights of gossip over good white wine with old colleagues - but also, the bright, clear satisfaction of waking up early after a good night’s sleep with a reasonable proportion of one’s synapses firing. We are all of us, I’m sure, seeking the correct balance. And that balance will change for each of us all the time.
And a certain wariness vis-a-vis boozing is, paradoxically, one of the reasons I like cocktails. They tie up alcohol - a drug worthy of respect and caution - with what seems to me an appropriate amount of ritual and ceremony. I simply find it all too easy to pour another glass of that delicious bottle of Chateauneuf du Pape that you kindly brought - and before I know it I’ve wiped out the next day. But more often than not, I find I can leave it at the one cocktail. It’s too much a faff to get up and do it all again.
Anyway: in this median, not quite dry state I’ve been sustaining these past few weeks, the Gin & Tonic is the drink I’ve found most amenable. It’s clean and refreshing (I sometimes think of the G&T as the long version of the Martini); it’s available in just about every establishment; and I find I can have one or two without anything important clouding over. I had the idea of adding that larme of absinthe to it via Audrey Saunders’s wonderful French Pearl; and the name, Arsenic & Tonic is inspired by an old cocktail called Arsenic and Old Lace, which combines absinthe and violette.
Now, it might strike you as perverse to add absinthe to a drink I’m pushing on you as practically a temperance serve - but, as I’ve expounded before, a tiny amount of absinthe goes a long way, flavour-wise. The anise makes a dry, refreshing drink even more drily, refreshing, while also fooling the brain that it’s more alcoholic than it is. And I suppose you might think of that little drop of absinthe as a tiny, innoculating dose of poison. Like having your Covid booster or something.
There’s another reason I like this one. I need not remind you, of all people, that taste is only one the five senses involved in cocktail appreciation. It’s the look of the thing, too, the aroma, the cold touch of the glass, and the sound. And I don’t think there’s a drink that is as deliciously musical as the G&T. Be sure to mute the radio, prevent the dog from barking with a big juicy bone, etc, so you can appreciate the crack of the ice, the psssht of the can, and the gentle ascending sparkle of the tonic as it pours - like the surf pulling back from a beach of fine shingles. Begin afresh afresh afresh!
CABINET POSTS YOU MAY HAVE MISSED:
🍑 Apricot Brandy
🍫 Crème de Cacao
There is no great theme here, simply a handful of songs I’ve appreciated in recent weeks.
THIS PLAYLIST UPDATES AUTOMATICALLY EACH WEEK. The idea is, you download it and return to it each week in your Spotify. If there was an old song you’d like to hear again, you’ll find it RIGHT HERE in the ongoing archive of past playlists.
WHAT I’VE BEEN WRITING
I’ve been quite productive of late - which might have something to do with, erm, not drinking so much.
I wrote about the new wave of Generative A.I. and what it means for art, society and humanity. I’m quite proud of this piece - which has a lot more in it than the horrible SEO headline would have you assume, including Adam Curtis’s thoughts on the matter. Love to hear your thoughts on it too (ES Magazine)
Another ES Magazine cover piece, out today: I interviewed Ben Whishaw who has long been one of my favourite actors and guess what? He was a total delight. And utterly heartbreaking in his new film, Women Talking, too. (ES Magazine)
Man vs Food: Here, I reflect on the fact that men are embracing ever more extreme celebrity diets - at a time when women are turning away from them. (Men’s Health)
Work Less, Live More: Is it time to end the five-day week? Yes it is, I concluded in (Observer Magazine)
And I also interviewed the Radio 1 DJ Vick Hope. I can’t tell you what a breath of fresh air I found her. (YOU Magazine)
WHAT I’VE BEEN READING
Stolen Focus by Johann Hari, which is about our shrinking attention spans, and is mostly really good, I think? Now, I know Hari’s name is mud among most British journalists and I could expound a little more on some of the criticisms here if I were so minded (“My mind was BLOWN by this incredible revelation that Facebook is EVIL!” etc). But if these are the sorts of moves required to take these insights to a wider audience, so be it.
Women Talking by Miriam Toews, which is much funnier than the film would have you believe.
I’m not sure yet, don’t rush me. 🍸
Not being a regular absinthe drinker, a quick glance at what’s available shows a wide variety. Abv ranges from 50 to 90%, with a garden full of herbs. Has anyone tasted a handful, lived to tell the tale and can recommend one?
Your bar is first on my list:)