Vile Bodies

Bunky Mortimer’s Upper Class Guide to Drinking, Part II

November 17, 2010

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Bunky Mortimer’s Upper Class Guide to Drinking, Part II

Now, class, you will remember in this symposium’s first installment that we dealt with the dry martini, the pink gin, and the bullshot, the proper cocktails which mark a gentleman (or lady, I suppose) as a person of breeding, class, and distinction.

I hope you’ll forgive the sexism, but frankly, men are generally better at piss-artistry than women. And when it comes to drinking, you’ll never know what is enough until you know what is too much. As Blake said, “The road of excess leads to the palace of wisdom.” If it’s worth doing, it’s worth overdoing. And overdoing it, with a case of the wobblies and the possible messy culmination of parking the tiger, calling Ralph—call it what you will—is not a dignified state of affairs for a lady.

In conjunction with this lecture’s academic character, I should like to draw attention to our scholarly conclave’s origin—the symposium. Plato gave us the symposium’s classical prototype. The Greek symposium was a booze-up. The word is derived from sympotein, meaning “to drink together.” There you have it: Western civilization was born in the haze of a drunken Greek debauch.

This, by the way, is quite an improvement over Greek culture’s origins in the Pelasgians’ unspeakable goat-and-satyr orgies.

The relationship between culture and drink was nicely and succinctly put by William Faulkner: “Civilization begins with distillation.”

Now, I should like to deal with a couple of comments on Part I of this treatise. One reader asks if he might have come across me in Harare. I assume this is in reference to the African big-game hunter’s favorite tipple, the pink gin.

“Western civilization was born in the haze of a drunken Greek debauch.”

That we might have met in Rhodesia is possible. Before the troubles, I met a farmer there whose quarter-mile driveway had drainage ditches on both sides filled with empty Angostura bottles. When you consider that a man drinking daily would have difficulty putting away a bottle a month, that’s a lot of pink gins.

After embargos were introduced, the Rhodesians made their own “Angus Stewart” bitters. The Ugandans, ranked as the world’s leading per-capita alcohol consumers, make a gin from bananas called waragi. So the Dark Continent has contributed its own ethereal stars to the spacious alcoholic firmament on high.


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