THE ADVENT CALENDAR OF ALCOHOL – 15 December (14%-15%) – Martini & Rossi Bianco

Rossi must feel a bit pissed off, up in the great cocktail bar in the sky. It was a clever trick naming the key ingredient in the flagship suave cocktail after the cocktail itself, it is just adding the name of Mr Rossi that skewed things. The Fabulous Mr Rossi a younger me would have cleverly said: it being that younger me who had bit of a thing for a swift Martini and Lemonade on my lunch break.

My mother is a Cinzano/Martini Bianco and Lemonade kind of person. A drink which was the acceptable British face of a White Wine Spritzer. And for the odd treat as a child I used to get insanely weak versions made for me. This all changed when, at age thirteen I changed schools and decided to start coming home for lunch. This usually meant half an hour in front of the televsion as I at bowls of leftover stew from the previous night, experimented with the spices on the spice rack as accompaniments for dairylea and occasionally toyed with the drinks cabinet. Occasionally as in once a week. Tuesdays to be precise. Tuesday afternoon was Games. Tuesday lunch was Dutch courage / anaesthetic.

Martini Bianco and Lemonade was chosen for several reasons. Firstly I was used to it, and hence knew exactly how much I could drink to provide the warm glow than meant being shoulder charged in a game of rugby would hurt that little bit less. It did not smell strongly on my breath. Most importantly as it was my Mum’s drink, she was less likely to notice any missing, as her own pouring would be very variable.

I kept this regime up for about a year until I started bunking Games altogether (on and off – the bastards insisted on putting me in the Rugby team and even I wasn’t having Vermouth for breakfast). It was quite some time until I realised that that was Martini was a Vermouth. I always imagined James Bond getting awfully messy when someone shook him up a Martini, the lemonade fizzing everywhere.

These days I rarely have the stuff, though I have a bottle at home in case I want to make proper Dry Martini’s. My mother however would be appalled, putting olives in a drink. And part of me is too. To me a Martini is not sophisticated, not the epitome of taste. It is a drink for kiddies to make sure that getting their head buried in mud won’t be so bad. And a fine accompaniment to a Dairylea, paprika and oregano sandwich.