Booze is better in sunshine. Not my words, the words of my doctor, who claims that alcohol combines with increased levels of endorphins and Vitamin D – the body’s natural response to ultraviolet light – to create an experience akin to taking ecstasy.
‘I save my MDMA for the winter months, Raider!’ he told me when I saw him last, dancing on a table at the Fox on the Hill.
I suspect this isn’t news to most of us. As soon as the temperature hits 17 degrees, out come the rickety chairs, dog blankets and plastic jugs of colourful intoxicants. It’s in the Magna Carta, or should be.
Sadly missing from that great document, though, is what type of booze we should be imbibing. Here, we seek to redress that oversight. Cheers!
This evergreen Spanish classic evokes memories of long lunches, the scent of bougainvillea on the air and the chance to get between the sheets during the day for a some woozy shut-eye..
There are all sorts of try-hard variations on the recipe, some using orangeade, some vermouth or rum and so on, but I like to get back to basics with this one. The base of sangria is the Spanish summer drink of tinto de verano, the red wine and sweet gaseosa ‘shandy’ that allows Miguel to drink his fill and still drive the Seat home, albeit like a maniac.
I go half Rioja (or a Temperanillo), half lemonade with slices of lemon, orange and lime and a great big slug of Spanish brandy to achieve what I call the ‘Jah Wobble’ – strong and beguiling bass notes. This is often what sets a homemade sangria apart from bar-based concoctions. Leave it to sit for an hour (if you can) and then serve over ice.
This season’s apples are yet to drop but there is something essentially summery about getting off your tits on apple-booze. Is it the earthiness? The fruitiness? The ineffable connection with nature it seems to afford?
‘It’s because you can put ice in it,’ says Half-life, matter-of-factly.
South London has a special kinship with cider. Firstly, there is the annual Lambeth Country Show, which we have celebrated previously. This event features gallons and gallons of a cider called Chucklehead, which turns the whole weekend into a wonderful bacchanalian orgy. It’s strong, it’s still, it’s dry (I go for ‘medium’, the dry is super dry) and gets you drunk in unforgettable ways, if only you could remember them. You are merely left with the vague memory of a great time and an urge to ensure you’re not doing anything next year that would stop you returning.
This year’s Lambeth Country Show is on the 15th and 16th July, 12 noon-8pm.
Perhaps building on this wondrous event, Kevin Lowrie, a local cider fan, decided to open Cider I Up, a pop-up cider bar at Loughborough Junction’s Platform, which has become a seasonal fixture since its first incarnation in 2015.
With a tremendous selection of hand-picked ciders and the guaranteed presence of a good time crowd, it’s a South London summer must-do. The next weekend is the 6th, 7th and 8th July and keep an eye on their website here or their Twitter account here for further upcoming dates.
I was introduced to this drink only recently by the guys from the Camberwell Arms (and Frank’s, Peckham) who have put it on the menu at the Dulwich Gallery Pavilion Bar which they are running for the summer.
It’s made in Podnesac, near Bordeaux, and is a blend of Bordeaux wines (85%) and macerated liqueurs, which is then aged as if it were a Bordeaux wine.
I’m not usually keen on this style of beverage – what the EU calls ‘aromatised wine’ – but Lillet is less sweet and less medicinal than many (Cinzano, Dubonnet, for example) and is really very refreshing served neat over ice, perhaps with a slice of lemon. Also, I’m a sucker for a nice label.
Lillet dropped out of fashion for a while, possibly due to (almost) sharing a name with a tampon. Men would routinely return from shopping expeditions with a charming bottle of booze instead of something to stem the menstrual flow. ‘But, babe, I had to go to three off-licences to get this!’
But James Bond always gets it right and when he got into Lillet, it was back in business.
The Camberwell Arms, they tell me, hardly sells any of the stuff, but the stocks still mysteriously deplete. We say, get down there quick before the management chugs the lot of it.
As a child, summer presented an ever-present danger of kicking over various demijohns filled with maturing elderflower wine. Such industry allowed my mother to indulge her twin passions of floriculture and getting right fucked up on booze.
I prefer my elderflower as a cordial, but my mother would be proud to know that I do like to add it to alcoholic drinks. Summer, they say, begins with the blossoming of the elder and certainly in my house, when Dad starts sloshing it into his gin and tonic or white wine spritzer in the garden, it’s a sure sign that summer is here and that, just as in all other seasons, no work will be done.
If you’re lucky enough, as I am, to have a mate who makes his own cordial each year, then you’ve – quite literally – got it made. Cheers, John! If not, then you could consider making your own, but it’s an awful lot of arse to be honest and it would probably be easier if I just introduce you to John.
As if I’d leave beer out. But what do you go for when it’s sweltering?
Today’s keg beers, at least the ‘craft’ variety, seem to command a mysterious premium which, being a cheapskate, rather puts me off them. But in summer, this aromatic, super-chilled fizz comes into its own. The beer remains cold enough to still be drinkable after 20 minutes and gets just warm enough to reveal its flavours and complexity as the pint progresses.
I look out for beer on keg from Beavertown, Fourpure, Kernel and Cloudwater in particular. These guys simply do not do disappointment.
One old summer style – which now tends to be available throughout the year – is the ‘saison’, an ale originally produced in Belgium. It was traditionally brewed in cooler months and stored until the summer when it was mainly consumed by seasonal workers (the saisonniers) as part of their pay packet.
When Dulwich Hamlet FC asked us (and Southey Brewing Co.) to reprise our beer, Deserter IPA, for their upcoming beer festival, we put our heads together with Sam at Southey and came up with the idea of also doing a one-off special beer for the event: We call it the Deserter Football Saison.
200 litres of a 1000-litre batch of Deserter IPA has been separated and fermented using a 5th generation strain of best Belgian yeast, with the addition of coriander seeds and, possibly, a mystery ingredient which would add a tremendous ‘dankocity’ to the brew. We won’t say what it is but put it this way, when I got home from the brewery my stash was much depleted.
The beer will be exclusive to the Dulwich Hamlet Beer Festival, Champion Hill, East Dulwich, over the weekend of the 24th and 25th June. Why not come and say ‘high’?
You can find more on messing about in the summertime in our podcast:
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