I've always asserted that the best thing about food and drink is its ability to offer such an honest window into the many different cultures you experience on your travels. Whenever I visit somewhere new (or familiar!), I insist on trying the local foods, beers and spirits - sometimes you end up with something questionable, but it's always fascinating and inspiring.
Years ago we had a cocktail party which one friend still refers to as The Lost Weekend. Our errors were threefold. First, we had forgotten that in our parents' generation, such parties lasted only a couple of hours and then people would sensibly go out for dinner. We made our guests drink cocktails all night.
London has been a great place to drink for many a year. This year, for me, it seemed even better than before. My favourite watering holes continued to please while a handful of bars and pubs new or otherwise previously unknown to me caught my attention with great service, comfy digs and - most importantly - quality quaffs.
Buried deep inside the walls of The Savoy Hotel's American Bar lies a 90 year-old cocktail shaker filled with Plymouth Gin, Cointreau and lemon juice: The White Lady cocktail. It was lovingly laid down in 1927 by Harry Craddock - then head bartender - during an Art Deco refurb at the height of the Jazz Age. But despite many attempts to locate the ancient silver vessel, it has never been found.
On a recent trip to San Francisco I had the pleasure of visiting a most intriguing cocktail bar run by a Mr Timothy Snookey, a veteran of the City's bar scene. Tim now runs the excellently styled Stookey's Club Moderne in the center of town and before I drank myself into a coma one evening I suggested he might want to fill me in about all this cocktail business, old-school style.
The Edinburgh Fringe is over and while that may be a disappointment to many art enthusiasts and tourist hot spots, it is good news for those of you who really want to explore the city. The crowds are clearing and you can finally get your foot inside many of the secret delights Edinburgh has to offer.
Cahoots is an elegant cocktail bar with a hint of speakeasy about it. Located in what was a genuine air raid shelter beneath the heart of London's West End, the space is now a 'disused' underground station complete with a tube carriage where you can sit and sip cocktails amongst the very authentic sand bags, posters and war-time decor.
Weirdly when I mention step drinking to anyone other than my band of reprobate friends, it's generally been frowned upon. But I say screw society! Keep your rammed pub garden benches at the merest hint of a heat wave. When the mercury hits its 20 plus height, you will find me, boyf in tow, swilling somewhere you can always get a seat...
I've long been a fan of Guinness. It's part nostalgia but it is still my favourite beer. Irish spirits have taken a little longer for me; An Irish gin graced the back bar at Bramble years back, but when I was living in Scotland, Irish Whiskey (they adopt an extra 'e' in there) never really broke through.