I have a confession to make. I loathe gin. And I’m not a fan of tonic either. Which is as bit of a bummer given that every bar in the land is awash with every variety of Mothers’ Ruin you can imagine. And, I daresay, some you can’t. So I can’t tell you how pleased I was when my good chum, Jo Garton, volunteered to take one for the team and write a few lines about her gin & tonic experience at Old Town bar, The Eternal Optimist.And more on that in a bit. Their Facebook page is here.
Meanwhile, I remain eternally optimistic that Sherry or Rum – two drinks I dolike – will soon have their moment in the sun.
I referred above gin’s other moniker: mother’s ruin. You’ll many of you be familiar with the famous Hogarth engraving of the baby falling from its inebriated mother’s arms. This article from Historic UK about Mother’s Ruin shows it. As the article explains – if you think modern drug use is bad it had nothing on the gin-drinking habits of mid-eighteenth century English society. The drink even started as a medicine – thought to cure gout and indigestion. But by far its biggest attraction was its cheapness.
What is gin?
Well according to that fount of all knowledge (sort of) Wikipedia – ‘gin is a distilled alcoholic drink that derives its predominant flavour from juniper berries. Gin is one of the broadest categories of spirits, all of various origins, styles, and flavour profiles, that revolve around juniper as a common ingredient.’ They also say:
‘The earliest known written reference to jenever appears in the 13th-century encyclopaedic work Der Naturen Bloeme (Bruges). The earliest printed recipe for jenever dating from 16th-century work Een Constelijck Distileerboec (Antwerp).
The physician Franciscus Sylvius was falsely credited with the invention of gin in the mid-17th century. That said, the existence of jenever is confirmed in Philip Massinger’s play The Duke of Milan (1623), when Sylvius would have been about nine years old. It’s further claimed that English soldiers who provided support in Antwerp against the Spanish in 1585, during the Eighty Years’ War, were already drinking jenever for its calming effects before battle. It’s thought the term Dutch courage stems from that.
According to some unconfirmed accounts, gin originated in Italy.’
Back to Gin & Tonic at the Eternal Optimist
On her experiences at the Old Town bar Jo writes:
Do you like your gin and tonic in a European style glass with an unexpected blueberry in an achingly hip environment? If so, then The Eternal Optimist may be for you. Well, I say ‘achingly hip,’ but I’m a dumpy, 55-year-old in comfortable shoes and an anorak, so you could be correct in thinking I may not be the best judge.
Perhaps I should offer some evidence for the hip credentials. Firstly the beard count: fourteen bearded to four unbearded men. It seemed churlish to count the women. The Eternal Optimist is up well-worn wooden stairs, nothing so suburban as stair carpet.
Then there is the decor, which is a blend of vintage 70s- breadfruit plants for example and the, very now, industrial lighting and jumble of empty gin bottles. The walls are grey with arty swirls of black, which might put you in mind of your stomach lining if you drink too much.
They have an impressive range of craft beers on the wall,as they are partnered with the Hop Kettle Brewery. More to my taste they have some interesting gins, many off the beaten track. I went for Boe Violet, but I’m keen to explore more of the range. they also have an extensive range of tonics, no bog-standard here. If I might make one small criticism, a black plastic straw is not in keeping with the ecological zeitgeist. My beloved, very much a creature of habit, went for the house wine, which he found extremely acceptable.
A somewhat, as is fitting, blurred photograph of a G&T with ice and a slice and a glass of house red at The Eternal Optimist.
The seats are, as you might expect, very random. Long tables with wooden chairs for larger parties and a couple of very comfy winged armchairs for a more intimate conversation.
All this and they offer home baked pizza three nights a week from the relocatedPizza Man – Timber’s Pizza. I’m sure they are, as Born-Again Swindonian tells me, delicious, but I fear I must avoid them in order to avoid my beloved’s lengthy conversations with said Pizza man, about the relative benefits of varieties of dough. Not a problem that most of you will have in this quirky hideaway bar in the midst of Old Town.
What a tonic
And finally a word about tonic water. According to Medical News Today, tonic water is a soft drink containing quinine. It’s that which gives it a bitter taste. Quinine is a common malaria treatment – thought also to help with leg cramps and restless legs syndrome.
‘Prosecco, like it’s big sister, Champagne, takes its name from its place of origin. In this case the village of Prosecco, a suburb of Trieste. Even if you knew that you may not know that, as this Vine Pair blog all about the stuffpoints out, ‘the name ‘prosecco’ is actually Slovenian, from prozek, or “path through the woods.” Prior to being called Prosecco, the region was known as Puccino. Today, Prosecco production extends beyond the small village, but that’s where it all began.
DOC and DOCG
DOCG and DOC are quality classifications. Italian wine law states that DOCG – Denominazione di Origine Controllata e Garantia – is the highest quality designation.
DOC – Denominazione di Origine Controllata – is an Italian assurance of quality for wine and food. To get this label a product must stick to the quality assurance rules and the location defined in the rules. Since 2009 Prosecco has had to have at least DOC accreditation.
The difference between Champagne, Cava and Prosecco
For the full lowdown on the above read this blog here: https://www.myrecipes.com/extracrispy/whats-the-difference-between-prosecco-champagne-and-cavabut the key thing to remember is that for a sparkling wine to call itself Champagne it HAS to be made in the Champagne region of France with the Méthode Champenoise – thought to be the invention of a monk by the name of Dom Perignon. And later refined by the widow (veuve) Cliquot. Two names that remain the most famed of all the Champagne houses. I’ll drink to that!
This cockail contains vodka, tomato juice, and combinations of other spices and flavourings including Worcestershire sauce, hot sauces, garlic, herbs, horseradish, celery, olives, salt, black pepper, lemon juice, lime juice and/or celery salt.
The drink is often taken as a hangover cure or ‘ hair of the dog’ drink, reputed to cure hangovers with its combination of a heavy vegetable base (to settle the stomach), salt (to replenish lost electrolytes), and alcohol (to relieve head and body aches).
Its reputation as a restorative beverage contributes to the popularity of the Bloody Mary in the morning and early afternoon, especially at brunches. Which might explain why, when I went to The Tuppeny on a Thursday evening to sample the magnificent specimen you see above, they hadn’t got the necessary ingredients. Disappointed! Another time I hope.
They did though – and do have – some splendid craft beers. Which I sampled with gusto.
As it says on their website:
‘We carry an amazing, ever changing range of craft beer and cider sourced both from our own region and from across the world. Our house beers are from the crack team at West Berkshire Brewery, located just up the road from Swindon, these guys brew some of the most exciting award winning beers around.
Always available on keg from their Renegade range is Craft Lager and West Coast Pale Ale, and they supply us with their multi-award winning cask beer “Good Old Boy” as well. We work closely with these guys and will also be running their pilot brews and any other exciting, cutting edge beers when the opportunity arises.’
Hello listeners. Welcome to the second post in my tour round Swindon in 50 Drinks.
Because I don’t want you all getting the idea that I’m ONLY interested in alcohol (almost but not quite) the subject of this post is that magic bean – coffee.
Now Swindon has more coffee shops than you can toss a finely ground Arabica bean at. Thus it’s no hardship to find coffee and coffee shops to talk about. There’s plenty of Costa outlets for sure. But Swindon is also blessed with a good number of independent coffee shops – both in the town centre and in Old Town.
This microfoam is made up of steamed milk which is gently infused with air. This results in silky, textured milk containing tiny air bubbles. Air bubbles should be barely visible to the coffee drinker when perfectly made. It traditionally comes in a small size only (5oz-6oz), much smaller than typical cappuccinos and lattes.’
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There’s an awful lot of coffee in Brazil … or Ethipioa
As the 2ndmost traded commodity in the world, coffee has a rich history. Thought to have originated in Ethiopia, this beverage was also used in the Middle East to aid concentration. Here are the most interesting facts about coffee:
It Forged a Revolution
So powerful is coffee, that it led to a social revolution. People used to drink it at home and in public coffee houses that sprung up in cities and towns across East Africa and the Middle East. Soon enough, these coffee houses were the go-to places for socializing – as the blog Coffee or Bust explains this.
Drinking of coffee was accompanied by different types of entertainment, including chess games, musical performances, gossip, and dancing. Coffee houses became the places where people went to know what was happening in the world. Therefore, you can say that coffee sparked a social revolution by bringing people together.
Goats Might Have Discovered It
According to legend, a goat herder in Ethiopia discovered the intoxicating effects of coffee after his goat got excited after eating the beans. The herder went to the local monastery and told the abbot, who decided to dry and boil the beans to make a beverage. The berries were thrown into a fire and the roasted ones taken from the embers to make coffee.
The monastery’s monks found that the drink gave them energy and kept them awake. As soon as word spread about this drink, people loved it.
A Yemenite is also said to have discovered coffee after seeing birds that ate the berries flying more energetically than usual. After tasting the berries, he also became more alert than usual.
It was Thought to Be Sinful
Like alcohol, this beverage also has a long prohibition history. Coffee has attracted religious disquiet from different corners. Had these fanatics gotten their way, coffee would be illegal today. In 1511, the beverage was banned by scholars and jurists who held a meeting in Mecca.
A Meccan governor led the opposition and was afraid that coffee would cause conflict because it would bring people together to discuss his shortcomings.
In 1524, the ban was overturned by a Turkish Sultan. This same Sultan ordered the execution of the Meccan governor and declared coffee sacred. A similar ban occurred in 1532 in Egypt and coffee houses were raided.
It was Called the ‘Devil’s Cup’
Countries in the Mediterranean also received coffee with some suspicion. Catholics called it the ‘bitter invention of the Devil’ and outlawed it. It caused such disquiet that the pope had to intervene by sampling the brew and declaring it to be a Muslim and Christian drink.
A Saint from Mocha Brewed It
Another story claims that the first person to discover coffee was a Sheikh known as Omar. While in exile, the man felt hungry and sampled the berries but found them to be bitter. He found that roasting them turned them hard and boiled them to get an aromatic beverage that gave him instant energy and kept him awake.
This miracle drink made it possible for him to return home and elevated him to sainthood. By the sixteenth century, coffee was a beloved drink in Turkey, Syria, and Egypt. Merchants from Yemen started taking the berries home and growing them.
Sufis prized the drink and used it as a spiritual intoxicant as well as to increase concentration. From the Middle East, this drink spread to Italy, Europe, and the Balkans.
Now, more than once in recent weeks the topic of covering Swindon in 50 Drinks arose. It was somewhat tongue-in-cheek TBH. But then I got to thinking ‘Why not?’ Something a little different for this blog. I hasten to point out that this series of posts WILL feature non-alcoholic drinks too!
So these posts are not about drinks that are #madeinswindon – that would be beer and nothing else I imagine. Though no doubt someone can put me right on that. No, this series of posts are intended as a light-hearted journey around drinks once can enjoy in Swindon. I aim to namecheck 50 different establishments on this journey.
‘There is an old Greek saying that “ouzo makes the spirit” and this is especially true in Greece. The Greek spirit or kefi (KEH-fee) is found in hearty food, soulful music, and the love of lively conversation. A glass of chilled ouzo is the perfect companion to all of these things.
Most people would agree that ouzo is Greece’s most popular alcoholic drink. No other beverage is as uniquely Greek or as closely linked to a culture as ouzo is to Greece. In fact, in 2006, the Greek government won the exclusive rights to use the product name ouzo.’