52% of my fellow Britons want to leave the EU. I have no idea what this will mean long term, but the pound is already suffering. I’m sad, because I like being European as well as British.

Here’s a martini made with Spanish gin and French vermouth. Yes, I know it’s early.

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Gin Mare is the gin of choice, a really interesting gin with lots of herbs and no fixatives (orris root, etc.). But that’s OK because it’s not going to last long. Noilly Prat is the vermouth of choice, and it’s great for cooking too. I’m trying Regan’s orange bitters (as an alternative to Fee’s).

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Mix the lot in a mixing glass and stir, then strain into a cocktail glass and garnish. I like green olives. I use a ratio of 3:1 gin to vermouth plus a bar spoon of bitters, which was fashionable around the 1920s.

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It’s a fairly complex and subtle martini. I think the Gin Mare may be better shaken in a dirty martini, but it’s tasty anyway. The Regan’s is very different from Fee’s, much less citrus and a lot of spice. Probably better suited to savoury cocktails in general, though I’ll keep the Fee’s for my gimlet recipe. Chin chin!

This is the recipe I used for a cheapskate French 75:

  • 25 ml gin
  • 25 ml lemon juice
  • 25 ml sugar syrup
  • 100 ml cava or prosecco
  • slice of pink grapefruit

french75ingredients

The IBA’s standard recipe is 6:3:1.5 champagne to gin to lemon juice, with a couple of dashes of sugar syrup. Cross’s Classic 1000 Cocktails halves the gin and uses a teaspoon of caster sugar. Ideally the garnish should be a maraschino cherry but I was out of those.

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Combine the gin, juice and sugar in a glass and mix with a bar spoon. Then just add ice and top off with sparkling wine and garnish.

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Chin chin!

A gimlet is a small, sharp tool for drilling holes, and a gimlet cocktail is similarly short and sharp. According to my favourite cocktail book (Robert Cross’ Classic 1000 Cocktails) the Gimlet emerged in 1930 as a cross between two cocktails, a Gimblet (1 1/2 gin, 1/2 lime juice) and a Gimlet (1:1 msr Plymouth gin and Roses Lime Cordial). The adjusted recipe in the book is

  • 2 msr Gin
  • 3/4 msr Roses Lime Cordial
  • Soda Water (optional)

This may be traditional but it’s a crap cocktail. You can do much, much better with fresh lime juice and simple syrup (i.e. make your own cordial). There are more recipes on the wikipedia page here, but my recipe is even better.

Secluded Gimlet

Gather your ingredients. Always use a decent gin that you like enough to sip neat — Boodles here works well, but I’d use Bulldog if I had some. Even though there’s a strong citrus flavour, the wrong gin will give a soapy undertone.

gimlet-ingredients

The other ingedients are the juice of a fresh lime, simple syrup, and my special ingredient — orange bitters (Fee’s here).

  • 60 ml gin
  • Juice of 1 lime
  • 20 ml syrup
  • A dash (or bar spoon — 5 ml ish) of orange bitters
  • Lots of ice
  • Cocktail shaker
  • Cocktail glass

There are a few ways to serve. An Old Fashioned glass works fine, but a conical martini-style glass is better to smell the fresh lime with the orange and gin aromatics.

gimlet-mix

Just combine the gin, juice, syrup and bitters in a cocktail shaker with ice and shake hard. I reckon you want to aerate the cocktail, which will change the mouth feel and aroma. When you pour there should be a little foam on top.

You could scoop out some ice at the end and float it in the drink if you want. Hold the glass by the base.

gimlet-done

Chin chin

So, as a new parent I can only really have one or two drinks in the evening. Cocktails make it easier to ration alcohol, and I like gin. This is a really nice G&T.

The G&T was a way to make tonic water palatable by adding gin in the early 19th century (if you believe Wikipedia). The question is, were the colonial British consuming a London Dry gin which would have emerged in the later 19th century, or something else like genever, juniper spirit or Old Tom gin?

Wikipedia reckons the gin to tonic ratio can be as low as 1:1, which may have been a reasonable ratio with much more bitter tonic and sweeter Old Tom and a lower alcohol content in the gin. But for a modern G&T and a London Dry gin a 1:1 mix is too much. This isn’t a spirit with a dash of soda — a G&T should be aromatic and refreshing and cold.

The only reason to use a ratio stronger than 1:3 is if you’ve got crap tonic and/or watery gin and just want to taste alcohol. Avoid these both.

Gin

boodles

You can get away with something insipid like Bombay Dry or Gordons (that’s modern Gordons, vintage Gordons is apparently a different thing) but there are much better gins for the same money. I used Boodles here which is surprisingly light and delicate, but with a lot of aromatic juniper and coriander that works well in the G&T. Other worthwhile gins are

These three are around £14-16. If you want to spend more money (£25+) there’s Sipsmith or Chase Distillery’s Extra Dry gin. Boodles is right in the middle at £20.

Avoid anything really expensive like Botanist, you won’t get the benefit (sip that one neat). Also anything too floral like Bloom will be wasted because the other scents will overwhelm the gin.

Tonic

tonic

You can use a mediocre gin and make a pretty good drink with decent tonic, but the reverse is not possible. I’m biased because I can’t stand artificial sweeteners, but even so Schweppes has an undeserved reputation (like Bombay Sapphire) and is only acceptable if you’re not taking your G&T orally. These are good tonics:

  • Fever Tree is the most widely available, and comes in little fridge packs of 8x150ml cans. This is what I’m using here. They also do Mediterranean, Elderflower and Lemon tonics which are good
  • Fentiman’s tonic is harder to find and it’s more astringent than Fever Tree (in a good way)
  • Tesco does a “Finest” tonic water that doesn’t have artificial sweeteners. It’s nice but I always found it was a bit flat out of the can.

Glass

glass

These days people seem to be recommending balloon glasses rather than highballs, but I tend not to use our stemware much because it doesn’t fit easily in the dishwasher and I’m lazy. I’ve used an Old Fashioned glass because I like the way it feels in the hand and you still get a lot of surface area to enjoy the aromas.

Garnish

garnish

Lime or lemon is classic, and Mango and black pepper is scientifically proven to be the best. I like a big slice of pink grapefruit and I’m also adding black pepper.

Method

Hardly rocket science but you must chill the tonic (obv) and you can also chill the glass with ice, and drain off melt water using a hawthorne strainer (you could even chill the glass using a bar spoon, but that’s hard for me to photograph)

hawthorne

Then add the gin… a 30ml measure will give you a 1:5 ratio with the can of tonic, and still be a fine drink with around 6.5% alcohol and plenty of character if the gin is decent.

If you want to be pretentious you can pour the tonic using a bar spoon as in this video from Bombay Sapphire and this post to minimise loss of bubbles.

Cut a wedge of citrus, run the fruit around the edge of the glass then drop it in the drink. Add pepper over the top. Chin chin!

GnT

Book

Mmm, gaming holiday. I played three fun games:

  • Grand Exhibition was an alt-Cthulhu game (that is, SAN loss and horror but not the mythos) around displaying an artist’s mind-bending work all in one place, with hilarious consequences.
  • Keeper’s Cottage was about running a B&B in a weird village at the junction between the human and fairy worlds.
  • Relics Of The Past was about running around Paris being a sociopathic were-cat.

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The game I wish I’d played but didn’t was another run through Liz’ Rise and Fall, this time with a fat-shaming dystopia involving doughnut quotas, cupboard inspections, and the first public eating of chocolate on TV for a decade.

Less fun was being laid out with the ‘flu for a day, which severely got in the way of drinking:

Gimlet

For the Gimlet just take the juice of a lime, 2 measures of a nice gin (I use Blackwood’s), a measure of 50% sugar syrup, a few drops of Fee’s Orange Bitters, shake with ice and strain.

French 75

For the French 75, juice a lemon and add a measure of gin and one of sugar syrup, stir a bit, then add lots of ice to a tall glass, top up with fizzy wine (cheap Cava in this case), add a cherry, lemon slice and straws.

(there are lots of different ways to serve this one but the over-ice method comes from my classic cocktails book. It’s like a poncy Tom Collins)

french75

Anyway, games.

Transuranic World

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This was the first game I ran, and it went OK but clearly needs work — so it was good to playtest before the next outing which will be at 7 Hills. The premise is Sapphire and Steel, Powered by the Apocalypse. So far I haven’t looked beyond one-shot games, but creating a longer term Front for play that links Agents and The Enemy over different missions shouldn’t be too difficult, and PbtA’s concepts of Clocks and Threats are just what I needed.

I think the players thought the Human would be boring. Certainly if you were offered the chance to play either the supernatural Steel or Sapphire, or one of the many humans that end up as collateral damage, it’s an obvious choice. However when we came to play I was pleased that the human had plenty to do, although I should have made more of her Local Knowledge / Historical Context powers.

The PvP aspects of the moves weren’t really explored because that mode of play wasn’t really familiar to the players (none of whom had played PbtA games). But also the game had a strong mission focus that meant inter-party fighting wasn’t part of the fiction.

As you’d expect from an investigation game a lot of the first moves would be observation in order to divine where the next clue was. In keeping with canon the Sapphire PC had plenty to do, and spent most of his time reading the situation and opening his mind. The Silver (Engineer) and Steel (Director) PCs had less to do by comparison, although both had fairly strong abilities. I was also a bit surprised at how much fighting went on in the end stages — so clearly this is another place some playbooks can be expanded and reinforced, which is good.

A few powers didn’t work, like Sacrifice (because the exchange rate of Harm for Help was not good). Also while Hx should have come into things with Steel ordering the other characters around and helping them or being helped by them, the actual Hx values I assigned were too low to be helpful. I think I mistook Hx for being liked. That’s another fix.

The most gratifying part: the players said it was true to the genre in their eyes, which is what matters above all. I think apart from the minor issues of some moves not making sense I’m not in too bad shape for the next run through.

Death Comes To Wyverley

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I ran my modified version of Beyond the Wall on the last day. Much more within my comfort zone than Transuranic World. Nevertheless the game was still a playtest, as in I wasn’t just running a one-shot but a reusable game pack. Any mechanical changes I’d made needed to be solid.

The first problem was time; despite planning the playbooks last year I’d still only half-finished them (excuses, excuses; lots of foreign travel and stress). The common tables for nearly all the playbooks are done and got used, but the others are still in progress.

Since I didn’t have time to present them in the state I wanted, I improvised a bit of storygame-type character generation which I now submit as an alternative and systemless approach. It goes like this:

  1. Your playbook concept has four key questions to ask about your character.
  2. Ask each question in turn by going around the group and asking the other players for an answer.
  3. The player then picks the answer they like the most.
  4. GM fills in the stat upgrades, skills and powers that you’d normally get from the playbook (while the players break for lunch).

It took a bit longer than the standard method and there was afterwork required by the GM, but it worked really well. The links to the playbooks overview and common tables are provided at the bottom.

Other things I worked into the game:

  • Relationships worked well, coming directly from the common tables at character gen (see link below). I don’t think they need any mechanical weight, just a line item on the character sheet.
  • Modified damage rules worked very well. The idea was to limit the rate of hit-point loss so the players wouldn’t turn around for home at the first hint of damage; but it was all illusiory, and just made the PCs take more risks and go closer to 0 HP. In the end everyone survived but two PCs were right at the edge of Death. No rolls fudged.
  • Speaking of Death, three characters ended up in the First Precinct thanks to misuse of the Abhorsen’s bells and one PC being actually properly dead (but they got better). The rules for sliding towards the Gates worked, and will need minimal tweaking.
  • They used the Abhorsen’s Bells a lot. Here I tweaked the Ritual rules and made the game level-less, so the Abhorsen-in-waiting did end up ringing Saraneth, but the stakes were still there. She was lucky that she never ended up a slave to Saraneth’s will, although she screwed up Kibeth and threw half the party into Death at one point.

The main problem I had was the constant switching between roll-over (to hit and saving throws) and roll-under (stat checks for skill rolls, etc.). It’s something I’ve always had a problem with in Beyond the Wall and I’m not sure how to fix other than by the group just getting familiar with it.

The next change I intend to make is with the damage system, using Armour as a damage reduction mechanism — reducing the roll on the dice before damage is calculated. Even 1 point of armour will have a 1 in 3 chance of reducing the damage taken.

That deviates further from the standard D&D AC model, but that’s a trivial fix. Just create a Dodge attribute that rises with the levels in line with wearing better and better armour, and use that value in place of AC when a monster rolls to-hit. All you’ve done is change a class attribute from being externally regulated (by class permission and money) to internally (by level).

The other change I’m considering is to the character’s levels, possibly to remove them entirely. However as clunky as levels appear actually I think they work really well. Superimposed over the college system they could work in-fiction, too.

Useful links for the game so far (links to pdf docs):

We have gin, we have gin-loving friends — let’s have a gin-off!

The Candidates

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We had four rather nice gins to try:

  • Bloom, a light floral gin that features honeysuckle, chamomile and pomelo
  • Bulldog, a spicy gin that includes dragon eye (similar to lychee) and poppy
  • Portobello Road gin, the most traditional of the four with plenty of juniper up front balanced with the traditional botanicals like liquorice and coriander
  • Tarquin’s Cornish Gin which is another floral number with violets and fresh citrus and a few other changes (cinnamon in place of cassia bark, I think)

All of these are described as (London) dry gins, so they’ve been pot distilled with neutral alcohol and have minimal sweetening. There may also be some vapour infusion going on, I don’t know.

Methodology

Our mostly unscientific process involved three rounds of tasting interspersed with drunken waffling:

  1. sipping neat
  2. dilution with water
  3. and finally in a cocktail or G&T.

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Neat Tasting

The problem with trying the neat spirit (especially for people who don’t drink vodka) is you get the taste of ethanol and not much else.

Bloom ranked high for most people, with the Portobello Road and Tarquin’s taking a close second and the Bulldog bringing up the rear. However it’s worth noting that two of our five tasters placed Bulldog as their second choice, whereas the other three ranked it bottom. I still think it makes a fine sipping gin thanks to mouth feel and smoothness.

Of our number one isn’t a regular gin drinker, but likes a martini, and she didn’t like the floral character of Bloom or Tarquin’s. Her favourite was the least flowery Portobello.

We later thought the Portobello suffered in the company of the exotic gins. Had we compared it to something a bit more mainstream like Plymouth I reckon it would be a front-runner. It’s a very traditional set of flavours without any attention-grabbing characters, just nicely balanced.

With Water

Diluting with water didn’t help the Bulldog’s score, sadly. Tarquin’s knocked Bloom off the top spot with a drop of water, and the other two were just behind.

I know that drinking gin with water is the way true aficionados do it, but for me it’s too middle of the road — I either want the neat spirit or (more often) a nice G&T. Still, diluting it makes it a lot easier to sort the different flavours. I think the chamomile in the Bloom came out particularly well.

G&T (and others)

After we’d sipped, everyone chose their favourite to go in their drink of choice, and the Bloom bottle ended up with the biggest dent in it. I went for the Portobello in a G&T and I think it was far superior — Bloom and Tarquin’s just gets lost in the tonic if it’s diluted too far.

Our martini lover demanded a martini, and was disappointed by the absence of olives — but a bit of lemon zest worked well. I used the Tarquin’s in the proportions on the back of the Noilly Prat bottle, which is a rather dilute 2:1 (I’m not sure Noel Coward would approve). The result was heavy on the citrus and really quite nice. At some point I should try the Bulldog in the same recipe, it may be just the thing.

Tasting Notes

Mostly our tasting results indicated preference as opposed to sorting out the flavours. This is what I got:

Bloom has a lot of floral character, and the chamomile comes out well when swilling it over the tongue. Very sweet, not much bitterness or acidity. Good for sipping neat, and apparently goes well with strawberries — someone mentioned a strawberry cup at the 9 Worlds gin tasting, and now Bloom makes their own.

Bulldog is spicy, and not quite as perfumed as the Bloom or Tarquin’s. The perfume is there, but this gin was the middle child in the round up and suffered by comparison with both the aromatic gins and traditional flavours. It’s a good gin, though, for sipping and may fare well in a martini.

Portobello Road is very traditional, juniper is present but not overwhelming and the other flavours combine superbly. My choice for G&T.

Tarquin’s is very fresh tasting, with flavours like pine needles and oranges and less aggressive bitterness. Fantastic gin, made a lovely citrus-based martini, but like the Bloom may be overwhelmed by tonic.

Gin Cum Laude

There’s no clear winner, although the Bloom had the biggest dent in it at the end of the night.

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One thing we noticed was how the design of the bottles conveyed the character of the gin — Bloom is delicate, Bulldog is boisterous and Portobello is traditional. Tarquin’s is the least interesting bottle-wise but there is a good picture of a basking shark on the label. I don’t know if that’s a botanical; I know those sharks aren’t particularly aggressive but I’d be pretty pissed off if someone dumped me in a copper still full of ethanol. Perhaps they stun the shark first.

Anyway, enjoy responsibly. Chin chin!

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Last weekend I went to the 9 Worlds convention. It was awesome, and I totally recommend it. The combination of many different cultural tracks and a really strong focus on being inclusive made for a great atmosphere.

This is what I saw:

  • Dr Who Fanvids
  • Archaeology of Fantasy Worlds
  • Urban Fantasy Worlds (All the Books)
  • Joseph Campbell’s Monomyth (Retro Fandom)
  • Identity and Sex Work in ASOIAF
  • Whedon vs Tropes in Cabin in the Woods
  • Fight Choreography for Writers
  • Storygasm, including River’s Absolution
  • Bechdel Film Test
  • Gin Appreciation
  • Queer Cabaret, and Steampunk Cabaret
  • “Chains of Transformation” for Fanfic Remixes
  • Assaulting the Narrative
  • Water Dancing with Syrio Forel
  • Marketing Monsterclass
  • Environmental Narratives in Video Games

Needless to say there was also a lot I didn’t go to but would have liked to, owing to clashes. Here are some of the real highlights:

Archaeology of Fantasy Worlds

This was an early start on Friday on the Academic track, and proved to be one of the best talks in the whole Con. The premise was how one would go about archaeology of Middle Earth and other worlds, and what you might find — how one might gather evidence of how dwarven and orcish societies may have interacted over centuries, for example.

Sex Work and Identity in A Song Of Ice And Fire

This one was in a small room in the post-lunch slot. Mostly it covered the dehumanising and othering of sex workers by the various characters in the series. Both panel and audience generally took GoT’s misogyny and sensationalising of the subject as a given, but what made the talk was the attention to detail (detail which I’m not really inclined to dig for myself) such as the way certain characters personify attitudes to be the hate figure when those attitudes are shared by supposedly “good” protagonists as well, or the way most sex workers have not been given real names in the text.

Gin Appreciation

This was on the Steampunk track. For a 10 quid ticket, we got to drink a lot of gin.

The talk began with a history of gin, including a dissection of Hogarth’s Gin Lane and the Gin Reform Act and its effect on bathtub gin-making. Then we went on to distillation methods, which was where I got my chemistry geek on.

The five main ones on offer were:

  • Aldi’s Oliver Cromwell (not bad for a tenner, I can see how this would make a great martini)
  • Adnam’s Copper House Gin (really fantastic herby gin with a lot of character, apparently contains hibiscus botanicals)
  • Plymouth Gin (a very well balanced gin, not as dry as a London Dry gin)
  • Hendricks (needs no introduction, it’s a firm favourite — though we did learn some cool things about its multi-stage distillation)
  • Burleigh’s Gin, a new gin from Jamie Baxter launched that very evening somewhere else in London. Possibly we got to taste it before the official launch, but we were all a bit sloshed by then and having trouble with time. Very interesting one with silver birch and iris flowers.

Of those five, I still love the Hendricks but they were all very fine — even the cheap one from Aldi. The newcomer is apparently rare as hen’s teeth, being a small batch production. Ah, well.

We also learned about enjoying gin with water instead of tonic. I still prefer a decent tonic, but water really brings out the interesting notes in exotic gins like Gin Mare.

Other gins on offer included Hoxton’s with grapefruit and coconut (didn’t like it) and a brussel sprout gin which tasted like a watered-down absinthe.

Storygasm

This was the gaming track. I spent a lot of Saturday gaming, running a Beyond the Wall scenario in about 75 minutes (testament to its pick-up friendliness) and then playing River’s Absolution, a Firefly hack of Witch: The Road to Lindisfarne in the afternoon.

I’ve only played a few GMless games, but the session crystallised some thoughts on the nature of storygames and how they differ from trad RPGs. Some of the players in RA were at ease with the whole shared ownership of the story and scene; others occasionally looked to the facilitator for both descriptions of the scene, and to arbitrate over the scene’s events. Much of this comes down to leadership and decision-making norms in our hobby. Generally the GM provides the leadership when framing a scene, and leaves the decision making to the players. But in GMless games there is no real decision-making: often events are assumed to come to pass, and the game is about exploring why those decisions are made.

That’s all fine when all the players buy in, but it falls apart when you take expectations from trad gaming. In some examples I might make a suggestion that is reasonable in-character, but highly disruptive — such as declaring that I am putting the witch to the sword right now, never mind our journey. Here I’m relying on my fellow players to block me in this action, and they are relying on me to acquiesce no matter what. Such was the case when I jokingly suggested to float River out of the cargo hold and save us an inconvenient journey in the first scene.

I think it boils down to this: it’s counter-intuitive to frame a scene where there is an apparent decision to be made, and then assume that the decision has been made and instead explore only the motivations. I get the feeling that this will always be a hurdle with this type of game.

Water Dancing with Syrio Forel

Finally, I got a lesson from Syrio Forel, First Sword of Braavos! Well, technically the lesson came from Miltos Yerolemou who plays Syrio in GoT.

(No, I haven’t suddenly turned into a GoT fan. I just like sword choreography)

Serious Business
Serious Business

This was one of those things I had to attend just to say I’d done it, but it ended up being one of the best parts of the convention. The lesson was strongly tipped towards choreography as opposed to martial, but was great fun. My only regret was doing it in boots and jeans, which proved to be a bit uncomfortable to train in.

I even got a souvenir:

What do we say?
What do we say?
Not today!
Not today!

With this blade I will be inwincible.

Every so often we roast a chicken or duck. The bones get made into stock, the leftover meat goes in a cassoulet or risotto or jambalaya, stock gets used as and when needed.

One thing we don’t make often is soup–probably because chicken stock lends itself to vichyssoise, which I don’t really like. We never get the consistency right.

But since I failed to remember to portion and freeze the stock so ended up with a lot of stock to use in one go, I decided to try soup again. It’s a twist on the cassoulet recipe, and it worked out well enough that I’m writing it down. Not vegetarian obviously, but it is gluten free.1

Rough proportions:

2 onions, some shallots and garlic cloves

About 6 potatoes that are sprouty and frightening to behold, but scrub up nicely when peeled

About a litre of chicken stock

A chorizo sausage

2 packets / tins cannellini beans

1 packet / tin chopped tomatoes

Mixed herbs (or whatever needs using up)

Dash of balsamic vinegar if you want

Dash of sherry, ditto

Bit of cream if you have it

<

p>I chopped the onions and fried them in the pot (nice big Le Creuset casserole pot), then processed the shallots, garlic and chorizo in a little food processor until it had the consistency of homemade burger meat. I then fried that for a bit, so the paprika in the meat turned the cooking oil orange.

While that was going on I chopped up the potatoes nice and small. Then in went the stock, potatoes, beans (drained), tomato, herbs, vinegar and sherry. Vinegar and sherry probably not needed, but both usually work well with chorizo.

The pot was then simmered until the potatoes were tender (about 1.5 episodes of NCIS). I like soup smooth-ish so it went in the blender.2 Most of the soup stayed in the blender, and when done I had about 8 big bowlfuls. Finish with a little swirl of cream but it doesn’t really need it.


  1. Unlike some lentiles vertes I bought recently, which went in a cassoulet and gave me awful heartburn. I guess they use flour to lubricate the flow of the lentils in the factory. Usually pretty good at reading packets for allergy advice, but beans? Come on.

  2. If you’re using up fresh woody herbs, take the twigs out first!

Always amused when I can enter 1902 as my DOB on an alcohol website.

Today I am mostly drinking Chase Distillery gin. I’ve been avoiding grain spirits since the gluten free thing started – even though the chances that gliadin will find its way through the distillation process are vanishingly small.

Chase vodka is made entirely from potatoes, and it’s very nice indeed – although the marketing blurb on the label likening it to buttery mashed potatoes is laying it on a bit thick.

Chase gin is made from apples. I’ve got a G&T right now. Unlike the Gordons or Bombay Sapphires that grab you by the collar and scream I AM GIN at you, the Chase gin is more like a polite cough. Very English. I’m mixing it with full-fat tonic from Waitrose which doesn’t have any artificial sweetener.

Gnt

That green stuff is a couple of sprigs of lemon thyme. Break it into little bits and crush between the teeth at each sip. Lovely.

(Fripp and Eno on the turntable.)

 On the last shopping trip to the wine merchants I happened to find a bottle of 2009 Domaine des Nugues Beaujolais Villages among the 2010 bottles.

Beaujolais

The 2009 tastes better than the 2010 (more body, better balance of acidity, fruitier), which is what I expected since 2009 was a really good year for Beaujolais. A 2009 Fleurie is a great value bottle that you can lay down for a few years, if unlike me you can restrain yourself…

The thing about Beaujolais is it’s rarely discounted in supermarkets so doesn’t feature in the outrageous 3 for a tenner discounts – so it’s always the wrong side of a fiver a bottle (usually closer to ten) and doesn’t look like good value. But here’s the rub – the discounted supermarket wines are not worth their alleged full price when compared with the likes of a decent Beaujolais. They’re worth the discounted price, that’s all (still good value if you want to make a nice coq au vin).

The massive discounts and market presence of Australian wine in the UK has more to do with volume discounts and less to do with quality. But I’m a bit biased because I don’t really like new world wines much – too much alcohol and sugar and not enough acidity to cope with food. I do think you get what you pay for with wine and the unsexy French wine could actually represent better value for money, albeit at a higher cost per bottle.