On the bar …
Roy Connor at Forty One’s
Roy Connor at the Forty One’s on Church Street in Athlone chuckles when you ask him for any unusual stories he might have in his year in the hospitality business. It’s the laugh of a man with a bottle-shelf of anecdotes that could never be told in polite company. He acknowledges that, as this pub is a young person’s bar, he’s obviously been asked for some “quare drinks” in his time.
“I once had this fella come in asking for a pint of Guinness with a shot of Bailey’s in it and I served it to him too,” the famous ‘car-bomb’ that’s usually served with a pint of Guinness, a shot of Bailey’s and an additional shot of Irish whiskey. Although, in this economic climate, that’s an expensive drink to be requesting that not only disturbs the strength of Guinness but puts a hole in your pocket. As for funny stories, Connor remembers the one about the Dublin man who arrived into the pub one night who had left his wife for another man. “He happened to tell me the whole story over a few pints. Then there was the story about the constipated man who, when offered a suppository to clear himself out, swallowed it instead of putting it you know where. It’s funny the stories you hear in this game. With what people tell you they must think the advice given is as good as you’d get from qualified counsellor. But sure what would I know.”
On the cookery book shelf …
The Ultimate Cocktail Book
With Christmas and the New Year put to bed and families drawing lots as to which day would be best to take down the tree and decorations, there’s probably a few half- or quarter-bottles lying around that no one knows quite what to do with and which could be put to good use to finally wash down the sediment of the last year. That’s where this little recommendation comes in nicely with initially a small introduction to the history and types of cocktails and what spirits, cocktail shaker, blender, mixing glasses, lemon squeezers and tea-towels are best when making cocktails. There are also bartender’s tips (obviously, barman tips doesn’t sound the same ), why the quality of the ice is important, whether cocktails are best shaken a-la-James Bond or stirred by Seamus the local barman, and how easy it is to decorate a cocktail or make citrus spirals. There’s even advice on the ins and outs of hosting a cocktail party. And then it’s on to the best part, 170-odd pages of cocktails. Favourites include classics such as the Manhattan (whiskey, vermouth, ice and cherry ), Piña Colada (ice, rum, coconut cream, pineapple juice ) or a Crossbow (ice, gin, Crème de cacao, Cointreau, chocolate powder for decoration ). While it’s not in the same league as the more expensive Diffordsguide Cocktails, a bible for mixologists, this compilation is still an adequate collection, many of which are accompanied by glossy colourful pictures. Not surprisingly, many of the cocktails in all their finery sell themselves better than a bar-full of publicans, in what is essentially a ready-reckoner for any barman or wanabee who fancies himself as a connoisseur of cocktails.
On the wine shelf …
Philippe Michel 2008 Crémant du Jura (Aldi, €9.99 )
Looking to prolong the festive season beyond Little Christmas, this froth of bubbles is a bottle fermentation surprise that gives far more than you would expect at this price. Slightly shy but clean on the nose, it is coquettish in an apple and pear-lemon sort of way on the palate, displaying layers of juicy citrusy fruit without a noticeable kick of alcohol (although it is 12 per cent ), the finish lingering beyond expectation. Fill your boots people, fill your boots.
Mont Gras Quatro 2009 (SuperValu, €12.99 )
From Colchagua in the Central Valley this is a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Carmenère and Malbec married together with ripe serious blackberry notes on the nose mingling with vanilla, cedar and spice. On the palate the flavours are just as rich and the finish, while lacking a little oomph, is just as rewarding at the price.