One of my best friends at the bar has a stock answer when anyone offers him some water with a drink. â€œNot today, thanks.â€ If someone offers him some water just so, as a (God-forbid) plain beverage, his reaction is less polite. His unprintable reply far exceeds the quip about drinking something that fish copulate in. It is so horrible that I believe I have forgotten it.
On the other end of the scale, a friend of mine came back from doing some â€œresearchâ€ in the Scottish highlands the other week and brought back so much mineral water from one particular stream that he claims he couldnâ€™t fit a liquid gift into his luggage for me. He may be a liar, but the quality of his whisky selection means he remains my friend. Anyway, the water is the very water that a particular distillery uses to make its whisky, and now he has frozen the aqua and uses the blocks for that particular whisky. I donâ€™t know what you think, but that either ranks high on a scale of class or on a scale of ponciness. But, as I said, he is my dear friend, a classy position to hold.
The gist is that water is typically not very good for drinks. Iâ€™ve heard an eminent scholar of the high art of blending saying that â€œit takes away and gives nothing in return.â€ It is the taxman of liquids. Water dilutes, it robs of essence. All that skill and mastery and all that mind-enhancing flavour is thinned out when water is added. Youâ€™ve paid good money â€“ why remove flavour?
Water needs to be adulterated to mean something for alcohol; it needs to be transformed into something useful, like soda or tonic water, resulting in popular (though admittedly light-weight) drinks like gin and tonic or vodka, lime and soda. In these languid summery times, carbonated water comes into its own, and another friend recently introduced me to a charming drink called a Rickey which employs carbonated water to very good effect.
A Rickey is named after Colonel Jim Rickey, an American gent from the 1890s. A swash-buckling type, he gave himself the title â€œColonelâ€ and proceeded to rip people off in various business deals, a skill that would have taken him very far in South African politics or reality TV. You can make the Rickey with various types of liquor, like apricot brandy or cherry liqueur, but in homage to his birthplace, try this one with Southern Comfort.
A Comfortable Rickey
50ml Southern Comfort
Half a large lime
Squeeze lime into a tall glass, add liquor and four ice cubes. Stir. Fill with sparkling water and stir again.