Claytons worth drinking

I’ve stopped drinking alcohol for a bit. I’m enjoying the consequences, in particular better sleep, less uneasiness about my poor liver, and realising that the reason I say endless numbers of entirely inappropriate things to my friends is not because my tongue is loosened by alcohol, but because I am a chronic over-sharer. It’s so much easier to be embarrassment-free about what came out of my mouth the night before when I realise that it’s just my personality, not the wine.

I do love good alcohol on its own merits, but I also like the “I am about to consume something more exciting than tap water” aspect of it too. For the first couple of weeks after stopping drinking I employed various substitutes for that feeling, including eating quite a lot of Frosty Fruits and downing gallons of sparkling mineral water with slices of lime.

I’ve expanded the repertoire since then, and thought I’d list some options I’ve been enjoying here, in case anyone else is in search of non-alcoholic cold drinks to satisfy themselves during this heatwave.

1. In a tall glass, combine the freshly-squeezed juice of a ruby grapefruit, a couple of dashes of citrus bitters, ice, and about 200 ml of soda water. A few mint leaves, scrunched in the hand before adding to the glass, are great but not required.

2. Fever-tree ginger beer is delicious. Much more gingery, less sugary, and in a more sensible bottle size than Bundaberg et al.

3. Tonic water with ice and a dash of elderflower cordial. Not too much cordial, or it will become sickly! Just a little tiny dash.

4. San Pellegrino’s little bottles of chinotto, so bitter and satisfying.

5. Soda water with ice and a dash or two of pomegranate molasses to taste. Sorry if you like sweet drinks; my predilection for sour and bitter tastes is probably becoming rather obvious here.

6. The Australian classic, lemon, lime and bitters. This is easy to make, and the premixed versions are disgusting, so construct your own. Drizzle Angostura bitters around the inside of a glass and twist to coat it a little. Add ice, a dash of lime juice cordial, and top with clear lemonade (preferably something less sweet than the Sprite type).

7. A Gunner: equal parts ginger ale and ginger beer, with a dash of Angostura bitters and a squeeze of lemon juice to taste.

8. Lychee soda, as first encountered by us at the Vietnamese restaurant in South Brisbane we used to go to once a week with friends after climbing. In a tall glass, put a few ice cubes, four or five lychees from a tin, and a dash of the syrup from the tin. Top up the glass with cold soda water. Serve with a straw and a long-handled parfait spoon to eat the lychees.

1 reply on “Claytons worth drinking”

Hallelujah! I do actually drink alcohol, but not very often and not usually at home, so I’m always on the lookout for festive-feeling non-alcoholic drinks to brighten my Friday nights 🙂 . Like you, I love bitter and sour flavours over sweet ones. In fact I quite like Tonic with a good squeeze of lime (or lemon if lime is unavailable) — a virgin G&T, I suppose. That ruby grapefruit thing has my mouth watering like crazy just thinking of it. I shall be trying that at the earliest opportunity. I don’t know Fever Tree and will have to seek it out. When we lived in the UK I used to favour a ginger beer by Luscombe (from Devon) — do you know it? It’s totally fabulous. They make it in “hot” and “cool” varieties and both are staggeringly good.

But what I really wanted to say is that you have helped me solve a mystery that has been plaguing me for decades. My parents used to make a drink they called Gunner, beginning in the ’60s when they were first married, all the way through my childhood in the ’70s and ’80s. But I could never find any mention of Gunner online, at least not up to five or six years ago when I last looked. Is it well known in Australia? Is it actually Australian in origin? That would make sense, as I grew up in Malaysia and a lot of our ideas of “Western” cuisine came from Australia and New Zealand (certainly a lot of our meat did!). It’s not that the recipe for Gunner is complicated, of course — I’ve made it many times without any recipe — but it was driving me batty that nobody else seemed to have heard of it, and I needed to know if my family had simply invented it! Do you know why it’s called Gunner?

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