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Evening star. [volume] (Washington, D.C.) 1854-1972, December 28, 1930, Image 72

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A British Writer Who Has Spent Several
Christmases in the United States Gives
Here an Intimate Disclosure of How
Holiday Drinking Is Done on John Bull’s
Sober Isle.
HRISTMAS cheer spells Christmas
f * beer —so runs an old adage, coined,
"m they say, in the good old days of
A Henry VHl—and the whole of Eng
land, led by London, which is de
cidedly red-nosed at the moment, what with
December winds and old tawny port after office
hours, has Just finished laying in its holiday
stock of cheer.
The windiw displays in the wine and spirit
shops this -year are more astonishing in their
varieties of drinkables than ever before. Right
opposite my apartment is the store of one
William Burney, who describes himself as a
•Wholesale Wine and Spirit Merchant, licensed
to sell intoxicating liquors, to be drunk off the
'His window is a blase of electric lamps, shin
ing on imitation snow and ice. Lying on the
snow are sledges piled high with every drink
you can imagine. There are bottles of very
old brandy which you may buy for the price
of a bottle of inferior bootleg gin, graceful
Hock bottles with their long stems. Jolly, fat
Hollands, clarets, Burgundys, Bordeaux, bottles
of Scotch and bottles of Irish, and in a sledge
all to themselves the succulent, insidious
'French liqueurs so dear to women and so cheap
to buy.
Here is a flagon of Benedictine—you can
buy it for what you would expend on a couple
of good neckties. Here too is peach brandy and
creme de menthe, next a trib of bottles con
taining Chartreuse, Grand Marnier, and Coin
treau, while at one end of the display Santa
Claus is loaded to the white and bushy eye
brows with kuemtnel, white port. Gordon's gin
—the real, not the synthetic—Rhine wine,
vodka, and a sack over his shoulder from the
neck of which peep the golden tops of bottles
of champagne by such firms as Heidsick, Pol
Roger, Pommeroy, Lemoine. . . .
And in the other corner of the window, op
posite to Santa Claus, a model passenger air
plane is unloading little leather grip* contain
ing bottles of whisky, port, brandy, liqueurs and
champagne, which you buy for a few dollars
and give away as presents to your friends.
r pHAT wine store is one among thousands,
and all'of them will be completely devoid
of stock by the New Tear. From which you
would think that London was going on the
most appalling bat this Christmas, and that
every member of every household old enough
to lift a glass would be in a beautiful state o t
Inebriation from the day before Christmas
until the last of the Old Year.
You would be wrong. London has an
almighty thirst, but on the whole it doesn’t
get drunk. It prefers to do its drinking in
comfort and at ease. It doesn’t go wild and
make whoopee, but steadily and in manner
most dignified it absorbs, absorbs again, and
then comes back for a final nightcap.
All of which means that here in England
people know bow to handle their boose. It Is
Ingrained in them from their early manhood.
Let me explain. Long centuries of freedom
In drink have taught English people how to
drink, and what to drink at stated times. They
know perfectly well that port is not drunk
before dinner and that red wine Is never served
with fish, that one does not mix a Bronx cock
tail with Benedictine, or drink a whisky and
soda before breakfast. Neither do they drink
cocktails after dinner, or mix wine with spirits.
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Testing the Netv Year cheer that comes out of a spigot. Beer tasters, dignified
business men, in a drinking competition to test quality.
In the' first place it "Isn’t done” and In the
second they know what is good for their diges
tion. Consequently people get less drunk. They
may get mellow often, but drunk very seldom.
There are traditions to British drinking. "If,”
you will hear it said, "a man cannot hold his
liquor well”—"carry”—it is, I believe, the cor
rect term —"then he had best not drink at all.”
This rule is generally observed.
'T'HERE is no need to get drunk over here.
You never hear of people deliberately going
out to get intoxicated. Liquor is cheap and
good, and there is plenty of time in which to
drink it.
And so this Christmas and New Year there
are parties going on all over the country with
probably just as much liquor at them as at
those over your side—save that It is better
liquor here—at which drinking will go on
steadily but quietly without much outward sign
of whoopee. You will see very few "drunks” in
the streets, the “pubs” will do a roaring trade
as a matter of course, but even there, beyond
a louder-than-usual buzz of conversation, you
will find little sign of boisterousness.
Now this is not a story in praise of the self
control of English drinking habits. It is more
a comparison of wet holiday seasons. Techni
cally the United States is dry. We in England
are "wet,” yet both countries will do more than
their fair share of absorbing. The only dif
ference is in the manner of absorption.
People call on each other in the evenings
after dinner for a pipe of tobacco and a glass
of whisky and soda, hostesses give quiet little
' jv
dinner parties at which a few choice wines ease
conversation and mellow temperaments, men
meet before lunch for a short convivial eocktall
—“only one, old boy, never drink much at mid
Much of the drinking takes place, of course.
In the much-maligned but actually very re
spectable pubs, of which Great Britain boasts
'no less than 78,000 "fully licensed," and an
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The interior of an English “pub,” of which there are more than 125,000. Thm
barmaid is drawing “half a pint of bitter” It is all quite respectable, not to say
sedate, in “Merrie England.”
other 50,000 odd, licensed to sell certain but
not all liquors.
The big difference lies in the quality of the
beer, the manner of getting it, and the price
at which it can be bought And what stands
for beer stands also for wines, spirits and
T'H* parcel poet this rear brought me a small
Christinas gift from a firm with whom I do
business. It Is a little wicker work grip tied
with holly labels and It contains the following:
Cost to buy
1 bottle Black and White Whisky. .$3.00
1 bottle Port 1.00
1 bottle Sherry 1.00
1 bottle Gordon’s Gin 3.00
1 bottle Italian Vermouth .80
* 1 bottle French Vermouth JO
1 small Benedictine and one small
Green Chartreuse 3.00
Inclosed was a little note to the effect that
Instead of sending their patrons cigars this
year they had decided to "make their Christ*
mas card” with a slight offering with which to
drink their health. I suppose that firm has
sent out hundreds of such cases to their
patrons this year and what is more, each re
cipient like myself probably received similar
Christmas tributes from other firms without
much excitement and has stowed them all
away in his cellar alongside other bottles. For
the cellar is still very much of a regular feature
in English houses of the middle and upper
classes, although the cellarman, whose sole
duty it was to inspect the stores of wine and
spirit, has gone out of business owing to the
stress of things modern.
Mot every Englishman talks much about his
oellar. He takes it as a matter of course unless
he makes a hobby of wines. But the average
cellar Is sufficiently well stocked to warrant the
production on request of any wine or spirit
other than the most expensive vintages and
The British oellar is situated generally below
ground level, is stone floored, stone walled and
lighted only In the most modem homes by elec
tricity. The great majority are lit by hanging
lamp or by the lighted candle with which the
proud owner descends bejpre dinner in order
to bring up in person the wines which are to
be drunk. .
All, whether lit by artificial light or by other
means, are of necessity dry, for a damp cellar
beget* mildew, dry rot and the micro-organism*
which attack the corks in the necks of th#
bottles and so spoil the wine. They are free
from draughts, kept scrupulously clean and
must be regularly Inspected for mildew and
other fungus. These, were the duties of the
old-time ceUarman.
Today they are performed generally by the
master of the house, who, if he is anything at
an enthusiast, will duly keep the temperature
around 53 to 58 degrees Fahrenheit and do his
best to alienate all vibration. He will keep the
cellar in darkness, for wine is not improved
by light; catalogue all his purchases in the
cellar book, giving the name of the merchant,
the price paid, the date on which it was “laid
down” and the condition of the wine at the time
of its purchase.
810 cellar in the old days gave the cellar
man more than enough to do, and today
even a small cellar needs plenty of attention.
The smallest In an apartment can take up
quite a few hours of each week in attention
which Is well repaid In thousands of British
homes at dinner time. Port, for instance, IS
best put in half bottles, for once a bottle Is
opened it loses half its bouquet if it is recorked.
1 They put their wine most carefully into its
allotted bin with the white “splash” mark
uppermost, neck first, yet not allowing die cork
end to touch the wall of the cellar, and arrange
their bins so that the new wine and the older
vintages can be got at without disturbing other
bins in their turn. Many wine merchants in
England at this moment are sending out spe
cial operators who “bin” the wine in cellars
for their best customers.
Sven here in England people do not realise
the vast number of people employed in the wine
business in London and the other great cities
of this little island. No less than 18,000,000
gallons of wine arrive in England each year
from foreign countries and this necessitates a
vast and complicated organization to deal with
it reception, treatment, care and distribution.
And in addition to that some 4,000,000 gallons
of proof spirits were landed this year in Eng
land despite the almost prohibitive weight of
the import tariff.
p\IBTRIB UTION of all this boose is, however,
by no means confined to England alone,
for the export trade In the rare vintages and
admirable spirits of France, Portugal, Italy,
Spain and Germany Is principally controlled by
the famous wine houses of London.
nance sends bordeaux, burgundies, brandy,
vermouth, champagne and liqueurs; Spain
sends sherries and tarragonas; Portugal her
ports; Italy chlanti, vermouth and asti: Hol
land—home of the old square-face—contributes
her gin; Germany sends the sun-kissed wines
of the Rhine, and the West Indies and Natal
the hot, fiery rum—so welcome In the trenches
at the dawn “stand to,” and all of this hetero
geneous mass of alcohol arrives and is unloaded
on the quaysides of the London Docks, under
the control of the Port of London Authority.
The greater proportion of it arrives In bulk,
not in bottles, in great casks of all shapes and
sloes from the giant hogshead to the even larger
“pipe” of massive construction.
As soon as the stuff is landed it cqmes under
the care of the customs officers, who see it into
the “bonded warehouses” to await redistribution
by the trade. Here in giant vaults the wliyes
and spirits are nursed by a large staff of ex
perts, and subjected to all the care and treat
ment necessary to their welfare during their
fitay in the warehouses.
7N addition to the bonded warehouses are the
famous wine and spirit vaults of the Pari
of London, built In the early nineteenth cen
tury by Rennie, the great architect. It is her*
that England’s most famous wine merchants
mature their wines and brandies for years be
fore they are sent out for consumption by the

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