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NPG x131053; Kingsley Amis and Elizabeth Jane Howard by Francis Goodman

“The object here is not just to give a party on the cheap, but to get away with it and even end up looking good, or good enough. The traditional strategy is notoriously to offer your guests a flat choice between (boring) red wine and (dull) white wine. Youngsters and other uncritical persons quite like this policy, but it’s becoming increasingly vulnerable to the kind of old stager who doesn’t mind asking loudly for a real drink. Yes, you can tell him there’s none around all right, but you won’t look good.

Clearly a more flexible approach is called for. Lead with the old choice of red and white, but give it a face-lift by picking a couple of those so-called country wines from southern France now to be seen in off-licences and supermarkets. They’re plonk actually, but their fancy French names will prevent the fact from getting through to most of those there. Say threateningly: ‘Of course, they are a wee bit off the beaten track’ to anyone who looks doubtful.

Follow this up with quite a large jug of Bloody Mary and another of Sangria or Wine Cup. Only the old stagers will notice that the Bloody Mary is nine tenths tomato juice and the Sangria mostly lemonade darkened with Angostura bitters — a nice touch — and they won’t dare say anything, at least not with their wives around. Those wives can be very useful. Ingratiate yourself by lighting their cigarettes, complimenting them on their appearance, even seeming to listen to what they say. Your ideal, long-term objective is a quarrel between each old stager and his wife on their way home, with him going on about your meanness and her saying you were very sweet and he’s nothing but a frustrated drunk.

If anybody has the pluck to ask for a gin and tonic or a whisky and soda, respond by leaving the room at once and staying away a good ten minutes. You spend them in some nook or niche or broom cupboard where you prepare all the drinks. In the present case fill a glass with ice, which is troublesome but softer on the pocket than booze, add tonic and pour in about a teaspoon of gin over the back of another spoon—it’s the first sip that counts. Whiskies are trickier. Use the darkest brand you can find and put the soda in first. When that’s done, hang on until you reckon you’ve been absent long enough to deter anyone from having a second try. Fill in the time by reading the paper and gulping your own private malt whisky.

If you’re entertaining the wretched crowd to dinner, not just drinks, then of course a whole new world of shortchanging opens up. And don’t, by the way, imagine that this is no more than a light fantasy. Anyone who does can’t have been around much yet.”

Kingsley Amis and Martin Amis


From Amis’s manual about the sauce Everyday Drinking.

Now read more of Kingsley, in the greatest ever description of the morning after:

Kingsley Amis

The Hangover