It turns out to be quite tricky when it comes to characterising the annual family gatherings in France.
Many of them are far, far away from the typical cocktail party some may throw. Take that family in Normandy for example. It was not uncommon to see uncles and aunties, being typical French, getting on it with the Champagne, carrying on with the treacherous homemade Normand cidre, only to persevere with white and red wine, and finally top everything up with a nice glass of Calvados (a pungent strong apple brandy), it was soon an opportunity for the elders to get red in the nose, pop repressed resentments like a zit and gather a fresh list of grudges over the Christmas festivities.
Maybe not that uncommon, right?
But, though kids were around and while the family threw its usual tantrum, it is still possible to recall a few of the holiday drunk makers that wreaked so much havoc back in the day.
The list begins right where you’d expect.
Champagne…. the beverage of the Gods. Contrary to the urban legend, it was really invented by a French monk. Dom Perignon, a name that will be cherished forever. It was a rare and delectable moment, that first sip of Champagne. Minimum necessity of almost nothing… And heaven is just there. The first sip of Champagne is the only one that counts. The other ones, longer and longer, less and less meaningful, only bring a warm growing disappointment. However, the last sip maybe brings with her the disillusion of power. But the first sip! What else could you ask for? On the lips, this bubbly and light gold expands to the palate, and opens the doors of perception. In fact, everything is already written. The immediate well being created by the lightness of the beverage, only to be emphasised by the slight and faint moan of pleasure, is only short lived. Comes the second and third sips, and soon we realise we only drink more and more, only to forget that unbelievable feeling of the first sip of Champagne.
There are a lot of places in Kuala Lumpur where you can get very good Champagne. Whether you like it pink or commonly white, Champagne is a must for your celebrations. Of course, over the French Channel,
Of course, over the French Channel, there is the eggnog tradition… Anybody who has tried it will relate eggnog to a strong sweet over sugary feeling. And it’s even worse when it is not the virgin version. Teacups of the spiked stuff were largely poured. But even though it is usually handed as a sweet treat that one has to say “thank you” for receiving, it can be overwhelming and have devastating side effects, especially after the fourth one. Eggnog seems so sickeningly sugary and disturbingly viscous. And the name really didn’t help.
But what the heck is eggnog exactly? Sounds like slang for an ovary clot, frankly. And while it is impossible to get rid of that notion, the sound of “nog” enough by itself would have been settling. Enough so that people should know it wasn’t something to be swallowed.
Apparently, the etymology of that mixture is a contraction of the drink’s original name, Egg ’n’ Grog. “The dropped consonants make more sense when you realise the drink was popularised by the British. These are the same people who pronounce Worcestershire as 'wooster'," it is commonly explained.
Anyway, if you fancy homemade eggnog, here is a very decent recipe.
Obviously, what makes the difference is the quality of the Bourbon and the Rum. But most importantly, the nutmeg has to be as fresh as possible!
A good Bourbon should only be considered, and for the Rum, Mount Gay or Captain Morgan should do the trick!
But let’s get back to the Normand family well lived traditions. And proper Normand cidre. Amongst French and English, there will always be this debate about who invented cidre. Well, when you know that the main producer of cidre in France is the Normandy region, and that only a Normand managed to conquer England… It becomes actually easier to settle this issue.
The love of cidre is transmitted from generation to generation and cidre, as it should be called, becomes a family pride. And it is not the yellow-ish clean type of cidre. The entire process, from picking up the apples, sorting them out in different categories, pressing them, and getting fantastically sick when trying to drink the raw unfermented product is a common practice in Normandy, comes the end of summer. But what a treat it was six months later when you were allowed the first glass of the dark orange liquid.
Obviously, in Malaysia, we all know Strongbow and Gaymers… However, give a try to Magners, already available in selected outlets, and the newly launched sweet Sommersby.
And if you really fancy originality, indulge in Snakebite…. Half a pint of cidre, half a pint of lager, and a shot of blackcurrant liquor.
If you are still standing, it was not unusual to carry on to white and red wines. Even over the slightly drunk speeches there were still some so-called connoisseurs to judge or appreciate the wines served.
If you really wish to imitate that obnoxious uncle we all have, here is an eight-step guide on how to taste wine and look like a cork…
Look at the wine, especially around the edges.
Swirl the wine in your glass.
Note the wine's viscosity - how slowly it runs back down the side of the glass - while you're swirling.
Sniff the wine.
Take a sip of wine, but do not swallow.
Aspirate through the wine, then swallow.
Take another sip of the wine, but this time introduce air with it.
Note the aftertaste when you swallow.
Comments after each step are your own and sometimes shall not be shared….
But when dinner comes to an end and you’d think you’ve had enough, here comes the dreaded stoneware bottle, with its even more feared content. Calvados! Sincerely, what would you expect from an alcohol that was created in the 8th century and that was requisitioned during World War I for use in armaments due to its alcohol content? Its immediate effects are devastating! A strong burning feeling envelopes your entire body, leading to a delightful numbness, followed by an irreversible envy to gulp a glass of ice water. However, passed these few seconds of agony, for the beginner, the smoky apple flavors appear and leave you begging for more. Needless to say, it is an acquired taste and it takes a lot of practice to master it, which the Normand people take very seriously, but once you are past the first sip, there is a whole new kingdom of apple delights at your doorstep.