"Until not so long ago, certainly well into this century, the spirit drinkers in these islands were in practice quite sharply divided by national and social boundaries. The Irish drank their whisky, the Scots drank theirs, the lower classes in England drank gin and the upper classes drank brandy. How the Welsh managed without a national drink I don't know. The nearest vodka, of course, was a thousand miles away.
That class division in England lingers on to this day. Gin retains an aura of unrespectability from the years of the Victorian gin palace and music hall-it's a toper's drink, not for a non-drinker to fiddle with or a connoisseur to go on about. Brandy seems the opposite of all that, with a mystique around it like vintage port and the upper reaches of table wine. You sip it reverently after a serious meal and wouldn't dream of diluting it with anything.
Times have changed there. To the Victorian Englishman, brandy was a before-dinner or any-time drink with water or mineral water in it. (The Victorian Englishwoman could only get brandy at all either by being no lady or by saying she'd come over faint-still true until quite recently.) You could drink it with the meal and even pour some into your wine if you felt like it. A very relaxed policy.
An awful lot, perhaps nearly all, of the brandy that was treated like that must have been cognac, the best in the world."
Saturday, August 2, 2008
-Everyday Drinking: The Distilled Kingsley Amis, by Kingsley Amis