COLUMN: July 28, 2016


I HAVE come to the conclusion that we have gone mad with regard to straws in drinks for grown-ups.

For reasons which need not concern you, I have spent more time than usual in the sort of establishment where there is a menu for drinks on the bar.

These places are great if you are one of those people who like spending £12 on a deceptively large ice-filled drink called something like a Squiffy Belgian or a Red Lorry Yellow Lorry, which contains 26 different ingredients, which takes the bartender 18 minutes to prepare, and which is gone in four slurps.

These are establishments which believe that the bit that everybody likes most about going out for a drink is the waiting by the bar rather than the actual drinking part.

Perhaps it is my ingrained lack of sophistication which makes me unsure about such places. When I was growing up, and when I first attempted to obtain alcohol from a public house, things were much simpler. You knew where you were with a vodka and tonic, or a cider and black. Basically the recipes for drinks were exactly the same as their name.

But I do not let such considerations stop me, for these days I consider myself a kind of David Niven figure, the sort of man who knows which fork to use without being told, and owns socks which need those little shin suspenders, and claims ladies’ farts.

And so I found myself in a cocktail lounge recently. I sidled up to the bar, eased onto a stool, perused the menu coolly, and caught the barman’s eye. With practised savoir-faire, I leant forward. “A Sexy Dog Explosion, please,” I said.

I was sceptical, I admit, about the barman’s ability to deliver a definitive Sexy Dog Explosion, as Rihanna or the late Sir David Frost might have enjoyed. The list of ingredients was long and obscure, and apparently involved a degree of muddling, whatever that is.

I watched him busy himself with ice and cups and swizzle sticks while I read a couple of chapters of my book, and eventually, long after I had forgotten that I had ordered a drink, he presented me with my Sexy Dog Explosion with a flourish.

First he placed a small black napkin on the bar, then he plonked the plonk on top of the napkin, and then he put two thin black straws in the glass. And I wondered, not for the first time, why do bartenders in these places give you two straws?

It is difficult to understand why it would be considered necessary to give an adult even one straw. Granted, when you are a child it is true that using a straw introduces a small element of fun into the practice of drinking. And I would never attempt to drink a Capri-Sun without a straw.

But I would suggest that there is already an element of fun in the practice of drinking for adults, namely alcohol. So unless you have no hands, you should not really require a straw as an adult.

And if you are going to stick straws in adults’ drinks, would it not make more sense to buy straws that are wide enough for the purpose of drinking, instead of having to double up?

Apart from anything else, those straws are sharp, and damned dangerous, especially as the evening wears on, and the effects of a succession of cocktails begin to be felt.

I have lost count of the times I have forgotten about the other straw, picked up my glass, and scraped the roof of my mouth, much as I did that time I popped an entire one of those tiny slider hamburgers into my mouth without realising that it was held together with a cocktail stick. I did not have to go to hospital on that occasion, but it did leave me with a greater appreciation of the art of sword swallowers at circuses.

And I cannot tell you how many times I have given thanks for my glasses as I have picked up my drink and watched a straw I have missed slide around and bounce off one of my lenses.

So I fished the straws out of my Sexy Dog Explosion and resolved to drink like a grown-up. I lifted the glass to my mouth and took a sip.

The twist of orange fell out, in my surprise I jerked my elbow, and roughly £5.38 of my cocktail ended up in my lap.

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