While my preferred martini is made with vodka, I mixed a gin martini and raised a glass in memory of Margaret Thatcher last week. She and her late husband Denis were fond of the stuff. Once confronted by the press about whether he had a drinking problem, Denis famously responded, “yes, I have a problem, there never seems to be enough of the stuff!”
When the time comes to meet my maker I’d like to meet him at my suite at the Ritz, as Margaret Thatcher did. The history of the Ritz Hotel, from a bankrupt shell sold for just £2.75 million (About US$ 4.2m) in 1975, to its grandeur today is in some ways a reflection of the country pre and post Thatcher. In the 1970’s Britain was the “sick man of Europe,” on life support from the IMF and reduced to three days of electricity a week. Maggie kept the lights on and they have shone ever brighter.
A conviction politician, Thatcher was divisive. Most great leaders are. Apparently people who had well paid union jobs in failing industries supported by public money have never forgiven her for putting them out of work. I don’t know where they live, but I’m told that it’s far away from London and that they are now planning to secede or something.
With Ronald Reagan, she was in the frontline of a movement that defeated communism and forever consigned socialism to the dustbin of history. The only left wing governments left in the world today are a smattering of irrelevant banana republics and France, which is on a fast boat to irrelevancy. France does have good wine and beautiful women, so we’ll go in and rescue them as we do every so often. A few months ago my local betting shop was offering odds on which remaining left wing dictator would last longer – Chavez or Castro. Castro won, but gets no cigar.
While Britain wrestles with how to recognize Thatcher (a bunch of left wing vegan types still can’t forgive her for getting it right), people like me realise that we only moved here from the US because of the Britain she created. I was having a liquid lunch with Lois Lane, the tallest woman in aviation and another US transplant. We were in Shoreditch, the former wasteland of Soersditch (literally Sewer Ditch) a once shitty part of town now ascendant thanks to the impact of the City of London (a once fading colonial financial hub re-imagined as a global powerhouse by Thatcher) and Silicon Roundabout, a high tech magnet for entrepreneurs (who flourished once the government reduced taxes and got out of the way). Shoreditch is now hipster central, aflood with creative types and techno uber geeks who are the latter day Supermen.
The Rotary Bar and Diner and the member’s only Rotary Room is technically a “pop up” operating under a ten month license. Brought to you by the folks from Milk & Honey it is one of the most lavish temporary establishments I’ve seen. Upstairs is a casual bar and diner with sharing tables. Accessed through an insalubrious outside stairwell, the Rotary Room downstairs is all 1970s low lit glamour replete with a tin ceiling, formica tables, and cozy booths. Lois Lane was instantly at home commenting that the décor reminded her of a cross between a Playboy bachelor pad circa 1970 and the living room of the Brady Bunch. There’s a straightforward food menu, divided into pig, fish and beef. There’s nothing for the vegetarians though pigs, fish and cattle are usually vegetarian. The main event here though are the cocktails, which are Latin American influenced. There’s even a decent selection of single village Mezcal.
As with other establishments in the Milk & Honey franchise, the cocktails are well balanced and tasty. The El Diablo is a long drink made with tequila, cassis, ginger and lime. Instead of using commercial ginger beer, the bartender sends ginger through a centrifuge. The resulting drink packs a serious ginger punch with additional ginger oils adding a sparkle.
The Adonis cocktail is made with dry sherry, red vermouth and orange bitters. Created in 1886 to celebrate the success of a Broadway show, it is surprisingly dry and aromatic. The dry, nutty flavour of the sherry, the fullness in the mouth of the Martini & Rossi red vermouth and a slightly bitter aftertaste makes it a perfect aperitif.
We had a good value Chilean un-oaked Chardonnay. I could have stayed with Lois and drunk cocktails all afternoon, but had a plane to catch and a marathon to run.
Many of today’s hipsters weren’t born when Thatcher was in her handbag-wielding prime. However, they are old enough to drink. I will be with some of them on Wednesday and we shall raise a glass together. Rest in Peace.