Americans take the day off to celebrate Thanksgiving today. However, the customers of the two aviation information businesses I chair cannot down tools today. The Thanksgiving weekend is the busiest travel period in the United States.
The reason for the travel is universal; the coming together of families to give thanks for what they have. We travel home to break bread together and to drink at the family well. Giving thanks over a meal bridges the widest cultural divides. For immigrants like me there is a duality in our consciousness as to what constitutes “home”. We build our homes in strange lands, accepting the hospitality of strangers who become our new friends. Our new inner circle.
Now when I travel, whether to my Sri Lankan motherland, or to the US where my children live, or to South Africa where I keep an apartment, I leave – to come home. To London. The terms – we, they, ours, yours – become meaningless. We have built our houses in lands that may or may not have been farmed by our forefathers. They have become our homes thanks to the people we have the good fortune to have around us.
Wherever you are, I wish you a Happy Thanksgiving.
And for those who still haven’t determined their cocktail menu for the evening, maybe there’s inspiration in what I will be serving. Remember, you cannot come together and drink at the family well if you don’t have a decent cocktail on offer!
I’ve chosen two champagne (or prosecco) based cocktails and a martini for this evening’s proceedings. They will appeal to grown up taste buds; they have the added attraction of keeping your children from finishing the booze!
The Champagne Cocktail
Bubbles are always welcome at a celebration. The classic champagne cocktail is a perennial favourite – with the brandy enhancing the golden hue of the the libation and the slowly dissolving sugar cube releasing trapped air in a frisson of bubbles.
Gold Leaf garnish (optional)
Soak a sugar cube in the bitters and drop it into a champagne flute. Pour enough cognac to cover the sugar cube. Top the glass with champagne. Garnish with a few flakes of gold leaf.
The Negroni (gin, Campari, red vermouth) is a delightful, bitter concoction. The spagliato replaces the gin with champagne, making the drink lighter and more approachable.
1 shot of Campari
1 shot of Red (sweet) vermouth
2 shots of Champagne
Orange twist (optional)
Stir the Campari and vermouth over ice until very cold. Pour into a flute and top with champagne. You can also serve this in an old fashioned glass over ice.
Classic Vodka Martini
This is the most famous of all cocktails and my “go to” drink. Sadly many of my guests will find it “too strong”. Modern perceptions of the drink have been influenced by too many sugary concoctions to which the label martini has been loosely attached. A proper martini consists of vodka (or gin), a dash of dry vermouth and a garnish. Accept no imitations!
Cocktail olives, onions or a lemon twist.
The trick to a good martini is to keep everything very cold. I keep my vodka in the freezer. Don’t worry, the alcohol will keep the bottle from bursting. The liquid won’t freeze but will become treacle-like in consistency. Pop your martini glass in the freezer as well – even 20 seconds will chill it and cause it to mist delightfully. Pour a generous measure of vodka. Add vermouth to taste (I usually don’t add more than a drop to take the edge off the vodka). Stir gently. I take my martini with a lemon twist – start with a decent segment of peel (use a potato peeler), hold the peel shiny side down over your drink and squeeze. You will be rewarded with a spray of lemon oil. Rub the peel around the rim of the glass and toss into the drink. Cheers!