To paraphrase Guy Garvey’s brilliant song Grounds for Divorce, I’ve been working on a cocktail called Lockdown Loosener.
It’s supposed to act as an instant sanity restorer, a spirit lifter to anaesthetise me when I think of those long months ahead we are probably fated to have, involving hand-washing, face-mask wearing, shop-queuing and the utterly vapid experience I imagine watching spectatorless sports on the telly will be, not to mention running a statute mile if we hear anyone cough or sneeze.
I abandoned my cocktail quest, however, when I found out that someone had invented a drink with the irresistible name of Get Me Through The Quarantini. This one is made from Tia Maria, vodka, espresso and ice, but the touch of genius is that if it’s really well shaken the cocktail doubles as your daily exercise.
My search for a new drink was driven by a bereft feeling I’ve been getting because of the continued closure of pubs and wine bars. I’m not a big tippler – no, seriously – but what I have begun to miss is the communal side of drinking.
Like millions of other people, I suspect, bars and pubs have been the venue for several important events in my adult life, some good and some bad. I got dumped by a girlfriend in a Leeds wine bar, met a long-time partner in a Hull pub, had a job interview for the Sunday Times in a London pub. With half pints of bitter I managed to coax an interview out of the usually reticent Lakes guidebook author Alfred Wainwright in the bar of Kendal’s County Hotel. So not going out for a pint with mates or having a drink with someone to discuss business has made me feel like I’m in a waiting room with locked doors.
When the lockdown rules finally okayed social-distanced drinking outdoors, although with a limited number of friends and family, I started to think about new lockdown drinks like cocktails to try to make us all forget we’re not actually having a night out.
But now it seems pubs are set to reopen, possibly on 4 July thanks to pressure on the government from people like Wetherspoons pub chain owner
Tim Martin, although some members of the cabinet dubbed the Save Our Summer Six and led by the chancellor Rishi Sunak are even pushing for pubs with beer gardens to open as early as 22 June in order to kickstart the process of saving 3.5 million hospitality jobs.
Of course there will be more restrictions than you can shake a two-metre stick at, and the sort of old fashioned street-corner pub I love with cramped tap rooms and shoulder-to-shoulder drinkers will find it impossible to comply with new rules.
In fact, until there is a vaccine that allows the resumption of normal life it’s hard to see a future for small pubs. Even the bigger ones might need to consider a return to cubicle drinking, a revival of those booths of engraved glass that used to be a standard feature of grander Victorian and Edwardian bars and were tended by aproned waiters.
I’ll drink to that if it means getting back to some kind of normality and I no longer have to go for a pub crawl round the fridge.
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