Gin Diaries No. 5
The Fear, and seeking comfort
The writing for GIN: A TASTING COURSE was so intense and so compressed that it feels as though it happened to someone else. Reading back through passages now makes me wonder if I wrote them in a fugue state. I recognise the words, and it’s my “voice” there on the page, but it is as if the work arrived fully-formed from on high.
I’m meant to be correcting proofs today but instead I’m looking at all the placeholder pages for the book appearing on Amazon and bookshop.org, Barnes & Noble, and more besides. You can find all sorts of links on this page on the Penguin Random House website.
These pages all look pretty much the same. There’s no cover image yet and the marketing copy is early-draft stuff that will soon be updated and replaced. But the fact they’re there at all is quite strange. It means it’s all real. It means copies of the book delivered into the hands of real readers later in the year.
I’m excited — who wouldn’t be? — but it’s tinged with fear. Will the book be good enough? Will readers like it? I remember feeling as I wrote that I was doing a decent enough job of it. But if, just a couple of weeks after I delivered the manuscript, the book already feels like someone else’s work with my name attached, how much more bizarre and disconnected will it feel a few months down the line when it’s actually published?
Strange times indeed. Still, at least the proofs look OK.
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I shared a very middle-aged moan with a friend recently about how so many craft beer places present as rough-and-ready utilitarian. You know the look I mean: wobbly trestle tables and hard, unforgiving benches in cold and noisy railway arches or light industrial units.
This look is touted as come-as-you-are inclusive though it’s actually anything but. There’s a subtle (and probably unconscious) ageism at play here. What’s fine to put up with in your 20s becomes less so as you get on in years. What’s wrong with offering a bit of comfort sometimes? What’s wrong with aiming a little higher for your decor?
Smokey Kudu is a cocktail bar in Peckham which also sits inside a railway arch, but you wouldn’t know it. It’s darkly inviting, chic and comfortable. The cocktails (£6.50 to £11, card payments only) all share a South African theme, with redberry and fynbos flavours popping up here and there. I enjoyed a SE15 Martini made with buchu-infused vodka and Cocchi Americano, garnished with a couple of tiny cocktail onions: totally delicious.
I was drawn to it the moment I saw buchu on the menu. I tasted a few South African gins flavoured with buchu for the book and really enjoyed them. (In fact, a couple of them even made it through to the final cut.) It’s a flavour that sits somewhere between herbal and grassy with a bit of a spicy blackcurrant note — with the caveat that I’ve never tasted it in isolation, only in those gins and this cocktail. It’s definitely one I’d like to taste more of.