The proverbial cocktail hour draws nearer, and I find my thoughts turning with affection to my cocktail shaker.  Tonight:  a Gimlet.  There are two good reasons for this choice.   The first is that we are somehow out of vermouth (an alarming situation that I think is the result of my newfound devotion to using it in cooking), which means that a Martini is out of the question.  The second is that there is just something inherently fun about Gimlets.  The name is irresistible for a start:  say it out loud and see if it doesn’t make you smile.  They are also fun to make.  I will get out my battered but beloved cocktail shaker, uncork the gin (I have a thing for Hendricks at the moment, thus the cork), pour in a trace of Rose’s Lime Cordial, crack the ice cube tray and shake, shake, shake, all the while feeling the cocktail shaker grow almost unbearably cold in my hands.  My children find the process hilarious:  I’m not entirely sure why. Perhaps there’s a sort of theatre to it, or perhaps I just look a bit silly manhandling the shaker until it’s done its work.  Whatever the case at the end of it all, voila!  The Gimlet.  A pale green, silvery sweet-sharp delicious little delight to ease in the dinner hour.

My Waiting Gimlet

It’s actually fascinating that there is so much fun to be had making things, in this case a before dinner drink, yet in our convenience culture, we habitually value not having to make things.  Having things ready-made suggests a freedom to enjoy the thing itself independent of any burdensome process of creation, and also being free to move on to the next “thing” more quickly, whatever that may be.  And, of course, sometimes convenience feels like necessity:  it’s hard to get excited about creating dinner – let alone cocktails – when one walks in the door at 6:30 and has to conjure dinner out of thin air for a hungry family, help with homework, manoeuvre kids up to the bath, etc..  This is of course what legions of marketers tell us daily:  why waste our precious time cooking, when they can so solicitously provide for us, leaving us free to…well, what exactly?  The original promise of technology suggested that labour-saving devices (which we’ll extend to convenience food and drinks here) would free up time so time for mind and soul-enriching leisure;  the reality though, is that most of us use all that extra time to work, or rather, we have to work, so we’re grateful that all those labour-saving devices help us keep it all going.  The problem though, is that in practice, it all adds up to less fun rather than more, because fun is in the process, not simply the endpoint.

But back to the humble Gimlet.  It takes less than five minutes to make;  not so long really, but I wonder if the true effort involved here isn’t really the time, but rather the mental discipline to step out of my get-dinner-on-the-table-for-the-kids mode.  That takes a sometimes Herculean act of will, a sense that life is right now and is about fun as much as it is rolling efficiently through my routine.  But if I let myself ask, “What would Noël Coward do?”, then I’m cheerfully liberated to take the shaker down off the shelf.

This actually isn’t a facetious comment.  It’s not just that Coward always made time for cocktails (although I suspect maybe he did), it’s that he stands for a life in which someone can be staggeringly productive and involved with serious real-world issues, in his case the British war effort, and still live with an apparent lightness and pleasure.  It’s the epitome of a switched-on life.  You have fun living, rather than pushing some idea of fun into the corners of life, something to be got to when all the daily demands are done.  In the process, you actually wind up more engaged, creative and alive.

Now this is the point where I should tell you my recipe for Gimlets, but the reality is that I’m such a drink dilettante, I don’t even have one.  So here’s what I do:  load the cocktail shaker up with ice, pour in the teensiest splash of Rose’s Lime Cordial, pour in a rather heftier measure of gin, shake for dear life.  I drink mine out of teeny little martini glasses, of which more in Part Two.  Evidently, one can also make Gimlets with real lime juice and a bit of syrup, which I’m sure would also be tasty.  Some recipes call for an appalling amount of lime cordial.  This might work if you like sweet drinks, but alas not for my alarming palate.

Take five minutes to let a bit of lime in your life:  once, so the legend goes, they used it ward off scurvy;  let’s use it now to switch-on.