“Sod the wine, I want to suck on the writing. This man White is an instinctive writer, bloody rare to find one who actually pulls it off, as in still gets a meaning across with concision. Sharp arbitrage of speed and risk, closest thing I can think of to Cicero’s ‘motus continuum animi.’

Probably takes a drink or two to connect like that: he literally paints his senses on the page.”

DBC Pierre (Vernon God Little, Ludmila’s Broken English, Lights Out In Wonderland ... Winner: Booker prize; Whitbread prize; Bollinger Wodehouse Everyman prize; James Joyce Award from the Literary & Historical Society of University College Dublin)





05 March 2014


photo by Flagstaffotos

Ethyl Methylphenylglycidate and
caffeine and Satan only knows
what: kiddylikker then and now

"Oh.  Er, cool.  Yeah.  Listen, can I getta amyl acetate, amyl butyrate, amyl valerate, anethol, anisyl formate, benzyl acetate, benzyl isobutyrate, butyric acid, cinnamyl isobutyrate, cinnamyl valerate, cognac essential oil, diacetyl, dipropyl ketone, ethyl acetate, ethyl amyl ketone, ethyl butyrate, ethyl cinnamate, ethyl heptanoate, ethyl heptylate, ethyl lactate, ethyl methylphenylglycidate, ethyl nitrate, ethyl propionate, ethyl valerate, heliotropin, hydroxyphenyl-2-butanone (10 percent solution in alcohol), a-ionone, isobutyl anthranilate, isobutyl butyrate, lemon essential oil, maltol, 4-methylacetophenone, methyl anthranilate, methyl benzoate, methyl cinnamate, methyl heptine carbonate, methyl naphthyl ketone, methyl salicylate, mint essential oil, neroli essential oil, nerolin, neryl isobutyrate, orris butter, phenethyl alcohol, rose, rum ether, g-undecalactone, vanillin, solvent, caffeine, glucose, sucrose, fructose double vodka on the rocks please?   


I just broke a few rules about opening with a gripping paragraph, but I had to get the dirty water off my chest.

The kid just ordered a raspberry-flavoured alcopop, which many of them are, with vodka.  That's not all the ingredients, mind you - just the fake raspberry fruit flavouring and fragrance.  Everything in that list previous to the word caffeine is in modern raspberry flavouring, even when it's masquerading as cranberry. While this fake raspberry is generally used to add something vaguely like fruitiness to many, many products, its base ingredients are common in fake strawberry, guava, pineapple and whatever -  they're all repetitive.  Add the caffeine and a dozen or two other compounds you're probably never heard of and you'd be homing in on Red Bull.

Meaning there’s a lot more to this country’s addiction to kiddylikker which cranks than the little matter of, ahem, alcohol.

Add the word diet to any of the above and you're really drinking chemo-industrial swill of the most disgusting and deceptive order.

The current delirium malignant around the presumption that raspberry ketones miraculously peel fat from the corpulent are confusing the issue further. Raspberry is suddenly dangerously popular amongst certain adult women. Whatever it is supposed to do, and it very obviously doesn't, raspberry ketone occurs in such miniscule amounts in real raspberries that it's one of the most expensive natural aromatic flavourants of them all: the real shit can pull up to $20,000 per kilogram. Depending on its quality - and you can get equally real bottom class muck - the synthetic version can get as low as $10. This is usually packaged as 'pure' raspberry ketone by your snake oil witchdoctor, whether they're lost somewhere on the internet, in your local supermarket, or standing in a white coat at your pharmacy.

Not like the good old days.  In the sixties and seventies, cough, wheeze, your average school days alcopop was just as likely to be port and Coke.  Bacardi and Coke, scotch and dry – all mixed in the kitchen of somebody who was out.  I was a sarsparilla and vodka enthusiast.  At least the sarsparilla root contained lots of good natural calmative stuff for the dyspeptic teenaged gizzard.

It’s a long time since I saw sarsparilla cordial with any sarsparilla in it.  Or, for that matter, any dry ginger with any ginger, with all its beneficial gingerols and shoagols.  Just a dry-ish dry ginger would be an improvement on the sweet swill the brutes sell us now; even tonic water is too sweet.  And it’s funny: I can’t actually recall anyone drinking spirits with raspberry when I was a kid, even though it was just slightly possible in those grainy days  that raspberry cordial actually contained some fair dinkum raspberry.

Uh-huh.  Raspberry was not a cool drink.  Raspberry was reserved for infants or the Barmaid’s Blush, which was a four-ounce "pony" glass of beer and raspberry.  This drink, while more talked about than consumed, was what the sensitive bloke sent out to his wife, who'd be sitting in the ute staring at the pub wall through the windscreen, while he took his dog into the bar for an hour or two of Coopers Sparkling Ale, half a pack of Escorts, and a bag of chips for the dog, ta. I recall Jack Carroll, in the Great Eastern Hotel in Littlehampton, going out to turn the windscreen wipers on for awhile so his wife could see the pub wall better in the rain. 

Apart from silly confections like the Pineapple Pearl Wolf Blass made at Kaiser Stuhl, the most popular alcopop amongst adults was the old hock, lime, and lemon.  Dry white, or hock, was Crouchen, Semillon, Riesling, Pedro, Doradillo, Sultana, or any of these in a blend.

You'd half fill a pint glass with hock and add ice with a shot of Bickford’s or Johnston’s lime cordial – made from real lime juice – and fill it to the brim with lemonade which tasted a bit like real lemons.  If one effected a more sophisticated air, one would cut back on the sugar by replacing the lemonade with soda.  It’s still a very good, wholesome drink, instantly satisfying in the summer.  Use good Riesling, real lime juice, fresh rainwater-ice and soda.  A slice of lime and/or lemon, and a mint leaf for garnish, and zing!  Who’s a pretty pussy now?

In ordinary pubs, two things have led to the dearth of the simple cocktail, which all of these drinks are, and their death makes possible - essential, even - our addiction to premixed alcopops.

The first blow came with the invention of the pressurised postmix cordial dispenser.  This began to appear in the late seventies.  You stack a few pressurised cylinders of ultra-sweet flavours (see paragraph # 1) in the cellar, and select your poison upstairs through one of those insidious little nozzles through which all flavours flow.  If you ever get the chance to see the snot that oozes from these things when they’re being serviced, you’ll stick to premixed and prepackaged alcopops for the rest of your life, whatever psychoactive horrors they may contain.

The flavours get mixed, too, of course.  Take that first paragraph, multiply it by the number of flavours in your underground tanks, and imagine them all corrupting each other in the nozzle and the lines.  Bring back the Bickford’s and the Johnston’s, puleeze.

The second deadly blow was the computerised till.  The programs never make accounting space for a person who might like, say, a dash of Campari in a drink, or a teaspoon of Strega.  The staff have no way of ringing it up, as the programs account only for full shots of this or that.

So you have stuff happening like a mob of winemakers pouring into a bar after a wine show and settling down to five or six rounds of Red Bull and double vodka on the rocks.  Or, worse, people who've been drinking beer in the sun all day at the cricket barging in for the same uplifting medicine. They usually seem more, well, ebullient, than the mob from Writers' Week.

Great Eastern Hotel, Littlehampton ... having a few quiet ones on the way to school: Neville Diener, the author and Vicki Russell ... photo Steven Sprigg

But it's time to confess. I grew up on a drink that made Red Bull and vodka look like a sedative. Seppelts Sedna Tonic Wine got me through High School. You'd buy a bottle from the pharmacist on Friday night, and get to sleep sometime a lot closer to Monday. If you were in your school uniform, you'd tell 'em it was for your grandma. It seemed to cost almost nothing, even then. It was a fortified Grenache port from the Para vineyard, chockers with Kola nut, which fulsomely supplied the caffeine side of the Sedna as it did half the name of Coca Cola. When I met him many years later, Benno Seppelt laughingly admitted the name was Andes spelt backwards and asked where I thought he got the Kola nut. Kola nut, of course, comes from Africa. Which left me wondering whether Benno got the Coca bit backwards. That most certainly does come from the Andes.

Either way, it was a lot more healthy than Red Bull, or anything with fake bloody raspberry in it. Bring back the Sedna, Seppeltsfield!


Squitchyman said...

Lyrics of the original "The Road To Gundagai" contain the following...
..."we ordered rum and raspberry and a shilling each cigar".....
A popular drink in the nineteenth century, this rum and raspberry......

Three Letter Acronym said...

Satan knows what? SKW! That'd be a new TLA!