Duff Said: There's no place like home

06 December, 2018

As alcohol delivery companies make their mark, Philip Duff bigs up the delights of domestic drinking

I AM GOING TO SAY IT, RIGHT HERE AND UPFRONT so there is no possibility of confusion: I like drinking at home. I like sneaking up the stairs to drink icy Martinis on the rooftop of our building as the sun sets. I like wine with dinner and beers while we’re watching Netflix and perhaps a glass of South African brandy while I’m reading in bed. Part of it is that my work means there’s always quite a staggering amount of booze around the house, what with people sending me bottles, the necessity of having liquor to hand for cocktail and product development work, and the fact that my wife is in the same business. We also have a child, and I think almost every parent knows the sweet thrill of reaching for the gin bottle as soon as the little darling finally drifts off to sleep.

I am also that kind of person in the drinks industry whose secret pleasure, off the clock, is to drink simply. You won’t find me making anything more ambitious than that Martini at home, no infused syrups chez Duff, and nary a rotovap nor a sonic prep to be seen. I leave the complicated stuff to the experts in bars, who have the time, staffing and inclination to do the prep, not to mention the cleaning afterwards.

At-home drinking is slated to undergo a revolution, though, and it’s been threatening for a while. Just as Seamless, Just Eats and Blue Apron have changed how we eat at home, so too do a plethora of firms such as Drizly and Cocktail Courier and, yes, Amazon, promise you won’t be drinking at home like your granddaddy did, often backed by some of the biggest firms in the industry such as AB-Inbev and Diageo. There are subscription services that send you a box with all the ingredients for four of the same cocktails every week or so. Others, like Swig & Swallow ingeniously sell you pre-juiced, pre-measured cocktails minus the liquor in half-empty containers – you just add the liquor, shake the bottle and you’re done. On-demand systems such as Drizly et al will have that bottle of bourbon in your hands less than an hour after you decided you want it and tapped a screen in their app. Reader, I have had cocktails made from pods identical to the ones you slot into your Nespresso and they were good. I challenge you to make a better Mule than the one in Charles Joly’s Crafthouse Cocktails premixed range, and I failed to make a better Negroni than the bottled one Campari released last year.

It’s not the technology that will make at-home drinking pull its socks up – it’s psychology. We need to build time into our day or week to have a cocktail. The late and much-missed Anthony Bourdain said with messianic fervour that it is important everyone knows the pleasure of fresh, nutritious food properly cooked, and should therefore be able to make half a dozen dishes. I would add that everyone should know the pleasure of making and enjoying a cocktail at home, even one as simple as a Paloma. It allows you to re-evaluate what you’re drinking. Bars are often noisy holes full of distraction and it can be hard to really appreciate what’s in your glass. Oh, and if you’re in the neighbourhood of an evening, pop up to the roof if you fancy a Martini, will you?

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