Back in the 1980s and 1990s when I travelled abroad from South Africa, I remember that the main thing people always asked me to bring back was perfume and aftershave. Some things were just cheaper abroad (this was before the Rand exchange rate tanked!) and some products simply weren’t available in South Africa yet – or at all. My one friend always wanted Dune; another friend wanted an obscure French eau de cologne; yet another wanted collections of miniature perfume bottles; and my brother wanted an endless supply of Hugo aftershave. My mom also had a preference: Ivoire by Balmain. Between my and other people’s travels, she managed to amass the entire Ivoire product range from eau de parfum to body lotions and scrubs to talcum powder, all in the same stylish monochrome packaging and with the same elegant fragrance. The perfume shelf on her wardrobe was a virtual treasure chest. When she passed away in 2003, I opened that cupboard to find all the Ivoire products, unopened in their beautiful boxes, still being saved for a special occasion that would never come.
We are funny creatures, aren’t we? I’ve been known to say that what separates us from animals is our ability to endure present sacrifice for future reward – but we also tend to take this too far, holding back from enjoying all the things we would like to do and instead, saving them for “a special occasion”. Always wanted to go to that fancy restaurant? Best I wait for a special occasion to make a booking. Got an amazing bottle of vintage wine in the cupboard? I won’t open it now – I’ll wait for a special occasion. That gorgeous silk scarf that you bought in Paris? Too good for the daily commute – best I put it away till I have a special occasion to wear it. We make plans as if we are all going to live on in perfect health forever, and as if life will only get better, more exciting and more glamorous. But these are dangerous assumptions. I’ve been thinking about this a lot over the past couple of weeks.
Three weeks ago, I went for a routine dermatologist check-up and less than an hour later I was lying on an operating table in a state of blind panic having an inch of flesh cut out of my shoulder. Nothing like a spot of minor surgery (an oxymoron if ever I heard one!) to remind you of your own mortality. And a week go I attended the funeral of a relative and friend who had succumbed far too young to a long battle with cancer, leaving behind a devastated family and almost certainly bottles of wine undrunk, holidays untaken and books unread. It’s made me think a lot about my own bad habit of saving things for a special occasion: the “good” tablecloth/cutlery/shoes/clothes/wine/perfume. How on earth do I think I will know when the appropriate time has arrived? How will I know that the occasion is special enough? And more importantly, will I one day find myself in a hospital bed or a runaway train or the jaws of a great white shark thinking: “Damn – how I wish I’d had a chance to drink that bottle of vintage Champagne I’d been saving for a special occasion!”
What you (and everyone else!) fail to appreciate is that every single day that we manage to wake up and get out of bed is a special o0ccasion. You’ve survived the night without suffering a brain embolism, a ruptured artery or a heart attack; your legs work; and you can stand up! What’s not to celebrate? Add to that the fact that you have something to do that day (as important as brain surgery or as trivial as a good cup of coffee or a walk in the park with your dog) and I’d say you have yourself a special occasion right there, compared to millions of people who cannot get out of bed, or who do not even have a bed.
So this summer I have resolved to treat every get-together with friends as a reason to celebrate and a special occasion – and the drinks I usually save for special occasions are cocktails. There is something about a cocktail that turns every get-together into a party, encouraging multiple toasts, silly swizzle sticks and a good time to be had by all. But often we leave cocktail making only to the experts, believing them to be complicated or difficult to make – not so! Like most things in life, cocktails can be as complex or as simple as you choose to make them. Got no swizzle sticks? chopsticks work just as well. Got no fancy silver cocktail shaker? No problem – a jam jar works just as well (and can also be used to transport smaller volumes of alcohol if you are picnicking and don’t want to carry a full, heavy bottle.
This cocktail is inspired by a recipe on The Bar.com, your go-to site for all the cocktail inspiration you could ever need. It’s a berrylicious twist on the traditional gin and tonic, surely one of the most enduring drinks in the world, and we served them at a casual barbecue with friends in our garden last weekend. Once our friends had got past the puzzled questions like: “Cocktails? What’s the occasion?”, everyone loved the idea of shaking their own cocktails in a jam jar and everyone adored their G&T with added OMG factor. I used Gordon’s London Dry gin and a combination of raspberries, blueberries and pomegranate arils, but you can let your imagination run riot with whatever berries you like. I like my G&T clear, but if you want your drink to have some colour, shake up the berries together with the gin and a couple of ice cubes before you add the tonic. Cheers – here’s to celebrating every day as a special occasion!
- 100 ml Gin (I used Gordon's London Dry)
- a generous handful of mixed berried (think raspberries, blueberries, sliced strawberries or pomegranate arils)
- a splash of elderflower cordial
- 300ml tonic water
- a good squeeze of lime
- sprig of mint to garnish
- Add the gin, elderflower and ice to a cocktail shaker or jam jar. Add the berries if you want some colour in your drink.
- Shake vigorously to infuse the flavours, then squeeze lime over the top.
- Pour into tall glasses and top up with tonic water (also add the berries if, like me, you did not add them to the shaker initially). Serve with a sprig of fresh mint.
A few other bloggers also decided to “Shake it up” with The Bar this summer and here’s what they made:
- Margot’s no problemo spiced mojito
- Emily’s good ol’ whisky ginger
- Jen’s raspberry collins
- Bintu’s Pimms and lemonade
- Katherine’s cucumber gin & tonic
- Sarah’s spiced mojito
- Helen’s elderflower coconut gin martini
For more inspiration, check out the series of Cocktail Crashers videos on The Bar.com website, showing you just how easy (and how much fun!) making cocktails can be. If you are trying out any of these cocktails this summer, do share your images on social media using the #LetsCocktail hashtag for a chance to win prizes.
DISCLOSURE: This post was commissioned by The Bar.com. I was sent ingredients and compensated for my time by The Bar.com but all opinions are my own.
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