Free gin (and a book reading)

I’ve been up to my ears in a new book hence the rather sporadic posting of late. It should be out in October. I’ll post more about it when it’s up online. Meanwhile a paperback of my last book Empire of Booze will be out in May. Not only does it have a spanking new jacket but it’s been updated for 2018, this is a euphemism for all the typos that I noticed have been corrected. It’s therefore about 6% better than the hardback despite being cheaper.

To celebrate I’m going to be reading at the Blackheath Bookshop (this is actually a Waterstone’s but without the branding) on Thursday 31st May at 6.30pm. I’ll only read for 15 minutes and then we can get stuck into the all the free gin that I’ve accumulated in the last couple of years. Honestly there’s going to be so much gin. I might have some water and prosecco for non-gin drinkers but mainly it’s all about the gin. . . . and the book.

Please RSVP by emailing or calling 02034091463. Click on the jacket for more information.

So if you’re in South East London please do come and if you’re not, do buy the book. It’s 6% better than the hardback.



Literary Festivals this summer and the Fortnum & Mason Awards

I’m going to be talking about my book, Empire of Booze, at a few festivals this summer:

Saturday 27th May 6pm – talk at the Greenwich Book Festival in conjunction with Meantime Brewery (which means free beer!) Tickets from £5

Saturday 6th June 6pm (time TBC) – talk at Stoke Newington Literary Festival with beer legend Pete Brown. This is a bit of last minute thing so it’s not up on their site yet. Will update when I know more.

27-30th July – Port Eliot Festival in Cornwall. I’ll be giving a talk at some point during the festival. Not sure when yet. Should be fun.

Finally on Thursday night I won Best Debut Drink Book at the Fortnum & Mason Awards. Here’s a picture of me with Claudia Winkleman and Ewan Venters (I’m the one in the middle with an peculiarly long head.)

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Wine and golf

Apart from a couple of games of pitch and putt in my early teens, I have never swung a golf club in anger. Until a couple of weeks ago that is. I had been invited for an afternoon of wine and golf at Vinothec Compass in North Greenwich. This is a wine bar with a driving range attached. There’s a shop for golfists – 3,000 square foot of pure golf according to the pro, Colin.

There was much talk about shafts and custom fitting and then I was allowed out on the driving range. He gave me a few pointers, don’t lift the club so high, stick your bum out, show a bit more angle, and then I hit some balls. Some of them I hit really far. When you hit a golf ball really cleanly, there’s a feeling that can only be described as pure golf. It’s a moment of harmony. I can see why golf is so popular, that and the silly trousers.

Vinothec Compass is in a rather unlovely former industrial part of North Greenwich. Thwacking the balls towards Canary Wharf, I could have been in Shanghai or Tokyo. Still at night I bet it looks lovely.

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Pure golf

Anyway, I wasn’t there for the golf I was there for the wine. It’s run by Arnaud Compas (sic) a Frenchman and former employee of Robert Parker gone native in South London and Keith Lyon formerly of Waitrose. There’s some high status stuff at high status prices but there’s also interesting mature claret, riojas and wine from the Jura. The prices are generally very low for London restaurants. We tried an old but still virile Dutruch-Grand Poujeaux for £54 a bottle and an unusual Jura Vin De France that came across like a French Palo Cortado for around £30. The Vina Cubillo from Lopez de Herredia 2004 at around £50 also looked good value.

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They have a Catalan chef called Jordi. Everyone in Catalonia is called Jordi. The food was extremely good, the suckling pig was some of the best I’ve ever tasted. I should add that I was there as a guest of Douglas Blyde, a friend who is doing some consultancy work for them, but I’d say that the food is worth the journey alone. It’s not just to mop up all the wine. With the wine and my new love of golf, I can see myself becoming a regular. Bordeaux lovers should book the next boat to North Greenwich.

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Arnaud Compas in the foreground with Douglas Blyde and Keith Lyon lurking.

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The nice Jura