Everyday drinking and the art of imbibing

Everyday Drinking – Kingsley Amis

By Kerry Scambler
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Kingsley Amis

Kingsley Amis [©Allen & Unwin]

Everyday Drinking: The Distilled Kingsley Amis


Kingsley Amis is now a guest on my ideal dinner party invitation list - you know the one where you’re sharing intelligent conversation with celebrities while serving up the latest gourmet creations and sipping on a special bottle of Chateau d'Impressive that everyone agrees is just superb, darling.

But, being a good host for Sir Kingsley could be somewhat of a challenge. According to Christopher Hitchins, Kingsley Amis is "your man" when it comes to the subject of drink - that is, the art and practice of imbibing.  His knowledge of this subject is vast, gathered from years of reading and research and, of course, much personal experience.  Drink is also a large topic in itself -  it’s not just about the actual spirits, wine and beer of which there are literally thousands, it’s about the drinking process.  Serving others, serving yourself, quantities, behaviour, consequences, expectations, drinking situations, terminology, the location etc are all components of the world of drink. So hosting a man of this ilk at any social occcasion could be quite intimidating - best do some research and where better to start than his own works.

Kingsley Amis on Drink, Every Day Drinking and How’s Your Glass are three books with material written between 1971 and 1984 that make up "Everday Drinking - the Distilled Kingsley Amis". Just the names of the chapters in the first book give hint at what insights are contained within: "Tools of the Trade"," The Mean Sod's Guide", "The Hangover" and "How Not to Get Drunk". Given there are few tried, true and scientifically tested cures for hangovers, it would be understandable to flick straight to this chapter in the hope of some hitherto un-publicised miracle treatment. Alas, Kingsley has no miracle awaiting but divides the hangover into two aspects - the physical,  for which he offers some interesting advice on how to mitigate the effects, and the metaphysical for which he advises us, in his intimitable style of course, that we need to tell ourselves to get over it. Perhaps a re-read of the chapter on how not to get drunk should be first?.

The second book is a collection of articles Kingsley wrote for the New York Times and these are very easy reading - short, witty and covering a myriad of aspects of drink. (I've learn a bit about boozemanship - roughly defined as the technique of getting or keeping the edge on the other fellow in any gatheing or situation, probably by bluff, brass or straight lying  - but not sure I'd be able to carry it off with the VisitVineyards.com team!)

The How's your Glass section contains a number of quizzes, each designed around the specific areas of drink - for example wine, with sections starting with "Wine - Elementary" and going right through to Wine in each of the major European countries. When planning said dinner party, I'm considering a selection of questions from the different quiz sections such as:

  • What, apart from its availabilty, is the characteristic of the human foot that fits it so well for the making of wine?
  • Name the Roman God of Wine? And his Greek counterpart?
  • It has been said (no doubt untruly) that some show-off businessmen buy the most expensive bottle of claret they can find, take it home and stand it on the mantlepiece. Apart from the showing-off, what is ill-advised about this practice?

 And one to really get the conversation started:

  • Red wine goes with red meat, white wine goes with fish and white meat. True or false?

Kingsley isn’t always what you'd term polictically correct, nor are the prices and availability of some of the drinks he discusses current all these years later and some of the spirits might be considered a little old hat these days. You could also easily get overwhelmed with the names of wines from around the world, and the amount of knowledge available to absorb, but his writing and wit carry you along with more than the occasional chuckle and, sometimes, wonder as to whether he's really serious about some of his suggestions. Whilst I personally would love to follow his dietary advice: "The first, indeed the only, requirement of a diet is that it should lose you weight without reducing your alcholic intake by the smallest degree", I can't see my GP quite agreeing to this philosophy! 

Unfortunately Sir Kingsley is no longer gracing this world with his incisive wit so my ideal dinner party will not be eventuating. But we are told that in real life (ie away from the articles and many books he wrote) he was a no-nonsense drinker, so perhaps the challenge would have been be to take in all the conversation whilst obviously still enjoying a drink or two – and he’d probably have some advice on how to do that as well!

Everyday Drinking by Kingsley Amis  is published by Bloomsbury (2008). RRP A$29.95. VisitVineyards.com/Winepros Archive Subscribers can purchase this book at 12.5% discount from our book partners, Seekbooks (postage extra).



  • United Kingdom - all (UK)

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February 24th, 2009
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