Thursday 3 June 2010

What are you drinking this summer?

[Photo:© Bernard C. Cormier 2010]

Officially, it will not be here for almost a month but its seasonal temperature has already struck our region.

That means it's a good time to invite friends over to, like many locals would say in chiac, "timer" (pronounced "time-é": party, drink).

If you're going to entertain people in such a manner, you probably need to be prepared to provide them with something to wet their throats. For such occasions, a person must be mindful of who's coming over to keep you company and if any liquid consumption exceptions exist for them.

The first step in planning is at the grass roots level of your inner circle of friends.

According to Saint John-based sommelier and freelance writer Craig Pinhey, that fundamental fact's a no-brainer.

"You know how it is: you hang out with people of liked interests, right? It's very rare for somebody to be coming to my place that doesn't drink wine or beer. It's just like I don't have any smoking friends, really. It's rare to a few," he says.

"People who are interested in food are not going to come (to my residence) and eat Kraft Dinner, right? I wouldn't invite people for a potluck supper who only know how to make hot dog casserole, you know. That's not snobby, it's just, like I said, liked interests."

Pinhey says that he would likely not serve pop to guests. Instead, if necessary, he would serve water.

Moncton resident Marty Gautreau shares a similar point of view on the topic, especially concerning guests that don't consume alcoholic beverages.

"(If they don't drink alcohol), they're not (one) of your guests!," Gautreau says with a laugh and adding in French, "You're asking the wrong question to the wrong people!"

However, Pinhey takes his views towards gatherings a few steps further than Gautreau.

"I don't believe in pop," Pinhey says. "I just think it's the discourage of North America. I just think that pop is the reason for obesity in this country, especially when people allow their kids to drink it. Pop is just sugar. All pop is. You can use sugar-free pop and it will just taste sweet. It doesn't really bring a lot to the party in my opinion."

Although Pinhey doesn't encourage pop to anyone, he does, upon occasion, use it as an ingredient for some drinks.

"I usually keep Coke around for rum and coke but I would use way less (Coke) than most people! You hardly need any in that! It needs a lot of lime and then, you know, probably like half as much as what you see most people use when they're making rum and coke."

Besides pop, there is another drink Pinhey would not serve to guests: coolers.

"I wouldn't drink them and the reason (why) is (that) they're just sugar bombs. They're basically pop with alcohol in them and artificial colouring and flavour, you know. I just don't have time for that," he said. "I don't consider that a valid source of enjoyment for an alcoholic beverage. It has no purpose in my life ... (Coolers) are marketed heavily towards young people and women. Coolers are so sugary that you don't even taste alcohol in them. They're deceptive. You have to be careful with them, very dangerous!"

Tammy Brideau-Lirette, a sommelier and product advisor with NB Liquor, says that the possibility of weight gain due to alcohol consumption likely occurs when physical activities and exercise are reduced.

"Coolers are full of sugar and beers are full of yeast and all of that bloating stuff," she says. "These days, young people don't do as much exercise as they probably should with all of the video games, Internet, and all that. It's a big possibility that with all of that stuff, (weight) is accumulating.

"Exercise (with) moderate (alcohol) consumption. Be responsible."

She adds that it's very important to have some non-alcoholic drinks on hand in case some of your guests cannot drink liquor for medical reasons, like pregnant women.

Gautreau is experienced with hosting social gatherings. In the summer months, he's usually hosting such gatherings at an average of one per week. The drinks he serves and the structure of his gatherings are tailored for warm weather. In his opinion, the ideal summer gatherings are those focused on barbeques.

"Barbecue. Friday night. Suppertime. Have a few guests over, a little steak, and a little Corona followed by poker, you know," he says.

Pinhey, Gautreau, and Brideau-Lirette all have different recommendations for the perfect and appropriate alcoholic drinks.

Gautreau's recommendations for alcoholic drinks this summer are Coronas and "Blue Margaritas." He says that guests will likely accept the offer when it's a Blue Margarita.

"Everybody wants a Blue Margarita! It's like the Flaming Moe!" he says referring to a drink featured in an episode of The Simpsons. He also recommends bartending how-to books like "The Complete Bartender" by Robyn M. Feller.

Pinhey recommends classic cocktails like gin and tonic.

"They're simple to make. You can't beat gin and tonic in the summer!

"For me, in the summertime, my drinking changes a lot. I hardly drink any red wine. I drink a lot of light, refreshing white wine then I drink a lot of low alcohol white wines. Wines that are 10, 11, 12 (per cent) instead of 13, 14, and a lot of dry rosé wines. In the winter, it's not uncommon for me to get strong ale or Belgians strong beers. You kind of get a craving for them sometimes, like winter warmers. In the summer, I drink mostly pale ales and good quality lagers... and more cocktails.

"You definitely change your drinking habits when the weather gets warmer. No question about it."

Brideau-Lirette emphasizes the importance of being ready for any unexpected issues related to when your guests consume.

"If I have a group of people, I always try to have a little bit of everything to please everybody. I'll have a little bit of wine. I'll have a bit of a few import beers (and some) rosés.

"It's always nice to have people try something new."

Bernard C. Cormier is, among other things, a freelance writer, and broadcaster. He can be reached at: © Bernard C. Cormier 2010