The Christmas drink diaries

 

It’s easy to lose track of how much we drink while celebrating Christmas in Ireland. This year, four people agreed to keep records of their alcohol consumption between Christmas Eve and New Year’s Eve - and, bravely, to let us publish them. Compiled by ROSITA BOLAND

JONATHAN TONGE

‘I barely notice two more glasses of red Côtes du Rhône’

CHRISTMAS EVE

At lunch, I have a glass of Côtes du Rhône red and a glass Palo Cortado sherry: dry, warm and nutty. This wine really sets the mid-afternoon Christmas mood. With dinner, it’s a glass of Coteaux du Languedoc red: velvety, juicy and a good pair for the pork with supreme of mushrooms.

On a visit to the local to meet everyone back in town, I have two glasses of mulled wine, a pint of Guinness and then a gin and tonic.

CHRISTMAS DAY

Following our Christmas tradition, we barbecue sausages outside in the snow and drink a small glass of Moscato d’Asti while eating. The wine is fruity, slightly frizzante and very light at 5 per cent so we share a half bottle between six of us.

The turkey goes into the oven at 11.30am and then we make a quick visit to the local, (which is open for two hours) for a pint of Guinness.

At 3pm we open and share a glass of fresh Bordeaux white, which is a real palate cleanser. This is followed by a glass of dry Hungarian white, which is juicy and fruity.

The turkey and ham are served at about 5pm and we open a magnum of Châteauneuf du Pape from which I manage to get two generous serves. Feeling full and contented we play Monopoly.

I barely notice sipping through two more glasses of red Côtes du Rhône. Late in the evening, we finish off with a nice glass of Armagnac before falling into bed.

ST STEPHEN’S DAY

A generally quiet day until dinner when we eat turkey Stroganoff accompanied by a bottle of Barbera d’Alba, which is delightfully smooth and full-flavoured.

We now have the plum pudding with which we drink a half bottle of Sicilian Passito, a naturally sweet desert wine that pairs nicely with the rich sweetness of the pudding. Tonight we have visitors and my tally is three extra glasses of red wine and a cognac.

DECEMBER 27th

The Garrick Bar for the Ulster v Leinster match: two pints of Guinness and a gin and tonic. Four of us then go to our favourite cheap Italian for meatballs and a pizza. We share a bottle of Vino Nobile di Montepulciano and then follow it with a coffee and a brandy

DECEMBER 28th

We drink a very interesting Australian chardonnay with a chilli hot pot. Lovely freshness and vitality as well as depth and interest.

DECEMBER 29th-30th

On the dry.

NEW YEAR’S EVE

A romantic night in for the two of us. We cook a simple rib of beef on the bone and share a very special old bottle of Bordeaux that we have been saving.


Jonathan Tonge works for Ireland’s oldest wine merchants, Mitchell Son, as a wine buyer and logistics manager

LENNY ANTONELLI

‘I’m feeling fairly exhausted’

I spend the holidays at home in Galway as usual. My only drink on Christmas Eve is a glass of white wine, which I use to wash down some crabmeat, brown bread and chocolate cheesecake at a friend’s house. I plan to spend Christmas Day geeking out over my new David Attenborough DVDs, but my mother has other ideas. “Why don’t we watch The Notebook?” she insists, with my 15-year-old sister backing her up. I reckon my naggin of whiskey and four small bottles of Grolsch will be enough to make the film vaguely tolerable. It isn’t nearly.

I have pretty much the same St Stephen’s Day experience I suspect most people do: I pretend to have fun while spending most of the night queuing for the bar or fighting to hold onto an area of dance floor the size of my foot. I consume three small bottles of Grolsch and two big bottles of Erdinger before going out, and four pints of Galway Hooker pale ale in the pub.

I spend the evening of December 27th in a bar relaxing over two pints of Galway Hooker and a Hoegaarden, while watching the love of my life, Arsenal, thump Chelsea 3-1.

The following evening I stop by a friend’s house with a rucksack full of booze, but I drink only one Erdinger and three Grolsch while failing miserably at Buzz Junior, a Playstation game designed for children aged three and up.

On December 29th I embrace sobriety – or rather I cannot find anyone willing to go to the pub with me – but make up for it the next night, which starts with two pints of Galway Hooker and a pint of Pilsner Urquell at 5.30pm, followed by four glasses of whiskey and coke with friends in their hotel room. Then it’s back to the pub for four pints of Galway Hooker, after which going to a friend’s house at 3am for two gin and tonics seems like a perfectly logical idea.

New Year’s Eve starts at a friend’s house with three whiskeys and coke, and a Grolsch.

At 11pm I leave for a party outside the city. Most people there seem convinced that getting into the sauna is the best way to start the new year. After my seventh whiskey and coke, it seems an absurd suggestion, but after my eighth it makes perfect sense.

I’m feeling fairly exhausted now, and aware that I drank far too much over the holidays.


  •  Lenny Antonelli is a journalist based in Dublin

ANNIE WEST ‘We’re not huge drinkers in our house’

DECEMBER 24th

Every year I stand in the massive wine aisle at the supermarket, frantic and bewildered, with no clue which wine is good and which is awful. I select a couple of pricey ones for presents and a couple of middling ones for us. We are not huge drinkers in our house. The nearest thing to going out for a drink is Communion every other Sunday. For safety I grab a massive bottle of Baileys. I’ve never met anyone who refused a glass of that.

I should mention that as a student I drank cheap beer only and then stopped really quickly one night in 1979. I promised myself that night I would never, ever drink cheap beer again.

CHRISTMAS DAY

All the wine bottles look the same. I put them all into the bag and now I have no idea which are the pricey ones. So I have to take my chances. I can tell almost immediately that I got it wrong when Dalkey uncle arrives and I hand him a present of a bottle.

By dinner time I am ready for a nice glass of something. So I start pouring a glass of the only red I have left. At that moment, the cousins arrive so I hand it to Auntie Mae and pour another one for Uncle Pat and the cousins. Everybody remarks on what a lovely wine it is, which is when I realise that was probably the one that cost me €50 and was intended for Dalkey uncle. And I didn’t even get a whiff of it. By the time dinner arrives all that’s left is a cheap bottle of white that tastes as if it really should have come in a box. Because we’re not used to it, the half a glass of wine each settles on the group like nerve gas and within half an hour everyone is fast asleep.

Later on I have a little Baileys. It’s deceptive because it doesn’t feel like actual drink. Its effect is immediate due to fatigue and dehydration but I realise this only after it takes me 40 minutes to load the dishwasher. I am also singing Westlife tunes.

ST STEPHEN’S DAY

Nothing. Not a drop. Am never drinking again.

DECEMBER 27th

I can’t have a drink because I have to work. Settle for a large helping of sherry trifle.

DECEMBER 28th

More cousins appear bearing bottles of wine. This labelling malarkey needs to be looked at. There should be some way of knowing whether your friends have given you something that ought to be concealed in a brown paper bag or something that came out of a millionaire’s cellar. I am afraid to open it in case I’m too ignorant to enjoy it.

DECEMBER 29th

Chocolate liqueurs. After the third one I’m singing Westlife songs again and annoying the neighbours.

DECEMBER 30th

They don’t tell you the glass in a bottle of Baileys is an inch thick. It felt like it was still half full but there are only about three drops left.

NEW YEAR’S EVE

Daughter arrives with student friends. So now we have a lot of cheap beer.


  •  Annie West is an artist and cartoonist based in Sligo
CHARLIE CONNELLY

‘I’m surprised at just how much I drank’

TOTAL CONSUMED

The equivalent of six bottles of wine, six whiskies, three pints of Guinness, four bottles of lager, three glasses of Champagne, two bottles of real ale, two bottles of Prosecco, one glass of mulled wine, one thimbleful of port

It’s 10am on Christmas Eve and I’m in our local supermarket picking up the last of the Yuletide essentials. It’s safe to say that at such an early hour I’ve never once thought, “I’d like a glass of port”. So when an employee asks me if I’d like a glass of port and proffers a tray, nobody is more surprised than me to hear the words, “Yes please”, pass my lips in one direction just before the fortified wine passes them in the other. Still, the plastic thimbleful girds me for my Bambi-on-ice-with-carrier-bags journey home along the snowy pavements of Clontarf. The rest of that day goes on to feature a hot whiskey, two normal whiskies, half a bottle of Prosecco and a bottle of red wine. Oh, and a bottle of real ale.

English beer is the only thing I miss since moving to Ireland, so it’s always a joy to find it here. However, could the bars and off-licences of the nation please note that it belongs in the chill cabinet in the same way that red wine belongs in the chill cabinet? Thank you.

Ale temperature whinges notwithstanding, it is still a hefty total and even though I take the next few days a little easier, as New Year’s Eve looms I am still clocking up an average of about a bottle of wine a day. The only exception is December 28th, which shines like a virtuous beacon as the only day on which I touch not a drop.

Either side of that day my consumption is international: Spanish and New Zealand wine, Scottish single malt and beers from England, Lithuania and a lunchtime wheat beer from Japan until a New Year’s Eve that features Champagne, wine and finally a hot mulled wine from a stranger in the street as the midnight sky becomes speckled with Chinese lanterns from all over Dublin.

I’m surprised now at just how much I drank as the holiday season was spent at home or at friends’ houses: I think I was only in a pub twice. The severity of this hangover is no more than I deserve, however.

It’s 25 years since my first hangover when at the age of 15 I was put in charge of the drinks at my grandmother’s 70th birthday party and dealt maturely with the responsibility by consuming most of them.

I learnt a hard lesson that night – not to mention the next day – but when I look at my festive alcohol consumption a quarter of a century on I’m not entirely sure what that lesson was.


  •  Charlie Connelly is a writer based in Dublin, and author of Our Man in Hibernia