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Friday 15 January 2010

What was your first real cocktail experience?

Rewind six and a half years. Imagine some sunshine. It's the end of my first year at university. My best friend and I are trying to be grown up so we go to the fancy cocktail bar in Greenwich that we've heard about. Bear in mind that this was six years ago - there was only one fancy cocktail bar in Greenwich. The North Pole.

I'd heard that The North Pole did something called a Smartini. As you'd imagine, this is a martini, with smarties in. So we ordered a couple, sat ourselves down on the zebra print chairs, giggling about everything. Mostly at how out of place we felt. And how expensive £7 was for a drink. And then there was the cocktail. Now, there was a time when I thought a dry Martini and lemonade was a martini (don't laugh), so I honestly had no idea what to expect. But my drink came in a pretty martini glass, so that made me happy. We also saw the back of Simon Pegg's head as he disappeared into the restaurant upstairs. That was wonderful.

But honestly, the cocktail was pretty vile. It's taken far too long for me to realise I hate martinis. But what happens when you put smarties in them? The colour washes off the sweeties and leaves you with grey sludgy chocolate at the bottom of your drink. Nice. It also took a while for me to realise that drinks and gimmicks often don't work. But hey, I was young. The champagne cocktail we had after wasn't much better. But we did discover just how fun being tipsy on bubbly is.

This was my first real cocktail experience. The first time I ordered a real cocktail in a bar (I don't think snakebite counts as a cocktail). The first time I sat with a martini glass in my hand and felt more grown up than I ever had before. I still hate martinis, and I very rarely go back to that bar, but I smile a huge smile whenever I think of that night.

What was your first cocktail experience? Tell us in the comments!

Flickr image from Tom Hilton's photostream.


  1. Hmm, I'm guessing jugs in Wetherspoons don't count?! Will have to have a think.

  2. I did plenty of experimental cocktail making in my younger years - emptying the dregs of the drinks cabinet into a glass and topping up with OJ - but my first Real Proper Cocktails at somewhere that wasn't TGI Fridays were probably at parties when I was a student...I don't remember exactly what I had first.

    Wetherpoons used to do jugs of Reef 'cocktail' when I was a student. My flatmate and I were obsessed with the pineapple one, which was basically 3 shots of malibu, a bit of vodka, 2 bottles of pineapple and coconut reef (which they don't even make any more because it was so sickly) all topped up with lemonade.

    They also did a smirnoff iced tea. A shot of all the white spirits on the bar, a bottle of smirnoff ice and coke to top it up. At £5 a jug you can imagine how pissed we got.

  3. I remember mine all too well. I had heard someone use the word 'tequila sunrise' and my 17-year-old self thought this sounded fabulous. Of course, what
    I didn't know was that tequila is very much an acquired taste. I ordered it in a bar in a French resort, where they were loudly playing snap's 'Rhythm is a Dancer' I seem to recall. Anyway, it was the most revolting thing I'd ever tasted, and I didn't finish it. I'm ashamed to say I let my much younger sister and brother have it instead...

    I should add that I did ultimately acquire a taste for tequila. But I still hate tequila sunrise!

  4. oh dear I am so much older than you ladies! In fact I don't even remember my first cocktail moment, YES it really was that long ago!

    But I do remember certain cocktail moments. One was when we went to NY for my husbands 40th birthday, of course they mix their cocktails much stronger in the US none of the tiny measurement like here, we had 2 different ones - sorry I don't remember what they were - delivered to us at our comfy sofa in the bar, thankfully the bar was in the hotel, we'd already had a few wines at dinner, I do remember not quite knowing how I was going to get my disabled husband to the lift as he was now even more disabled by cocktails!

    The other one I remember is a martini moment, my friend ordered one whilst in LA, I had no idea that she was still under the illusion that a martini was like a martini & lemonade too, and believe me she had no excuses she was in her 30s! Anyway it arrived she took a big gulp and her head nearly blew off with the pure alcoholicness (is that a word) of it! I'm sorry but I sniggered....

    Ah cocktails, I personally love them, but I have been accused of making them a little on the strong side ;o)

  5. I don't actually remember my first cocktail... there have been far too many since then! I think one of my favourite cocktail experiences though was having a mojito for the first time with my old flatmate Andreas in Freud by Covent Garden. We drank rather a lot of them and passed judgement on the array of outfits on parade!

  6. My first experience was in...Frankie and Benny's in Nottingham (I think on Upper Parliament Street) for a friend's birthday. He'd been to New York the month before so we thought he was really cool - and that the venue was too. I think my first was a Long Island Iced Tea...and it blew my tiny mind, 11 long years ago.

    Subsequently we bought a rocket-shaped cocktail shaker, had one amazing 'invention' night and one disastrous one. Its been on the shelf looking pretty ever since. Sigh...

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  8. (Only because there was a typo!!)

    I'm so ashamed to admit this, but I remember it so clearly. We were in a very lugubrious establishment in Newcastle called Dingwalls. During the day. After our school Christmas carol concert at Newcastle Cathedral. My friend and I (Sarah Dalkin) got changed into what we thought were 'mature, girl about town' oufits. (Pom Poms, on a jumper... Noooh!)
    We were 13. (27 years ago...)
    We ordered Tequila Sunrises. How sophisticated! I remember two more things about that day... 1) the barman asking us what we wanted to be when we grew up (How rude, we thought) and 2) Sarah being sick in the toilets. Happy Days!!!

  9. Apart from at parties (where we just made all the ones with naughty names or lots of baileys) I think my first real cocktail was in Venice, I went on holiday with my boyfriend of the time just after my 18th birthday and felt very, very grown up.
    I'm sure I didn’t appear that grown up after a few godmothers and godfathers, in fact i'm 100% sure i made a right tit of myself. Anyway good to know things have changed over time....

    I agree about the gimmicky cocktails though, that martini one sounds terrible, also I’ve learnt the hard way- don't drink neon cocktails!

  10. I don't really remember my first, which is kind of surprising because I always feel a little out of my element when holding a martini glass, so it seems like that would be something I would remember!

  11. this now makes me wish I could remember my first cocktail! I love martini-glass moments. Somehow it makes the girl in you come out and feel all grown up because you are holding a glass of something elegant and pink (I'm a cosmopolitan drinker)

    My current favourite cocktails are one's with ginger beer. They somehow feel warming in the winter cold

  12. This is my first grownup cocktail moment. I bought a fifth of Bushmill's for St. Patrick's Day. Quite a splashout on a graphic artist's pay--when graphic artists used exacto knives and pica poles! My friends and I drank it on the rocks. What a revelation after the daquiris, sloe gin fizzes and corn syrup margaritas that constitute our early drinking experience in the U.S. I learned that night that good liquor is worth the money and not to be polluted with a lot of filler.


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