Published in The A - Z of Drinks

appellation contrôlée (AC) – in full, appellation d’origine contrôlée (AOC) the French term for a demarcated region of production, originally for wine (the first was for Châteauneuf-du-Pape in 1923) but now covering all manner of comestibles from cheeses to chickens. Portugal’s Douro claims to have had the first such system, devised in 1756; however, Hungary classified their vineyards in 1700 and Tuscany’s Carmignano had a go in 1716 and they both also claim the original honours. It’s the French term that has stuck and I use it rather than ‘controlled appellation’ which sounds daft (especially in the US – there is very little control of anything in the Appalachians, as anyone who has watched the film Deliverance will know). Most national systems are based on the French model and the regulatory authority will not only demarcate the geographical area but also stipulate which grape varieties may be used, maximum yields, parameters for alcohol content and so on; in general, the smaller and more prestigious the region, the more hoops must be jumped through. Fundamentally such systems are best thought of as having a purpose similar to the UK Trades Description Act and are designed to protect consumers from unscrupulous producers. Conversely, narrowness restricts the output of scrupulous producers – to the extent that some of the best wines in Europe have to call themselves vin de pays or vino da tavola. Apple Martini/Appletini – the cider of the gods is made with two parts gin (or vodka) stirred with one part apple schnapps and poured in to a chilled cocktail glass.

Published in The A - Z of Drinks

alcopop – sweet, fizzy drinks in which the taste of alcohol is masked have always been around and, whether proffered by unscrupulous manufacturers in pursuit of profit or by unscrupulous individuals in pursuit of gratification of the flesh, they are often aimed at impressionable girls. In the 1970s Cherry B, Pony and Babycham worked well, as well as Snowball, and it is instructive to bracket them all as direct precursors of today’s alcopop. The popular ones manufactured by the largest vodka and rum brands are sudsy with flavours of bubblegum, bubble bath and boiled sweets and so disgusting even park-bench winos steer clear.

Published in The A - Z of Drinks

alcoholism – best defined for me by a close relative as his ‘morbid and insatiable craving for alcohol’; however, the spectrum of qualifying behaviours is broad, very broad. Many more millions would be defined as suffering from it by exceeding ‘guidelines’ for safe consumption than would be referred to as ‘functioning alcoholics’, though a non-functioning one is fairly easy to spot. It is undoubtedly a physical addiction and withdrawal symptoms can be severe even if judged only by the alternate substances people will consume in attempts to satisfy their cravings. Much debate relates to whether it is an affliction, a genetic inevitability or a choice. A consumption that exceeds the individual’s ability to deal with it either physically, psychologically or circumstantially is the common element but if the ‘problem drinker’ is recognised early, preferably by themselves, then – through intervention, moderation or abstinence – they can most often be kept from the park bench.

Published in The A - Z of Drinks

alcohol-free beverages – happily, the nature of this book precludes much discussion of such vileness, such dross. Rather drink your bathwater, or even your own waters. If you must, one or two of the ‘beers’ (Clausthaler, Buckler) are relatively inoffensive and with ‘spinning cone’ technology, the ‘wines’ have improved somewhat. But if you’re going alcohol-free, not much beats a spicy Virgin Mary or the clean taste of cranberry juice.


I also carry a fairly substantial selection of stock with Abe Books, which can be purchased direct.

Click here to view my latest selection.

On writing

I have been writing about drinks since 2000, mainly for newspapers and magazines, and also through my blog, which is being updated alphabetically here (see below).

Drinks blog

The Knowledge: Red Wine.

Published by Quadrille.
Available from Amazon Now >

Random Drink Blog

Latest Drink Blog