From when I was very small, I’ve been aware of my dad’s drinks cabinet: and it was my dad’s, not my mother’s. I must stress that I’ve only rarely *drunk* anything in this cupboard. I was too young before I left home, and when I was old enough I didn’t find the contents terribly appealing.
It was (and still is) a dark teak freestanding unit that comes up to my shoulders so it’s about one and a half metres high. The design is horrible, or “reproduction” as my mother likes to call it. On the very top, bounded by a little dowelling rail, is a collection of dusty gewgaws and detritus. There’s the oil lamp in the shape of a cottage that was a gift from my German exchange student; the candlesticks that were a present from some Danish choir members that stayed in the house and kept telling my dad about how they would swim in the lakes back home wearing nothing but a hat and a smile. Next to those (before I nicked them for souvenirs) were two mugs with my school badge on, given to all finishers in the Fun Run. No, I didn’t do the Fun Run – Running is not Fun. My dad did.
Also here, gathering dust and fluff, is a collection of warty ornamental gourds. I remember coming to visit one weekend about four years ago, and finding these things fscking *everywhere*. I’d sit down on the sofa, there’s a gourd. I’d be in the bathroom, selecting towels to “borrow” for my house: there’s another gourd. I’d be “borrowing” some books (Cherry Ames: Cruise Nurse) – whoops, a gourd. Upon inquiry, it turned out that my dad had decided to grow some in the greenhouse as a wildly successful experiment. Well, successful if what you want is approximately 50 hideously deformed courgettes.
Like a dresser, the cabinet has a small sub-cabinet accessed by two A4 sized glass doors, where my parents keep their diminishing collection of wine glasses (diminshed by their four kleptomaniac and clumsy children). Below these doors is a shelf, and then two large doors beneath. Opening these reveals my dad’s esoteric collection of rare alcohols.
So, what do we have in the musty-smelling recesses of this “reproduction” cabinet? Ah, the plastic gallon bottle of Bulgarian tequila he bought for one American dollar in Sofia. My friends and I found it one dimly remembered evening, but it was so unpleasant we stopped after about three slammers. Just as well, because my dad had marked the bottle and found out that I’d had some. He was more cross than you’d expect him to be: after all, I’d had only about one-twentieth of the contents and hadn’t thought it very nice at at all.
Hmm… the bottle of Old Navy Rum that comes out once a year for rum sauce. I swear this is the same bottle I remember from when I was just old enough to see over the kitchen worktop at my mum’s making the sauce. This bottle of Creme De Menthe was old when I first discovered it. I didn’t like the sticky green liquid inside and much preferred the ancient jar of olives next to it.
My parents like to keep food until it’s really, really out of date. Only a few weeks ago, I found a tub of dried milk that had a best before date of 1999. This, in case you’re from the future, is 2004. I once cleared out the kitchen cupboards and chucked out a bottle of sesame oil. The teaspoonful of oil in the bottle was rancid, and it had outstayed its welcome by roughly two years. When my mother found out that I’d ditched it, she reacted as if I’d thrown out something valuable. In fact, she reminds me of my heinous crime *every* time I visit. Last Christmas, we were presented with a prawn cocktail starter made from frozen prawns with a sell by date of the *previous* December. I don’t think Nick’s ever been happier to be Jewish, as it meant he could refuse them without appearing rude.
Anyway, that’s why there’s a 30 year old bottle of creme de menthe in there. I ate the olives when I was about 8 with no apparent ill-effects.
Ooh, Gorbachev vodka, which was going cheap when my dad last visited Russia about 6 years ago. I think the Yeltsin stuff was too high-class for him. For paintstripper, it’s not bad. I wonder what the Putin vodka is like…
I remember these bulbous bottles. He bought them during a trip to France. One is mandarin flavoured, and has a mandarin in the bottom. The other is pear and, well, you can guess. Of course the neck of the bottle is too narrow to fit a whole fruit in it. My siblings were pondering this enigma for some time, but I solved it straight away! I had read this fascinating fact somewhere that the liqueur distillers tie bottles onto the fruit when it’s still tiny and unripe. It ripens and grows in the wide bottom and then they fill the bottle with the liqueur. Lo, the family were deeply impressed with my knowledge.
Only that’s not how they did it. Yes, it’s the traditional way, but this is the space age. On examination some years later, I found that the base of the bottle had been glued on.
Onwards and deeper into the musty depths: small bottles of Bols with lurid crystallised deposits around the lids. Triple Sec, Coco and Parfait Amour (made with violets, this is probably the only nice thing in here). They are all at least 15 years old.
Never having had experience of other liqueur cabinets, and certainly not having one of my own, I wonder if the contents here are typical, or a reflection of my dad. For the record, he probably drinks a centilitre of one of these bottles once a month.