Champagne Charlie

February 13, 2008

Evelyn Waugh’s travel writing as selected in When the Going was Good is exceptionally enjoyable. Rather than generally review its considerable merits however I wanted to look briefly at a single incident when he was on a Mediterranean cruise. In Athens after a late night out, Waugh visits a friend –

I told him that I had had a late night, drinking after the ball with some charming Norwegians, and felt a little shaken. He then made me this drink, which I commend to anyone in need of a wholesome and easily accessibly pick-me-up. he took a large tablet of beet sugar (an equivalent quantity of ordinary lump sugar does equally well) and soaked it in Angostura Bitters and then rolled it in Cayenne pepper. This he put into a large glass which he filled up with champagne. The excellences of this drink defy description. The sugar and Angostura enrich the wine and take away that slight acidity which renders even the best champagne slightly repugnant in the early morning. Each bubble as it rises to the surface carries with it a red grain of pepper, so that as one drinks one’s appetite is at once stimulated and gratified, heat and cold, fire and liquid, contending on one’s palate and alternating in the mastery of one’s sensations. I sipped this almost unendurably desirable drink and played with the artificial birds and musical boxes until Alastair was ready to come out.

When I read this I was very struck; Read the rest of this entry »