11 JUNE 1988, Page 42

George Gale

IF, as is fortunately the case with me and, I trust, the other contributors, I can afford to drink what I want, then it follows that what I drink should be favourite. I ap- preciate that were I to prefer wine, then I might not be able to afford what I would most like; but I don't therefore I can.

Good wine is better, I allow, than bad, and expensive wine is better than cheap; but instead of a beaker full of beaded bubbles winking at the brim (not that they ever wink at me) give me gin and water, scotch and water or a pint of bitter any day. There are times when champagne works, a decent burgundy is not to be sniffed at and vintage ports can go down a treat. But such times are occasional, and your favourite drink should be the one you rely on. This rules out any product of the grape, a fruit which can only be relied upon to give you a worse hangover than you would get from drinking the same amount of alcohol de- rived from grain, potato or wood, always excepting home-made rubbish.

What is wanted is something reliable, factory-made, the product of a decent brewery or distillery. And here I have to say this: in a life-time of drinking I have never been let down by gin. Before Gor- bachev, the Russian embassy had a special vodka which was a bit beyond a joke, except to the ambassador; in Orkney I once had a terrible time swallowing enough of a tumbler of the directors' reserve of the local malt to make room for sufficient water to keep my hair on; but London dry gin is gin and, with some ice and a slice of lemon, never, never lets you down or creeps up on you when you aren't looking. Scotch and water is actually nicer, but that is not the point.

However, I drink more beer than gin or scotch these days, and I prefer to drink out than in. My favourite drink is thus what I choose to drink in the pub I choose to drink in. Now that I have moved from the barbarous south to civilised Northumber- land, my local has become the Bridge of Alan, inhabited by farmers, gamekeepers and sundries like me, where the best, indeed the only, bitter Colin the landlord keeps is Drybroughs Heavy.