D is for Drinks
Let’s keep this post for alcoholic drinks, as talking about all of them here would make you sleep.
Uses of alcohol and drinking
Drinking seems to be a good trigger for shy dancers and singletons. It is not unusual to hear “I need a drink to do that”, where that can be replaced by dancing or talking to someone attractive, or even worse, do some dumb thing as suddenly we become invincible.
It also seems to be a good body warmer. On cold winter nights you tend to meet several people dressed as in a Mediterranean summer, ignoring the fact that it is snowing (picture guys in t-shirts and girls in mini dresses with no stockings while your nose is the only bit of skin you have exposed).
If you are dieting, it is a great aid, in particular if you are working towards bulimia/anorexia. Every weekend there is sick somewhere on the sidewalks, bus stops or sometimes in the bus itself. I’m guessing that whoever did that will not be able to eat the next day.
Jokes aside, these are the not so nice points of excessive drinking, which for some reason I believe are more frequent here than back home. This doesn’t mean that people back home don’t drink or don’t abuse alcohol once in a while, but there’s some difference it which maybe the British expats in Portugal can help me with.
A great idea around here is “office drinks” – socializing with colleagues, co-workers and even clients after work, usually towards the end of the week. Just wander down to the nearest pub on a Friday evening, have a drink or two (or a bit more), get to know a the people you spend the week with a bit better and then go home. For someone like me, that ended up in London without knowing many people this helps a lot, both socially and professionally. You never know what can happen, whom you may meet or what is going on.
A very unusual (now familiar) issue was the size of the drinks. A pint is just over half litre of drink, which means three Portuguese sized drinks (fino). When you come to think of it, a pint ends up costing about the same per litre… My usual size ends up being the half pint. Much more manageable and commonly accepted as “a girl’s size drink”.
For someone who does not like beer, living in Portugal may be a tricky business. Coming to the UK I have found the beauty of being able to buy wine by the glass (why don’t they do this back home?!?!?). My only problem is that I do not know many non-Portuguese wines, which ends up being quite tricky, but I’ll be sorting that out soon. Also, given that you can buy just a glass, if the wine is bad, you try another one after.
Though a wine lover, I have been spoilt for choice around here as cider is widely available. Once again, can someone start producing or importing cider to Portugal? I really could do with some when I go back home and everyone is stuck with their “finos” and I am struggling to decide what to have. Cider comes in many forms and shapes but is basically a drink made from apples, which looks a bit like a flat beer (same colour, same alcohol content, a bit of gas but not enough to make that foamy top that beer usually has). They also have a pear cider alternative, which is even sweeter.
However, my best discovery is Pimms – as I have mentioned before in the blog. As soon as Spring starts, I’m all for the great British Summer drink. It is a cocktail, so do not be surprised when the bill arrives. However, it is very easy to make yourself, especially if you are having a barbeque, picnic or any other of those sunny excuses to be with friends. Here is the recipe for the cocktail:
– 1 part Pimms (some gin based secret drink, widely available in off licences and other alcohol selling shops)
– 3 parts lemonade
– Orange slices
– Strawberries cut in half
– Cucumber slices
– Mint leafs
– Lots of ice
Mix it all in a big jug, serve and enjoy responsibly (as they say around here). I know, I know, the cucumber and the gin bits also used to put me off, until the day I tried it.
Law and traditions
If for any reason you think that this is a “crazy” place, bear in mind that the alcohol laws are very strict around here. People are asked for ID when buying alcohol and you need a special permit to sell alcohol. You can recognize those shops as they are called “off licenses” (meaning they have a license to sell but consumption has to be off the premises).
Some restaurants also don’t sell alcohol (they also need a license for it), but they tend to allow you to bring your own drink, though sometimes they charge a few pounds for corkage.
Even if a 24h shop is an off license, they can’t sell alcohol after a certain hour, so make sure you get to them before 11PM. In some of shops, they actually cage down the drinks display shelves, so you can look but can’t buy.
Lastly, the bell still tolls in pubs to announce the last drink. After all these years living here it is still something that amuses me, how such a simple but efficient tradition tells you politely it is about time to go home.