This is a handy guide to festive excess. If you find yourself doing the things described here over the Christmas season, you are almost certainly overdoing it. Be warned.

Len Deighton’s Action Cookbook
Len Deighton's Action Cookbook

This book is for you if you want to emulate the lifestyle of a 1960’s action hero. Len Deighton is most famous for writing blockbuster spy thrillers, but before that he was a food columnist. Written for old-school blokey types who want to see themselves as bon viveurs, there is a fascinating chapter on drinks. Deighton’s advice for providing drinks at a party is that you should allow half a bottle of spirits per person for the first two hours. If the party extends beyond that, he suggests that consumption will go up, so you’ll need more. If you do insist on drinking like an action hero, then please make sure you bear your inevitable hangover with the fortitude of one too.

Cocktails with names like “The Hurl Hurl”

festive excess!

This should be obvious, but we’ll spell it out. If a cocktail goes by a name like this then it’s probably worth avoiding. It is an unsubtle mixture of those dodgy fruit liqueurs that lurk at the back of the drinks cupboard. The only non-alcoholic addition is a dash of cranberry juice, which is fooling no-one.

Could it be named twice because it looks the same on the way in and on the way out? Don’t be the one to find out.

Drinks that the supermarket / style magazines urge you to buy.

supermarket magazine If you find yourself flicking through the glossy magazines given away by supermarkets, or perhaps the ones that come with your Sunday papers then at some point you might start to panic because you haven’t got any of the drinks they are calling “Christmas essentials”. You need to ask yourself a couple of searching questions before you succumb to the urge to buy them:

  1. Would anyone drink this when it’s not Christmas?
  2. Would anyone drink this when it is Christmas if a magazine hadn’t told them to?

Drinks associated with infamous boozehounds

Ernest Hemingway favoured a cocktail called “Death in the Afternoon”, which is a mixture of absinthe and champagne. There are many stories about Hemingway and his drunken eccentricities, including the one where he tried to flush a toilet but instead pulled a skylight down on his head, getting himself an enormous scar, so maybe you should find a more sober role model.

And it’s not just the alcohol

 © StellarStock
Adolf Frederick, King of Sweden, died in 1771 after gorging himself on a winter banquet of lobster, caviar, sauerkraut, kippers, FOURTEEN servings of cream-stuffed pudding, all washed down with Champagne. Another monarch who died from eating too much of the wrong thing was England’s own Henry the First who, against the advice of his physician, sat down to a meal of eels and famously died of a “surfeit of lampreys,” popping his clogs in the winter of 1135. So, watch how many mince pies you eat this festive season and be very mindful of dodgy seafood.

So how about a quiet night in instead, reading some free fiction? If you’re stuck, you might like to try Festive Treats, a free kindle anthology