Saturday, January 01, 2022

The Morning Bracer Sets One up For the Day

I won't say that I started the year with a glass of tequila, mainly because I was in bed by half-past nine. Age takes its toll. Breakfast will come around in due course, and maybe I'll have a rare Bloody Mary to set me up instead of my usual glass of warm goat's milk. 

The more seasoned workers out here in the Spanish shires like to start their day with a bracer, to help them get going until the whistle goes for their merienda, sometime around eleven. Now a morning nip in Spain could mean a brandy or an anís (or indeed a fiery mixture of the two called a sol y sombra) but taking that as a regular morning wake-up will eventually rot your liver with the consequence that your retirement years chewing a pizzle-stick while looking tolerably wise will be all the shorter. 

The answer (if you are a drinker, that is) would be to  pour some hot black coffee over the hootch - hey presto: ¡un carajillo! Whether it's un brandy (we aren't allowed to say 'coñac' any more) or something from the cut-glass aniseed bottle with a picture of a monkey on it. 

Of course, the unconventional will order something less known, maybe a ponche (a late friend of mine thought it was the the fountain of youth and would switch to it, he said, when the brandy was paining him). Ponche, it comes in a silvered bottle, is pretty good stuff. It's a sort of sweet-orange syrupy little number. 

Huh, I just got corrected by Google (or, in this case, Gargle) who says  'The genuine Spanish ponche is made with five top-quality natural products that come from different parts of the planet: the skin of the best Andalusian oranges, cinnamon collected in Sri Lanka, vanilla from Mexico, cloves from Madagascar and nutmeg from the Moluccas Islands'. Geez, it certainly makes Sloe Gin look a bit foolish.

Yesterday, I was in the local bar having my morning half a toasted pan de hoy soaked with tomato and olive oil ('un medio con tomate') and a coffee, when the fellow next to me surprised me with his order. It was a glass half-filled with crema de menta, topped up with warm milk and a spoonful of sugar. After he had tottered out back into the inclemence of the January sunshine, I asked the old girl behind the bar whether she sold many of those. She said, that no, but that he was a retired Guardia Civil, and he evidently liked the colour. 

There's a popular kiosk in downtown Almería, near where I live, which serves a breakfast drink called un americano. This rare beverage is a leche manchada - a milky-white coffee - with a shot of dyed Licor de Kola (a strange Valencian alcohol based on the African kola-nut which is said to be brewed by the true inventors of Coca Cola). Served with a twist of lemon, some vegetable dye and a sprinkle of cinnamon. The bad news is that the kiosk has been bought by a teetotal Saudi who is planning on trimming the morning menu, leaving any ambitious Almerían cafetero with an interesting opportunity. 

For those who won't go with coffee, but want to keep their drinking civilized, one could not do better than to emulate my friend Manolo, who always takes un tewe - a tea with whisky.  If he were Scottish, I suppose he'd be pouring it into his porridge. Hell, I personally don't say no to a tot of Cap'n Jack poured on my ice-cream.  

And so, we return by a roundabout route to the Bloody Mary. The secret of which, and don't tell anyone I told you, is a surreptitious squirt of dry sherry into the shaker. 

Thus the day takes of a joyous and propitious view, whether it's to work, relax, write, or recall criminals apprehended or otherwise. A simple libation before the serious business of surviving until the cocktail hour.  

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