Raising a glass to tales of tasty tipples

Herald Series: Sally Dunsmore, director of Oxford Literary Festival at Christ Church. Sally Dunsmore, director of Oxford Literary Festival at Christ Church.

Starting Saturday the city of Oxford will be taken over by authors and authorities on prose, plays, poetry and similar such bumf. Christ Church will be the core of all things culture (if it is not all ready).

What better time to improve on my US education than to take in a debate between A C Grayling and Roger Scruton on “Do we need God to Survive?” Or expand my economic awareness by listening to Alistair Darling talking about a thousand days at Number 11.

But then I came across a modest little lecture being held at Christ Church Hall, “A Genteel Tipple Through Gin in Literature.” Now this is my type of refinement.

The evening promises to expose writers who used it, characters who abused it and plots written around the aromatic liquor. The best part is that while Duncan McRae and David Piper are enthralling you with tales, you can taste the tipple.

Most people’s gin experience is limited to tonic with a twist of lime. That is all good if you are stranded on a desert island. However, gin is hugely versatile and Hendrick’s is not your standard gin. Self-labelled “peculiar,” Hendrick’s has that curious combination of botanicals and roots that calls for a distinctive development . . . cucumber.

“Blasphemy!” some would say, including one of my female colleagues, “cucumber in a gin and tonic- what nonsense.” Perhaps we should call Mr. Grayling and Mr. Sutton to debate the issue?

The secret is in the infusion of Bulgarian Rose and Cucumber, hence the abolishment of lime and introduction of the veg into the brew.

It is a rather refreshing flavour. Dangerous if you are thirsty.

If gin is not your preferred nip, what about Port or Madeira?

Tim Stanley-Clarke is offering two master classes, one in each of these fortified wines. You will get an opportunity to taste seven of the best, most diverse examples and learn a bit of their nautical history.

The talk I am most eager for is next Friday, 30 March. No, it is not Jeremy Paxman and his view of the British Empire, or even Walter Isaacson, the biographer of Steve Jobs, although I am a bit of a geek at heart.

I am also thrifty and that is why Andy Hamilton’s talk on “Booze For Free” appeals.

Mr. Hamilton is an expert forager and experimental brewer who has written a guide to making wines and beers from found fruits, vegetables and plants. Apparently all his recipes are cheap, easy to follow, and do not require expensive equipment. This is something that even Mr. Darling can appreciate. At the end of the evening you will get a chance to taste the results. Parsnip sherry anyone?

To book tickets for any of these events visit- oxfordliteraryfestival.org

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