Dry January is for bores and wusses. If you are fond of alcohol, and want to test your will, give up drink for Lent. It’s a real challenge; it’s not spending some cold winter nights sober in front of the telly because you couldn’t control yourself over Christmas and New Year. Lent lasts longer than a month – 40 days, or up to 46 depending when you start and end the fast. Some Catholics give themselves Sunday off, but my Protestant father always told me that was cheating. The hardest part is that, in our secular age, Lent occurs in quite a social part of the year – early spring rather than winter. One has to watch on jealously as nature blossoms and friends begin boozing happily away in the sun: the bastards. Yet the pain only makes the delayed pleasure of that first drink at the end of Holy Week all more gratifying. And even drinking when the weather is good can’t beat the anticipation of drinking when the weather is good.
I’m coming to end of a dry Lent, and I’m positively salivating at the thought of that first drink. I think I might be fetishising the idea of it. I know it’s important not to get carried away – the body quickly loses the habit of processing alcohol – but it’s also important to reward oneself.
What should a sober Lenten faster drink to celebrate Easter? I asked some wine experts and sellers, who generously gave me some tips, as well as some beautifully enticing samples. First and foremost, I’m told I should drink champagne. It’s the best way to reacquaint oneself with the joy of insobriety – in moderation, of course. My first drink on the evening of Easter Saturday (I’m stopping the fast before Sunday) will be poured from a very fine looking bottle of Justerini and Brooks’s 250th anniversary champagne that is now sitting on my desk, begging to be drunk.
Real men drink pink, I’m told, and the great champagne makers Billecart-Salmon have recommended their demi-sec rosé fizz. I’ll try that, too. I might also have some friends over and drink some of those English sparklers which everybody raves about. Berry Bros & Rudd do an excellent house one, and Yapp Brothers have sent me a Somerset Sparkling Rosé, which will go down a treat between the hours of 5pm and 8pm.
That’s just for starters. The most important drink this weekend is what you have with your Easter Sunday lunch (there’s a wonderful recipe right here. And I think claret is the best bet. If you are eating lamb, have a St Emillion Grand Cru (Berry Brother’s own is again a very safe bet) or, slightly cheaper but almost as good, a Cru Bourgeois, such as Chateau Peyrabon (Justerini and Brooks, £16) or Chateau Les Moines (Vineyards Direct, £14.95). If you are feeling more adventurous, try a Malbec: The M wine store on Victoria Street stocks some utterly delicious Argentinian Malbec. Drink deep, then eat lots of chocolate, and maybe guzzle down a good sweet Sauterne (any will do) with pudding. Then sleep it off.
If you’ve resisted the demon drink for 40 days or more, you’ve earned it. At least I think I have.