You can’t beat a Christmas cracker joke. It can bring a much-needed curl of the lip to an otherwise fractious, boozy Christmas lunch. Animal puns are standard, as is any Christmas related comedy. Sometimes you get lucky and there’s a combo: What do angry mice send to each other at Christmas? Cross Mouse Cards. Brilliant. Or: What do you get if you cross Santa with a duck? A Christmas Quacker… Sometimes it’s just Christmas: Why did Santa’s helper see the doctor? Because he had a low “elf” esteem – this one usually touches a nerve for anyone secretly scoffing the Prozac. Should you pull out a dud gag from your cracker this year, feel free to borrow one of these – they’re gold.
And talking of unearthing treasure, we always perk up if we find the occasional pirate pun. Perhaps the worst we’ve ever encountered was: What has eight legs, eight arms and eight eyes? Eight pirates. Which is more of a GCSE Maths question, assuming you’re taking that intermediate paper to secure a C grade. And while we’re at C, for the English nerds: Why does it take pirates so long to learn the alphabet? Because they can spend years at C.
We tend to save a pirate gag for the post-meal digestif, whip it out as we stand by the fire, elbow perched on the mantel piece, holding court while sipping, increasingly, a rum. Rum has become our go-to after dinner drink.
Pirates do, as we all well know, love rum. Our favourite pirate was Edward Teach, or ‘Blackbeard’ who wore belts with loads of guns attached and dangled flaming candles from his facial hair. He made sure all his births were as wet as the sea and used rum to fuel his fighting. During his epic last stand in 1718, having drunk rum through the night, he sailed into close-quarter demanding more rum and needed 20 hacks of a sword and five gunshot wounds before he finally succumbed. His decapitated head was eventually used a rum punch bowl.
Thanks to pirate mythology and the historic region for production, we tend to consider it a Caribbean treat, but by law it can be made anywhere and we’ve widened our own net to South America where they make stunning spirits. At the base of rum is sugar cane, either refined or juices and then distilled, meanwhile maturation takes place in humid tropical conditions ensuring the spirit takes on the character of the wood at a faster rate than a spirit in a more temperature European climate. For this reason you get more bang for your buck. Diplomatico Reserva Exclusiva (£34.95, The Whisky Exchange), for example, will change your perceptions of rum and is truly one for the sweeter tooth. With molasses, sugar cane juice and a touch of sugar cane honey in the mix, its light chocolate flavours move into a spicy mocha and even chocolate orange.
In Guyana the traditional pot still rums have demerara at the base for a robust sea-faring spirit that was favoured in the heavy naval rums. El Dorado 15 year old is special stuff, some of the rum in the bottle is 25 years old for a caramelised chocolate quality (Whisky Exchange, £50.95). And in Peru you’ll discover the Cartavio 1929 which has a nutty spice to work well with the almonds, Brazilz and pecans (£40.45, Whisky Exchange).
Ben McFarland and Tom Sandham are the Thinking Drinkers, award-winning writers and performers who will be hosting their comedy drinks tasting The Thinking Drinkers’ History of Alcohol at the Museum of Comedy in London from December 12-23. Each member of the audience sips five different drinks as the show explores alcohol’s influence on human history. Tickets and details here: www.thinkingdrinkers.com