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Genteel Tipple Through Gin in Literature
Published on Thursday, 02 June 2011

3 stars

The Hendrick's Horseless Carriage of Curiosities (venue website)
21, 29 May, 6:00pm-7:00pm
Reviewed by Mathilda Gregory

 Suitable for age 18+ only.

The Hendricks Carriage of Curiosities and the tent behind it, full of equally enthralling objects, made a perfect setting for this wholly affable literary jaunt. Brighton's own Damien Barr perched on a winged chair like a master at his fireside, and led us through an array of amusing quotes and anecdotes while we sampled a variety of cocktails – all, of course, based on a certain brand of gin.

Barr's banter with the barman was the highlight of the show.  His pithy asides as we were served gin with water, martinez, gin punch and more were archly appropriate to the tone of the affair. However, free drinks were not enough to lubricate this rather thin event. Barr's talk was directionless, and even with his charm cranked up to full-beam, he couldn't quite make this seem like more than a random assortment of literary notes with a lose connection to drinking.

Occasional interesting facts seemed lost in a jumble of random information. At one point, I caught a snippet that suggested that a lot of cocktails were developed during prohibition to disguise the taste of the vile home-brewed "bathtub" gin. Fascinating. But the point was rushed through, and I'm not actually even sure I’ve got that right.

The connection between writing and alcohol seemed weak in places. Sure, lots of writers drink. But plenty don't. Furthermore, the focus on gin was such a heavy-handed nod to event's sponsor than any attempt to link writing and gin particularly felt like tenuous reaching.

With ingredients like the atmospheric tented venue, the free samples, the genial Barr and the bon mots of the likes of Dorothy Parker, this should have been a cocktail to savour. But it ended up being rather less than the sum of its parts. Perhaps a more experienced mixologist is required. 

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