Strangely likeable hormonal drunkards

<i>The Inbetweeners Movie</i> is here.

So, what's a girl to do when the National Theatre Live screening of One Man Two Guvnors is fully booked down the local multiplex? Why, she opts to see The Inbetweeners Movie instead, of course!

Those unfamiliar with the slanguage of teens should look away now; this is a film of sexonyms on the beach, it's a vaginal thesaurus-on-sea. Neil, Jay, Simon and Will, freshly familiar from their TV series (The Inbetweeners, E4), are uploaded in full widescreen puerility and Dolby surround rudery, to the party resort of Malia, Crete. Sporting "Pussay Patrol" T-shirts and looking like "the world's shittest boy band", they travel hopefully in pursuit of getting laid. It'll be like "shooting clunge in a barrel, " swears Jay.

The Brits-abroad, Club 18-30 (or IQ 18-30) scenario is a familiar one. That cocktail of alcohol, sex, clubbing, drugs and sunburn; the sea of party boats bobbing on a fishy undertow of violence. There are gags (and gagging) galore, and the best-worst dance moves I've seen in a long, long while. Move over Ricky Gervais, and not before time.

The joke is so often on the boys that it's impossible not to warm to them, even as you wince. They are such wholesale losers that even the hateful synecdochic habit of referring to women by their constituent parts (one constituent part in particular) starts to look innocuous. They are welcomed to their filthy hostel by the sight of the proprietor fishing a dead dog out of a well. They are regularly cozened out of their clothing. Neil takes a dump in "the child's toilet" in their continental bathroom. An erect leaking phallus is sun-lasered onto Will's back after Simon doodles its shape in sunscreen. You can smell the failure on them, as sharp as Lynx.

Though the talk is all of sex, the real pull is between the unlikely lads themselves. There's an elegiac and liminal feel as these man-children bid farewell to schooldays and perhaps to each other (partly, surely, because the actors are starting to get wrinkly.) Time is about to be called on the cretins on Crete. The holiday bromance has to end.

And what of the "tail" end of the cocktail? Well, at least the girls are given credit for some proactivity- the boys are not the only ones with sex on their minds. Both genders are out on it, for lots of it. The redemptive totties that the not-so-fab four meet are relatively smart and savvy (apart from Neil's mate who is his perfect match in dimness: like Mrs to Mr Potato Head, she is his adoring reflection.) It's the boys who blub like babies when the girls take their flight home.

But The Inbetweeners behave like morons and the intelligent, beautiful "pussay" waits for them patiently. You can act, apparently, like a tool: get lagered up and off-your-face on fishbowls, fall asleep in an ant's nest and comprehensively insult your girl (in Jay's case) and she will still be there to offer to pleasure you- a case of better fellate than never, I guess. Like the old-school Cretan clunge, Ariadne, the laydeez are left hanging around in the Aegean, waiting for the boys to grow up. Who's the joke really on?

Photo: Tashphotography / Stockimo / Alamy
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The Negroni fools no one – it’s easy to make and contains nothing but booze

It is the colour of danger, a red rag to anyone jaded by cocktail-world bull.

The cocktail is designed to lie about its origins; no wonder it reached its apogee during Prohibition, which forced everyone with an unrepentant thirst to lie about their cravings. Even today, when only extreme youth, religious belief or personal inclination prevents a person from draining the bar dry, the cocktail continues its career of dishonesty. It hides ingredients or methods. It provides a front for poor-quality booze. And it often dissolves, within its inscrutable depths, mountains of sugar, enabling drinkers to pose as sophisticates while downing something that tastes like a soft drink – to get drunk without leaving the playpen.

This is why I love the Negroni, which fools no one. It is easy to make and contains nothing but pure booze. Despite being a third sweet vermouth, it isn’t saccharine: the other two thirds, equal measures of gin and Campari, may have something to do with this. And it is the colour of danger, a red rag to anyone jaded by cocktail-world bull.

They say it was invented in Florence at the request of a Count Negroni, who wanted a drink unsullied by club soda – a drink stiff enough to get a man back on a bucking horse, perhaps, since this Count may have been a rodeo rider. I prefer to believe that the Count, if Count he was, came in, tossed down enough strong liquor to start telling stories about his American adventures, and, when he finally staggered out into the night, the exasperated bartender poured three straight shots into a single glass and baptised this wondrous reviver in grateful homage to the fabulist who had inspired it.

In a former glue factory a very long way from Florence or America, the East London Liquor Company now makes very good gin – Batches One and Two, the former tannic with Darjeeling as well as cassia bark, pink grapefruit peel, and coriander seeds; the latter redolent of savoury, bay, thyme and lavender. Transforming these plants into excellent alcohol seems an improvement on boiling down horses for adhesive, and the company also makes superb Negronis from Batch Two.

We sit outside, in a carpark made marginally more glamorous by border boxes of Batch Two botanicals, and marvel at the transformation of this grimy part of East London, next door to a park intended to give Victorian working men brief respite from lives all too lacking in myth or fantasy. It is a reincarnation at least as miraculous as the transformation of three strong and entirely unalike spirits into the delectable harmony of the Negroni. The sun shines; a fountain plashes. Nuts and charcuterie arrive. All is right with the world.

I leave my herbaceous bower and dangerously pleasing drink for a peek at the large copper distillery behind the bar, walking in past the fountain, a whimsical stone construction that pours vermilion liquid into two, tiered basins topped by a chubby putto clutching a rather reluctant fish.

And then I stop. And double back. Vermilion liquid? It is, indeed, a Negroni fountain. There are even slices of orange floating in the basin. I dip a finger: the taste is slightly metallic but still undeniably that potent mixture of booze, botanicals, bitterness, and just a hint of sweetness. A streak of citrus from the orange slices. It turns out that the world’s most straightforward cocktail lends itself to a decadent neo-Renaissance fantasy. There’s a message here, one forthright as a temperance tract: without imagination, we would have no lies – but no Negronis, either.

Nina Caplan is the 2014 Fortnum & Mason Drink Writer of the Year and 2014 Louis Roederer International Wine Columnist of the Year for her columns on drink in the New Statesman. She tweets as @NinaCaplan.

This article first appeared in the 20 July 2017 issue of the New Statesman, The new world disorder