They say that you can tell a gentleman by his shoes. An exaggeration, perhaps, but the footwear choices of both sexes reveal more than you might think. Look at Cherie's pixie boots - an indication of Carole Caplinesque proclivities long before we knew it. The other give-away is nails: slightly long ones on a man are a sign of rampant self-love; scrubby, bitten nails on a woman generally indicate a good sort; perfectly manicured hands on either sex are thoroughly suspect (with the exception of crazy nail extensions, which are a law unto themselves). However, in the gamut of revealing personal details, few things compare to a person's choice of drink. If you really want to work out where a stranger is coming from, you can do no better than check out their first drink of the night.
Unless you are in a strictly cocktail bar, or on holiday, there is something dodgy about the man who gleefully orders a sticky cocktail. A Martini is OK in the right circumstances (glossy urban surroundings, after a wheeler-dealery day); a Caipirinha is just about forgivable up to the middle of September; but anything fancier should be taken as an early warning. Assume he has a bathroom cluttered with hair products, an alphabetised CD collection, snug stretch briefs (the sort Dr Christian Troy wears in Nip/Tuck) and a slightly unhealthy relationship with his mother. Similarly, a man who gushes ecstatically at the prospect of a glass of champagne seems less than wholesome. Champagne isn't a girl's drink, but there is something appealing about the bloke who, given the choice, would rather have a whisky or a beer. On the other hand, if it's one of those designer beers with a wedge of lime in the top, the rule no longer applies. And it goes without saying that if you're in a pub and a man orders a glass of dry white wine with the words, "Make sure it's chilled, please", you should head straight for the ladies and start hitting your mobile to find an alternative date for the night.
When it comes to women, there are equally many tipple give-aways. The old rum'n'coke suggests a low IQ, cuddly toys on the bed at home and an intense, possibly competitive, relationship with the mother. If she fancies a Cosmopolitan, it generally means she's one of those girls who still get together to watch Sex and the City (in other words, she's to be avoided at all costs). If her preference is for Guinness, she's probably (all right, possibly) pregnant. Choosing a Mojito is the mark of the fashion victim, while picking a gin and tonic automatically puts a woman in the 40-plus age bracket. Oh, and according to some men, the girl who asks for red wine rather than white is - almost provocatively - sexy.
Deciding on that first drink of the day is never easy. But when in doubt, I find, a glass of Shiraz always does the trick.