Going overboard

Drink - Victoria Moore survives a big week of drinking

It has got to the stage where every night is cocktail night. When we get back from work, my cousin and I reach not for the corkscrew or the gin bottle, but for fresh limes, lots of ice and the shaker. And the rum. We are, in fact, trying to drink our way through a rum surplus. Several weeks ago, we threw a cocktail party, and I ordered all our guests to arrive bearing rum. I was very precise: Havana Club 3 Years is a very good golden rum, because it has bite and is not cloying. That night, we got through 10lb of strawberries (freshly pulped and made into daiquiris), three huge bundles of mint from the local Iranian shop (which we used for mojitos), 40 limes (ditto) and two bottles of gomme syrup. And that's not even counting the tequila cocktails we were serving on the side.

After a certain point, the drinks became very inelegant - that is, after a certain point, I believe many people were pouring themselves tumblerfuls of spirits and drinking them neat. But we had overcatered somewhat and still ended up with enough rum to keep a bevy of able seamen in rations for at least a year.

Mojitos are the most refreshing evening drink for a hot summer - just squeeze the juice of one lime into a tall glass, sweeten a little with gomme syrup or sugar, add a dollop of rum, several ice cubes and a sprig of mint (leaves still on stem), and top with sparkling mineral water. Posh bars use soda water for making these, but the only important thing is that the bubbles in the water are big and coarse - the teeny-tiny Badoit-style bubbles aren't refreshing enough - and cheap supermarket fizzy water will do the job admirably.

We stocked up with limes, mint and soda one Monday and invited a friend, Ros, round to assist with the rum depletion. ("Cocktails. What a way to start the week," he e-mailed.) But when Ros arrived, he announced that his hangover from our initial rum party had been so bad that he had not been able to drink mojitos since, and he demanded a Cuba Libre instead. Cue a visit to the shop at the bottom of the road for a two-litre bottle of fat Coke.

It's worth overcoming your inbuilt resistance to "Bacardi and Coke", and all its associations, to try this: Coca-Cola (full sugar, always full sugar) with a thick slice of lemon and a couple of jangly ice cubes is almost more enjoyable than alcohol in hot weather; mixed with fresh lime juice and rum (you don't need anyone to tell you how much of each - do it by taste) for a Cuba Libre, it's fantastic.

The following Monday, the two boys from upstairs came down for rum. Being a true city dweller, I never risk leaving the safety of my flat if I can hear someone on the stairs who might expect me to speak to or smile at them. So I had never so much as set eyes on either of them until I went on a press excursion to Pulau Tiga, the island just off Borneo used in ITV's Survivor game show. After a sleepless night on wet sand and over a plate of live maggots at 6am, the press officer and I got talking. He turned out to be one of the guys from upstairs. So now we do the civilised thing and have them down for drinks.

They were quite undiscerning, or possibly quite polite, and drank whatever we gave them. When my boss (who had joined us) got out the Montecristo No 4s, I fetched the better rum - Havana Club Reserva - and served it neat in stout tumblers. Deep amber-coloured, with smooth, rich coffee and tobacco flavours, this one is sheer heaven. It's good with or without ice, and even if you're only passive smoking it still complements the cigars.

The next day, I went to a party at a Knightsbridge restaurant called Boisdale. To be honest, I'd had enough rum by now, but the head barman from El Floridita, the bar in Cuba where Hemingway spent most of his time, was there mixing strawberry daiquiris and mojitos, so I had to try them. He was using Havana Club rum as well. I've got to say it: his cocktails were only a little bit better than mine.

This article first appeared in the 27 August 2001 issue of the New Statesman, The urban guerrillas Britain forgot