Drink - Shane Watson

You know you're on holiday when the only wine that'll do for lunch is a rose, writes <strong>Shane W

As of now, the holiday season starts in earnest. Normally cautious people will have made a last-minute dash to the sales and spent their hard-earned cash on diaphanous dresses and unsuitable shorts, all in preparation for transforming themselves into someone else for a week or two. Holidays abroad give us a change of scene, time to relax, dependable sunshine but - above all - the chance to take a break from the people we usually are.

We will go to nightclubs and dance (maybe). We will wander into shops wearing bikinis when the idea of showing our knees in a skirt back home is out of the question. We will drive drunk and play Scrabble and flirt with waiters and buy useless ceramic ashtrays and olive dishes. And we will abandon the drinks we normally favour for those we only ever drink while on holiday.

Unlike the food we eat, which is dictated by the country we are visiting, changing what we drink is a deliberate choice. We don't feel we have arrived until our lips are clamped around a tall glass of Campari and fresh orange (a drink you never come across in the course of a British summer). Likewise, you know you are officially abroad when the only wine that will do for lunch is a rose, although you never touch the stuff at home. Obviously, there are the national signature drinks - Bellinis in Italy, Sangrias in Spain, Pernod in France - but as well as taking advantage of these local delights we like to shift our drinking habits altogether when visiting another country.

For example, I rarely drink spirits at home except in cocktails, but on holiday I become the sort who likes a stiff gin and tonic in the early evening and a grappa chaser with my lunch. Likewise, a glass of white wine mid-morning, in place of a cup of coffee, seems perfectly normal, as does a great creamy cocktail at most hours of the day if you happen to be in the Caribbean. I know of several women who are unable to resist Baileys Irish Cream in a hot climate (apparently it allows you to sleep through anything, including mosquito attacks). And stickies in general, especially the aniseed-based variety, really come into their own in the heat, being so much more delicious when served in a big glass chock-full of ice.

Not everyone knows the topsy-turvy rules of drinking when abroad. Occasionally you find yourself on holiday with someone (male) who has mistakenly invested in a bottle of duty-free whisky - one of those drinks that doesn't go with nights around the table alfresco anything like as well as the local eau de vie. You might also find yourself saddled with a holiday scrooge who gets a thrill out of buying wine that costs less than 2 a bottle, just because he can. This is taking the break from normality way too far. Changing your drinking habits is not at all the same thing as lowering your standards.

This article first appeared in the 19 July 2004 issue of the New Statesman, Blair is weighed in the balance and found wanting