13 August

Spritz Al Bitter (Spritz Veneziano) image

Prosecco Day

So we are drinking a...

Spritz Al Bitter (Spritz Veneziano)

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One of the most sold sparkling wines in both the USA and UK, prosecco adds a touch of Italian sparkle to numerous cocktails.

From the grape variety glera, prosecco has been cultivated in northeast Italy, primarily produced in the Veneto and Friuli-Venezia Giulia regions. The prosecco sparkling wine variety must consist of at least 85% glera, of which the remaining 15% can contain other grape types.

The earliest documentation of prosecco dates back to 1754, in the poem titled Il Roccolo Ditirambo by Aureliano Acanti. 'And now I would like to wet my mouth with that prosecco with its apple bouquet.' Prosecco's modern history begins in Italy during the 19th century when it gained attention, at a time when Antonio Carpené's writings detailed the sparkling wine's diffusion and production. Yet, prosecco's roots could date as far back as 200 BC, in Ancient Rome, when a still wine named Pizzino was served. Though, the theory remains just that, and the exact origin eludes us.

The fruity flavour that is the ever-popular prosecco is produced in styles; the spumante (fully sparkling), the frizzante (slightly sparkling) and the tranquillo (still). Made by tank fermentation, rather than that of Champagne's traditional method, it preserves the flavour of the grape and prolongs freshness whilst offering winemakers a far more affordable method. For dry palates, you'll find brut the most appetising, though among the four sweetness levels, extra dry, dry and demi-sec can be equally delectable throughout a meal.

To celebrate the bubbly today, we're enjoying a Spritz Al Bitter.

It's also International Lefthanders' Day

Despite all of the famous lefthanders out there - Leonardo Da Vinci, Jimi Hendrix, Marilyn Monroe and Barack Obama among them - life hasn't always been easy as a leftie. While today most lefthanders face no more serious challenges than grappling with tin openers and scissors, in the old days life could be very tough indeed.

The word 'sinister' comes from the Latin for left, and until surprisingly recently Catholics associated lefthandedness with the Devil (who baptized his intimates with his left-hand). Lefthanded children in church schools in Ireland were regularly beaten for using "the devil's hand".

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photo: Devil's hand by Tatiana Gerus

Paris' Left Bank, too, has had its sinister side, or at least an anti-establishment edge. But the Left Bank Martini, a fragrant blend of elderflower, gin, vermouth and Chablis, will suit most palates - whichever hand you hold the glass in.

And it's Stainless Steel's birthday

On this day in 1913, an English metallurgist named Harry Brearley created a new steel alloy, with a lot of chromium and not much carbon. It was resistant to everything from nitric acid to lemon juice and vinegar, and so Brearley, rather unimaginatively, named his creation "rustless steel".

The cutlery-maker who embraced Brearley's discovery christened it "stainless steel". The English city of Sheffield, in those days, was known worldwide for its steel - and had been since the Middle Ages. Stainless steel helped put Sheffield's manufacturers one step ahead of the pack, even though scientists as far afield as Germany, Poland, Sweden and Austria were working on something similar.

Encouragingly, Portland Works, the former cutlery works in the Highfield area of Sheffield where Brearley perfected stainless steel, is a home to studios of young artists and designers today - among them metalworkers. We are toasting Brearley et al with the Pennsylvania steelworkers' favourite, a Boilermaker.

Today is also Hitchcock's birthday

The "Master of Suspense" who created classic films from The Birds to Rear Window and from Vertigo to Psycho, Alfred Hitchcock was born this day in 1899, in glamorous Leytonstone, Essex, England.

A complex man, who collaborated throughout his life with his wife Alma Reville yet also fixated on the blondes in his movies, Hitchcock mastered not only technical trickery in an era when CGI was in the distant future, but a dark psychology at a time when films were not, quite frankly, interested in that.

We are toasting his oeuvre with a Jungle Bird. Far less sinister than any of the avians in The Birds, it's one of very, very few enduring cocktails to originate in Malaysia.

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