9 December

National Pastry Day

Pastry War Margarita

So we are drinking a...

Pastry War Margarita

Flaky, shortcrust, filo, puff or choux - there's a pastry for everyone! And not that we ever need an excuse to indulge but today is National Pastry Day so we're jumping on this tasty bandwagon.

A plethora of pastry-based goods are available to us today but the humble pastry has its roots in ancient and classical times. It's thought that the ancient Egyptians, Romans and Greeks all used pastry, namely a filo-type pastry, to make honey cakes, fruit pastries, sweet tarts and dumplings. Fast forward to the Mediaeval period and we start to see evidence of the shortcrust and puff versions that we're more familiar with today. In the 17th century, pastry became extremely fashionable, with bakers creating elaborately decorated centrepieces for their high society patrons.

And as much as today is all about pastry, its modest ingredients wouldn't amount to much without the artistry, skill and vision of the pastry chef. It's not an easy job, and most pâtissiers spend decades refining their skills. So let's celebrate this humble dough and the masters who create these delectable sweet and savoury delights with a Pastry War Margarita.

It's also the world's longest-running soap's birthday

Ever since America's TV series As the World Turns finished its epic run in 2010, Britain's Coronation Street has been the world's longest-running soap opera.

The tale of life in the fictional town of Weatherfield (based on Salford in Greater Manchester, England) debuted on this day in 1960. Over the decades it has featured guest appearances ranging from Prince Charles to Sir Ian 'Gandalf' McKellen, and some of its early stars have worked on the show for over fifty years. We are toasting its impressive longevity with a Coronation Cocktail No. 1.

Lucius Beebe's Birthday

Restaurant critic, bon viveur, snappy dresser, photographer, drinks geek and author, inter alia, of The Stork Club Bar Book, Lucius Beebe, known a little unkindly as "Luscious Lucius" was born on this day in 1902.

Famous for his wardrobe, his wit, and his appetite for food and drink, the luscious one owned multiple fur-lined overcoats, enough jewellery to put a lady of the night to shame and a wardrobe full of handmade shoes and bespoke suits, not to mention two private railroad cars, his era's answer to the private jet. Responsible for lines such as "With only one or two exceptions there are no two of New York's restaurant writers who can pass the mutual time of day without the possibility of a stabbing," Beebe once memorably described New York as "Babylon-on-the-Hudson".

We are toasting him, naturally, with a Stork Club, named for the venue he celebrated in print.

It's also British toll roads birthday

Way, way back in 1888, a government act asked local authorities to take responsibility for looking after roads, getting rid of one of the more inequitable forms of taxation in the UK, the toll road.

A few toll bridges still remained, it looked as though the notion of paying to use a road in the UK had gone out with the ark. No longer, however. In 2003, the London government brought in the Congestion Charge, and then, on this day, the M6 toll motorway opened, offering people with money to spare a chance to escape the congestion around Brum and line the pockets of Midland Expressway Limited with a charge that can rise to over a tenner a pop.

In our own tax utopia, the only taxation would be purchase tax proportioned according to how luxurious the product the tax was being applied to was, and transport network infrastructure would be central government-funded. However, in the recognition that governments need to spread taxes so non of us actually realise that how much tax we are paying, we're drinking the Income Tax Cocktail - basically a Bronx, with extra bitters.

It's also the anniversary of the Great Smog

This day in 1952, a toxic cloud of smog, enriched with sulphuric acid, hydrochloric acid, smoke and fluorides, finally cleared from London, where it had hovered for the previous four days.

At least four thousand people died during the Great Smog, and probably many more. A product of freak weather combined with coal fires and industrial pollution, it turned the London air into a chilly, brownish, toxic soup. But it wasn't all bad. The Great Smog did for air quality what the Big Stink of 1858 did for sanitation - we have it to thank for the Clean Air Act of 1956, one of the first modern pieces of environmental legislation.

In memory of those bygone times, when folk naively burnt coal fires without so much as a thought for so much as pollution, let alone carbon cost, we are enjoying a Velvet Fog, a very palatable concoction by the always-reliable Dale DeGroff.

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