Whenever people are eating good food - such as the Sichuan dinner I recently cooked - the talk always turns to other good meals they have had. Isn't that like talking about other great partners you've had when you're in bed with someone?
Being the hostess, I manage to turn the conversation onto beer, and soon dinner guest C is talking about a new cocktail that consists of coffee and beer, mixed. Shudder! That sounds even worse than yuanyang, coffee and tea together.
We soon move on to the Bloody Mary, which is also a strange concoction. C says American novelist Ernest Hemingway invented the Bloody Mary in a bar in Paris, which I doubt because I've just read a promotional flier for Shenzhen's new St Regis Hotel, which claims that the Bloody Mary was invented at the brand's New York property in 1934.
Then I read in Esquire magazine that Hemingway boasted in 1947 of introducing the scarlet tipple to Hong Kong in 1941, which, he wrote, "did more than any other single factor except the Japanese Army to precipitate the fall of that crown colony".
Whom to believe?
I decide to go with the St Regis explanation for reasons of convenience. The new hotel in Shenzhen is so much closer than the 21 Club, in New York, and Harry's Bar, in Paris, both of which claim to be the birthplace of the Bloody Mary.
I should say, at this point, I had never actually tasted a Bloody Mary.
That's right! Gasp all you want, but there it is. Of course, I had tasted tomato juice and it's certainly true that its taste improves no end with Worcester sauce, salt and a couple of turns of the pepper mill, but the vodka seems so redundant. All that healthy tomato then suddenly strong alcohol - isn't that like running a marathon while smoking?
"Oh, but it's great for hangovers. Surely you've had it on Sunday mornings at 6am?" people say.
No! When I have a hangover, the last thing I want to do is drink more. All I want is never to drink again. But this Bloody Mary thing must now be tried by hook or by crook, and soon my friend J and I draw up outside the St Regis' impressive entrance and are propelled up to the 96th floor where a stunning bar overlooking the whole of Shenzhen (the hotel is located at the top of the tallest building in town), as well as northern Kowloon, welcomes us with much opulence.
Five to six bar workers mix our bloody drinks and with a celery stick I salute Hemingway, or whoever invented it. It tastes very good in a salad kind of way, but isn't what I would call a typical cocktail.
The flirtini we order afterwards, on the other hand …