A love worth bottling

| Updated on: Jan 12, 2018

An Old Monk aficionado on the most lasting, liquid affair of her life

Old Monk has many fans, nay connoisseurs, but it treats all equally. It doesn’t matter if you were a fan of the Monk since your father, in his chequered lungi, poured himself some, or if you held your first glass on your honeymoon, the husband eagerly wanting to introduce you to a tangible part of his college memories.

My first memory of the bottle was in my mother’s kitchen. The bottle tucked into her cupboard, was taken out every Christmas season, to be poured into freshly-minced fruits for plum cake, and then stored away for another year. Somewhere along the years, my brother and I began taking that bottle out to moist the slightly dry cakes along with milk, our own version of Sylvia Plath’s brandy-milk recipe. A family of teetotallers, we thought nothing of storing that bottle in our otherwise vice-free pantry.

It was not before college, in one of Delhi University’s numerous paying-guest accommodations, that I was introduced to the true joy this unassuming, pockmarked bottle held. Birthday rituals inevitably included truffle cake and a bottle, both bought from shops next to each other from the seedy bit of town.

In the beginning, we mostly drank it for the same reason the others do — it was the cheapest thing that we could bear down our throat. But it has the habit of growing on you. Soon, evenings spent drinking as well as the taste of alcohol itself would be defined by rum and coke. We ordered it when we went out for a change. We pregamed before a club night with rum and coke. We drank rum before going for ladies’ nights, choosing its headiness over sugary cocktails that were either too strong, or too light (how dare they presume that we were skirt wearing-vodka drinkers, even though we liked fraternising with our kind every Tuesday over free drinks?)

If you began drinking while still at any of the big-ticket schools in the metros, and happened to be a girl, vodka it is for you. For us outsiders, unrestricted by parental curfews or space constraints, drinking wasn’t dictated by timings or who we were out with. However, it was by how much money we had. Often, in a battle between Old Monk vs necessities, the former won over shampoo, milk, and other sundry items that were deferred as an expense to be made later.

Film school introduced me to whisky-soda, and the humble rum was forgotten, but after an 18-hour work shift that involved assembling and dismantling cranes, Old Monk is what the crew rested with. Whisky is a high-commitment party drink, Old Monk is the drink you go home with. Whisky is the drink you bank on while deciding whom you want to make your next big film with. Old Monk, however, gets you through its production.

As it happens, work led me to a print media office, where production days felt like storms had swept past us. (Inevitably, someone’s sorrow had to be drowned in glasses of our standard order — four, before we made a dash for the last metro. Old Monk stank up our mouth, but we liked it that we smelled, we didn’t drink wine like the genteel (who also probably had it because they were richer). Old Monk helped me find my closest work friend, on fateful metro rides that were empty except for a couple of tired souls, and a fellow girl who wanted to leave the drearier parts of the city to party in a place where people wouldn’t be staring at her dress. Old Monk was our Sex and the City moment, only more democratised. It will still find space on our party tables, among the Australian wines, and the Scotch, that has begun making regular appearances there. Looking at the drinks corner of a house party, it is difficult to figure ourselves out at this point — who is this gin-and-tonic loving, wine-drinking Scotch guzzler? Did we (the gang of people who have thankfully agreed to be my tribe), like Julia Roberts from Runaway Bride , let others decide how we liked our eggs at some point, or alcohol in this case? And then you spot gool old Old Monk. When all else fails, the Monk is here to resolve the identity crisis. (At this point, I do realise I sound a bit like a drunkard, but dear reader, I’m just being honest).

If you drink too much whisky, it shows on your face. Some say wine leaves you hung-over the next morning (though if you believe me, it gives a morning-after glow) and vodka seems made solely for vile post-drinking puke sessions.

Old Monk, however, will lull you to sleep, especially if you’re crossing that fine line between drinking to a point where you visualise your hopes and dreams come alive, to the juncture where you’re pretending to be Deadmau5 (pronounced “dead mouse”) in your friend’s Scooty helmet.

Some reserve their judgement on Old Monk, calling it too sweet. (To death with them, then, I say.) Padma Shri Brigadier (Retired) Kapil Mohan, the man synonymous with the making and popularity of Old Monk, a teetotaller himself, died last week, but his legacy doesn’t. The old monk is dead, long live Old Monk.

Published on January 12, 2018

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