Jackson Biko, is a lover of whisky and people watching. He likes to walk the shadows of the city at dusk, picking conversations of a people spurred by the night and by their drink.
I’m lying under this pagoda at a ritzy place called Kilindi Zanzibar, Northern Zanzibar. Its white domed Pavilion guest rooms are set in 35 acres of greenery thrust upon a private beach that curves at a fisherman’s beach bobbing with dhows and barechested fishermen mending their nets. The resort was designed for Benny Andersson from the 1970’s group- ABBA. You know ABBA, right? Dancing Queen?
You are the dancing queen, young and sweet, only seventeen/ see that girl, watch that scene, diggin’ the Dancing queen? Surely, you know that song. Anyway, my sun is suddenly temporarily blocked by my butler (yes, everybody has their own butler at Kilindi) who asks me if I would like a cocktail. Time: 2:56pm. Well, why not? Only one problem- I have one single rule on cocktails; I don’t drink them. If you brought me a cocktail with a slice of fruit sticking at the edge of the glass, I will eat the fruit and only smell the cocktail. If you want to drink alcohol, drink alcohol. If you want to drink a fruit juice laced with alcohol, drink a fruit juice then drink alcohol. No but seriously, I’m not a huge fan of cocktails. I like to feel the sharp taste of alcohol assail the back of my throat, almost like it’s got a small grudge with me.
But who am I to disappoint my butler? So I tell him I will have any whisky based cocktail that he recommends. No syrup. No fruits. No honey. Anything with whisky I will drink. He unblocks my sun and disappears up the sandy patch that leads further inside the property, a good 5-minute walk. I lie back and watch out at sea, a sparkling blue that seems almost deceptively surreal. The beaches in Zanzibar are unlike ours; the water seems warmer, the sand finer, the birds thinner, the sky bluer, heck, even the palm trees sashay in the wind, as if to a tune that only they can fathom. It’s gorgeous!
Fifteen minutes into my reverie, my butler sits down this drink before me. It’s brown in colour and served in a wide martini glass. He tells me it’s whisky and some angostura bitters and ice cubes. I’m hardly thrilled but I’m big on effort (mine). So I say thanks and he leaves my sun and goes to chat with the watersport guy (OK, his effort).
If there ever is any evidence for me that the kind of glass you use to drink your whisky determines a lot then this was it. I have never held a martini glass in my hand before because I just don’t find that it’s the kind of glass that takes me seriously. It’s too flippant. Too loose-shouldered. I’m a lowball-glass kind of guy. I can do a brandy snifter. I will even attempt a champagne flute (when toasting at weddings and stuff) but I think the martini glass wasn’t built for men like me.
Consequently I didn’t enjoy the drink, but that’s only because of my rubbish stereotypes and conceptions and hangups. I think if he had brought me the same drink in a different glass, like a highball- glass, maybe I would have thought differently of it. So I ordered a straight whisky which came in a proper whisky glass; decorative, heavy in the hand, sturdy. A glass that takes you – and your drink – seriously.