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Sipping in the sun

Though I’ve lived in England for most of my life, when I was but a small child my father had a mid-life crisis and moved the family to Cataluña (alas, this has since extended into a later-life crisis, and with less exciting results). Despite only spending a few years there, I consider Cataluña my childhood home as, a handful of anomalies notwithstanding, my earliest memories are from there. Particularly vivid are my recollections of the piles of empty lemonade cans we would amass during the summer months. None of us can remember the original brand we bought (which at some point was discontinued and had to be replaced with another) as we just called them cans of ‘limo’, short for the Catalan word for lemonade, ‘llimonada’. I will never forget the yellow and blue cans, with their promising ‘psshh’ when you peeled back the tab. A cool glass of limo, usually with a little ice to make sure it stayed cool, was an absolute summer staple. Perfect for sipping lazily during siesta time, or for gulping down after racing about the garden in the summer heat. Once, when we had a pile of cans about the size of an armchair, my father made a game of squashing the cans, ready to more easily transport to the recycling bins. My sisters tapped them flat with mallets, while my brother and I relished slamming the sledge-hammer as hard as we could and crushing each can in one swing. Then we moved back to the UK, where the summer holidays are almost half as long and the sun is never quite as powerful, and limo was left behind.

Like most people, I was underage the first time I drank alcohol.  Because most parents (including my own) aren’t happy with this tradition, and the UK weather doesn’t encourage outdoor drinking for most of the year, I had my first sip of something in the summer. Lucky to live near the coast, as soon as it was warm enough, my friends and I would take to the beach with portable speakers, snacks, and whatever form of alcohol we had been able to scare up. Initially, I relied on a friend to bring drink for the both of us, and thus ended up with the baffling choice of Disaronno as my first alcoholic drink. No coward when it comes to embracing stereotypes, I naturally drank far too much and forgot most of the evening, except for the now abhorrent taste of Disaronno. Drunk me has since been known to describe it as ‘my only weakness’, a hubristic claim that I have successfully disproven on many occasions. Malibu is another drink I can’t bear to imbibe anymore. After the Disaronno disaster it became my go-to drink for those beach binges. The coconut liqueur, which tastes of summer holidays and goes down easy with some fizzy mixer, will now for me forever taste of teenage heartbreak, ill-advised games of spin the bottle, and pissing on a pebbled beach.

Oxford offered a whole new perspective on drinks. Not just because of the influence of the large number of posh and private school types in the student community, but because my student loan meant that, for the first time in my life, I actually had a significant amount of money to my name. Naturally, I splurged a lot of it spectacularly badly during my first year. Aside from developing a real penchant for port – inspired by the little taste offered after formals, my first encounter with the drink – I drank a lot of rosé and tried Pimm’s for the first time when plastic cups of it were sold at an outdoor student play. While the latter felt incredibly pretentious, I couldn’t help loving the fruity drink. A pitcher of Pimm’s became my standard Wetherspoon’s order. 

Now in my final year, I am older, wiser, and poorer. I look forward to the end of exams when I can stretch out beneath the sun in Port Meadow or University Parks with my friends and sip from some cans of whatever’s on sale in Tesco. Though COVID may not permit it that soon, the absolute best summer drink is the one your friend gives to you – because it’s free.

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