During a recent family visit to New York City, the best meals I ate were my brother Henry’s slow-cooked barbecues. Henry is a master of indirect heat who cooks such unlikely items as whole chickens, short ribs and breast of lamb.
This is the domestic version of “pit barbecue”, and it is far more interesting, in my book, than the chicken legs and steaks that dominate the charcoal on these shores.
Drink at a barbecue is often deeply disappointing, and for reasons that can be summed up in three words: ice-cold lager.
There’s nothing wrong with that on occasion, but you can do better if you’re seeking to combine maximum refreshment with superior taste.
Case in point number one: Innis and Gunn Blonde, the lightest and freshest of the outstanding beers from this Scottish pioneer of oak-aged beer. This needs good but not Arctic chilling to show off its sweet and fruity nature. Around £1.90 for 330ml at Sainsbury’s, Booths, Morrison’s, Asda and the Co-op.
Case in point number two: Aperol, the Italian bitters which is nearly 100 years old but has been revitalised in the past five years by new ownership. It is ubiquitous in its native land and getting close to that status in London, where (as in Italy) it is mostly drunk in an Aperol Spritz: Prosecco, Aperol, and fizzy water in proportions of 3:2:1. But it’s cheaper, lower in alcohol and just as delicious with orange or grapefruit juice over plenty of ice in a tall glass. Around £13-£15/70cl; widely available; surprisingly good with food.
And finally, though it has zilch to do with refreshment: I can think of few better bottles to go with barbecued meat than Terra de Lobos 2010, Quinta do Casal Branco, from the Ribatejo. This is a blend of Portugal’s own Castelão with Cabernet Sauvignon, and it’s designed to be fresh, juicy and lively on the palate. Cost: £6.49, or £5.84 if you buy an unmixed case from Adnams, www.cellarandkitchen.adnams.co.uk.
I could have used a case in Brooklyn. I’ll have it in Kentish Town instead, even if the barbecue isn’t nearly as good as my brother’s.