A cosmopolitan and prodigious drinker conducts a tour to selected locales where alcohol flows easily and to others where such spirits are strictly forbidden.
Peripatetic imbiber Osborne (The Forgiven, 2012, etc.) recounts getting drunk in many places and recalls libations from hospitable venues like his British home, Brooklyn and Sweden. He also discusses arid Islamic precincts like Islamabad and the Bekaa. We visit Cairo, under the Brotherhood, and southern Thailand, where they host Malaysian Muslims seeking sex and whiskey. Osborne makes an ardent, artful contribution to a great body of literature on booze. Though he had difficulty scoring some bubbly for his girlfriend on a New Year’s Eve in Muscat, Osborne is still a debonair drinking partner, one who knows the authentic bars and pubs of the West and the wet oases in the parched lands of the Islamic Levant and Orient. Kota, he reports, “was a much nicer city than Sungai Kolok or Hat Yai.” In the meyhanes of Istanbul’s Istiklal, we learn, you will “down your raki with plates of borek, and slowly realize that you are an alien.” Adept of Dionysus and Bacchus, Osborne provides a convivial discourse on how liquor is made and marketed in exotic places. There are thoughts on the history and politics of potent drink and the Muslim antipathy to satanic Western ways. In the bars of the West and the speak-easies of Araby, the author celebrates intemperate alcoholic befuddlement and also the hangover after too many drams of distinctive distillations and fine fermentations, of Pernod, Jim Beam, Cutty Sark and Stoli.
For tipplers or teetotalers, an extended essay on drink in some precincts where it is welcome and others where it is criminal—rakish, rich and nicely served.