Yesterday, my evening was a delicious one. All by my lonesome, as is the norm, I stir-fried some mutton brain, powdered with a little gram flour and some salt and pepper. I left it slightly un-cooked, sushi-like, I believe, but much more squishy. Then, I poured myself two fingers from a green bottle of single malt that had been begging for my attention since the last few days. A couple of ice cubes, a little water, and I was set for a pleasant trip into the realms of solitary reflection.

The brain was simply out of this world, melting in my mouth like salted honey and tasting like heaven that was multiplied manifold with every sip of the scotch. As is wont to happen at such times, my mind wandered around a bit, and settled on a subject of some substance: the national poison of different countries. I didn’t know much, and so was vexed in my sleep. Thus, today, I did some research, and here are a few discoveries.

Mexico’s is tequila, and it’s extremely popular all over South America, what with the paunchy drug lords and their scar-faced henchmen and cleavage-flaunting henchwomen slugging down shots in every other Narcos-type TV serial and movie with great aplomb. Sexy lady beckons with curled finger, down a shot and shoot off; the rat-a-tat of an AK 47 outside, shoot down a shot and rush off. Two bosses, or three, or four, or a dozen, meet for a peace talk, or a ganging up to create yet another cartel, and it’s a ‘Salute!’ and shots going down the gullies like crazy! Oh yes, tequila is almighty around cartel fiefdoms, and since everybody wants to be a drug lord, everybody’s slugging down shots all the time. ‘Salute’ indeed to tequila, the prized spirit of the Aztecs.

And, what is popular in the South naturally gets to be popular in the North (cocaine being a prime example), and so it is no surprise that the Norte Americanos, or Gringos, as the Mexicans call the keepers of their dreamland, are also getting used to tequila being a part of their very lifestyle (like tacos and burritos and Mexican maids). Tequila rules, no matter how high the wall in Arizona! Additional info just for you: ceviche tacos, guacamole with chiles, tartare, and enchiladas are the usual accompaniments to tequila.

Halfway across the world from the land of the Aztecs,it seems that the Japanese can’t live without sake, and their neighbors, the Koreans, love their soju. The denizens, especially the ‘salary men and women’ (as most of them are called) of the land of the rising sun just can’t wait for the sun to set, so that they can scurry down to the nearest izakaya (pub) and hunker down for hours (till they pass out, in many cases, depending on whether their bosses have smirked or smiled at them during the day) gulping down glass after glass of sake with a mighty “Kanpai”, along with their favorite hors d’oeuvres: pickled wasabi and dried squid and  salted squid entrails, and many other types of entrails.

The Koreans are also said to be a hard drinking lot, and flavored soju is the new rage. There’s some etiquette involved in their drinking, much like it is with many other nationalities, including the ultra-polite sake drinkers across the sea. One thing, though, is different. If you have seen a few Korean flicks, you’ll have noticed that the one who is junior in rank, or age, or whatever, always turns his/her face away from the senior when downing his/her soju. Actually, the first drink is shot down the gully, and then onwards, it’s mostly sipping away till the glass is empty, whereupon, another guy or gal promptly refills it, and so it goes on till everybody’s high as a kite. What’s great with soju? Well, they call it anju, which includes savory fried delicacies like spicy fried chicken and squid, as well as all types of nuts and fruits. Healthy stuff, what?

Two other discoveries, and I’ll end this piece. Ireland is madly, heavily, passionately married to Guinness, that renowned stout that’s guzzled by the barrel in many a land, especially in the Western hemisphere. It may not be as ancient as St. Patrick, Ireland’s patron saint, but it is pretty old, having been first brewed in 1759. Today, it is perhaps the most notable icon of this land of pug-nosed pugilists, many of whom fisted, knived, and hatcheted their way to the top in their preferred land of emigrationthrough ‘The Gangs of New York’. Guinness looks like a healthy beverage, and it really is one, especially if you consider the tremendous fighting spirit of the belligerent Irish.

One more, and then its fini! Cuba’s favorite is the mojito, that rum-based highball that’s taken the world by storm. It’s made of white rum, sugar, lime juice, mint, and sparkling water, and it’s fame and fortune were enhanced across the seven seas by  Nobel Prize winner Hemingway, who wrote epics like TheOldManandtheSeaand For whom the BellTolIs. While the adventurer-romanticist spent languorous summer afternoons sipping away at a regular mojito in a café on the sidewalks of Paris, more earthly Casanovas make sure that sugar cane juice is used in place of sugar; they say that a mojito so made is guaranteed to get your companion of the moment into the right mood!

Well, as promised, this is all for now. Back to mutton brain again.