Champagne socialite: take risks with your recipe and deliver with bravado to make your cocktails a hit
When I was about 13, my dad invented a cocktail that he called the "timmy noggy" (from a boating term: a rope stretched taut from a projecting obstacle to prevent rigging from chafing or fouling).
I can't remember for the life of me what was in it (I might ask for a future column), but I remember the chutzpahwith which he paraded a tray of them into the room, before asking nonchalantly: "Would anyone like a timmy noggy?" I also remember the gasps of admiration and the musical oooooohs this provoked. It made a deep impression.
When he later came to school me in the art of drink-making, we started with champagne cocktails - always made with cava because champagne was way too valuable to waste and cava was thought to be superior to prosecco back then. He taught me two rules that have remained branded in my memory ever since (and which he has probably long forgotten).
First, never offer anyone - particularly a woman - "another glass of wine (or whatever drink is being served)". This suggests you have been keeping count. Instead, just ask: "Would you like some wine?"
Second, never stick slavishly to the recipe for a classic cocktail. In fact, go out of your way to put your twist on it, however small. Don't be beaten down by tradition. I now realise this could be applied more broadly in life, but at the time it opened a doorway to countless tiny rebellions.
The first was in the champagne cocktail itself. Once I had dropped the angostura on to the sugar cube, I left it for quite a while to crumble before adding the cognac and champagne, meaning that little red crystals were swept up into the drink. Jane Baxter, who collaborates on these recipes with me, likes to put the angostura into the drink at the very end. Nothing - thank goodness - is sacred.
Make your own classic champagne cocktail
1 sugar cube
3 drops angostura bitters
100ml champagne (chilled)
1 Drop the sugar cube into a champagne glass and cover with a few drops of angostura bitters.
2 Top with the cognac.
3 Slowly top up with champagne, tilting the glass slightly.
Classic champagne cocktail. Photograph: Jill Mead for the Guardian