Just Add Ice

Raise your glass to April Fool's Day & the great spaghetti tree spoof

You should play the fool this April 1 — preferably with an overly serious bartender — but, whatever you do, don’t mess with a classic negroni

01 April 2019 - 06:16 By eloise windebank
Is there anything more irritating than an overly pretentious bartender?
Is there anything more irritating than an overly pretentious bartender?
Image: 123RF/Roman Stetsyk

April Fools’ is as good a day as any to drink a cocktail. Either you play the fool, or you are the fool and, frankly, both are reason enough for me to reach for what my friends call “that pretentiously long curly spoon”. 

On April 1 1957, the BBC ran a 3 minute Panorama special about a Swiss family harvesting pasta from a spaghetti tree. At the time, spaghetti was a novelty in the UK, eaten predominantly out of cans, swimming in a sweet tomato-based sauce. The BBC was inundated with calls from people asking for advice on how to grow their own spaghetti trees. The BBC (those charming bastards) told the enquiring minds to, “Place a sprig of spaghetti in a tin of tomato sauce and hope for the best.”

I don’t know how or why the BBC decided the Swiss were to be the harvesters of this miraculous tree, but it worked beautifully, and has gone down in history as one of the greatest news hoaxes of all time.

The story behind Panorama's 1957 spaghetti tree spoof

This April Fools’ Day, you can play a trick on your favourite bartender. Tell them you want a strawberry daiquiri made with ice cream. Insist that a proper martini must be shaken, not stirred. Even go as far as to regale them with tales of giant frozen margaritas they sell in South Beach, Miami, served in a big martini-shaped vase, with two upturned Coronas in it, and then demand one.

Don’t feel bad, bartenders are by nature terrible people; with their sleeve garters and top knots and beards that can in no way be comfortable behind a 30° bar. They’ll tell you tales of this one bar they went to in New York located under a dustbin lid and they’ll wax lyrical, weep even, about perfectly clear cubes of ice.

As terrible as they are – and they are, don’t get me wrong - I still stand among them (I’m the one with the mom bun, not the man bun), pretentiously long curly spoon in hand, but even I can tell you there are some things that no bartenders want to joke about.

A blueberry old-fashioned is one of them. Crushed ice in a negroni is a big one.

Pretentiously long spoons are a style hazard of the trade, but a must nonetheless.
Pretentiously long spoons are a style hazard of the trade, but a must nonetheless.
Image: 123RF/fedorkondratenko

Speaking of negronis - a healthy slice of fresh orange is definitely not worth joking about – don’t be that guy who garnishes with orange zest or a dehydrated grapefruit wheel. Trying out your own measures is also a definite no.

Negronis by nature are perfect in their balanced simplicity. One part gin, one part Campari, one part sweet vermouth. Don’t ever swap the Campari out for another bitter, you sick, sick heathen.

Have your fun this April 1 but remember shenanigans are only acceptable until noon. When it reaches an acceptable hour, jokes aside, mix yourself a proper negroni, and raise a glass to those Swiss spaghetti farmers, harvesting their Italian crop.

Don't mess with a classic negroni.
Don't mess with a classic negroni.
Image: Eloise Windebank


Makes: 1


25ml Campari

25ml London dry-style gin

25ml Sweet vermouth


  1. Add all ingredients to a double old-fashioned glass.
  2. Add ice and stir.
  3. Garnish with an orange slice.

• Self proclaimed "cocktail curmudgeon", Eloise Windebank professes that she likes drinks more than she likes people. Find her mixing up the classics at Farro, her casual fine dining restaurant and bar in Joburg.