When’s the best time for a drink? The Toper’s Timetable has the answer

Have you ever poured yourself an Eyeopener? How about a Solid Straight? Or a Sparkler? Well, you might have done without even knowing it. To know your drink’s pet name, you need to consult the Toper’s Timetable.


We all associate ‘a Nightcap’ as that final drink before we head home or perhaps a tipple before bed. But where does it come from? And what the hell is an ‘A la Smythe’ - or a ‘Fancy Smile’ for that matter?


Really the question we should be asking isn’t what are these things, but when are they.


According to an 1874 document, there’s an appropriate name for your drink no matter what’s in the glass. It’s more about the time of day you’re enjoying said beverage.



The Toper’s Timetable lays out - by the hour - a regimens of drink titles. Ever-increasingly weird and wonderful, starting at 6am with an Eye-Opener, then 7am with an Appetiser and each hour after that with a new title.


At 8am you get a Digester, then a Big Reposer, a Refresher, a Stimulant and at midday the Ante-Lunch. 1pm is the Settler, then the A la Smythe, the Cobbler, the Social Drink and the Invigorator.


One of my favourites, the imposing Solid Straight, is what you get if your drink comes to you at 6pm, then after that is the Chit-Chat. Next is a Fancy Smile, then the Entire Acte, the Sparkler, the Rouser and finally, at midnight, the hallowed Night-Cap comes out.


This timetable was brought back to life and since adopted by award-winning London bar the Hawksmoor, and they tailored a few of their cocktails to match the timetable.


What’s a toper?


The word ‘toper’ is in fact an old word meaning simply ‘drinker’ and was first found in the Reverend George William Lemon’s 1783 book on etymology, enticingly titled A Derivative Diction of the English Language.


However, the word has fallen out of common use to the point where it’s now considered archaic.


I think it’s quite sweet to have a pet name for your drink. So then next time I sip joyously on a Stone Pine gin martini at 8pm, I certainly will have a Fancy Smile.


Or if I happen to be enjoying an Old Fashioned with - say Timboon’s Port Expression single malt - at 2pm, I shall raise a glass to A la Smythe.


Cheers everyone. I’m off to the bar for an Invigorator - as they say, it’s always 5pm somewhere.