Cava is the star of every seasonal dining table (the spectacular Freixenet ads ensure we don’t forget this – my favourite is the one with Spain’s synchronised swimmers from Christmas 2008). Standard practice is to enjoy a couple of decent bottles early on, before lowering standards to the fizzy vinegar that bars serve to merrymakers too tipsy to argue.
Then at midnight, it’s that ridiculous Spanish tradition of grape munching at midnight. To ensure a year filled with good fortune, Spaniards eagerly gobble 12 grapes in total – one per chime. This is a deceptively challenging task, as despite being a grape-growing nation, I’ve yet to find a seedless variety on supermarket shelves; all that’s available are grapes that look like green golf balls.
Hardcore locals simply crunch their way through, but I prefer a discrete seed-extraction process from about 11.30pm onwards to ensure my grape munching doesn’t drop a bong. Critics say I’m unauthentic (hence my discretion), but I am smug in the knowledge that I’m still a step ahead of one of our past dinner guests, who asked me if I could peel his grapes for him.
But of the three, coffee is my personal ally. You see, the ‘eve’ bit of New Year’s celebrations on Menorca is little more than an aside, all the real partying doesn’t begin until post-1am, when revellers have wiped the grape dribble from their chins and headed into town. My attempts to meet up with friends beforehand are futile, as a good night isn’t simply measured on how much fizz you guzzle or how wildly you dance, but on how late you go to bed.
Every year this lateness barrier is pushed to new limits. I’ve one friend who’s having supper in Mahón (actually, more of a midnight feast), so she won’t be able to have a drink with me in Alaior until ‘at least’ 3am. Another friend, a young mum, resolves the issue of childcare by her husband taking the first party turn – he returns to babysit at 4am – and then she gets her session of drinking and dancing until the sun comes up. Exactly how she, or anyone, does this on legal substances alone is a mystery to me, which is why I’ll be on a strict diet of espressos. It’s the only way I’ll make it to breakfast.